Christmas Comics Cavalcade – Star Trek: The Next Generation #2 (DC Comics)

ChristmasComicCavalcade

In the past two years, I’ve become a fan of Star Trek.

Previously, I never had much use for Star Trek. I was always more of a Star Wars kid growing up and, if I’m being honest, I found a lot of the Trek canon to be nothing but a slow, boring slog as a teenager. Star Trek was the first Geek Certified property I never quite got a handle on enjoying… and it perplexed me!

“By all rights,” I thought to myself back in 1992,  “I should be incredibly interested in Star Trek! Look at all these other socially unacceptable pursuits I undertake that make me comically unappealing to the opposite sex! Comics! Toys! Video games! Science Fiction! Star Trek fits right in there!”

…and what was worse, I now realize it was never a better time to be a Star Trek fan than in the 1990’s. Ample opportunities to become a Trekkie existed in the during that decade, with a hefty amount of new spin-offs and movies being cranked out by Paramount.  Still, nothing ever really appealed to me outside of kind of enjoying Star Trek: First Contact when I saw it in theaters.

Trek caught my attention in a big way in 2016 when I suddenly found myself very discouraged about the state of humanity in general. 2016 seemed to usher in a cruel, stupid new paradigm for my country and I didn’t like what I was seeing.

As with many before me, I found solace from the harsher realities of the world in some of the loftier ideals of Star Trek. The idea that some day… some day, humankind sheds the base, antagonistic bullshit we always seem to be caught up in and we get to explore the stars?

During much of the last two years, I’ve needed that kind of hopeful escape.

At any rate, I started getting into Star Trek: The Next Generation in a big, bad way.

Christmas doesn’t come up much in Star Trek. Besides a couple of throwaway lines and scenes over the last 50 years, no Star Trek series has ever directly tackled a holiday episode. That’s why I’m doubly excited today as both a fan of Star Trek and a fan of Christmas comics to look at Star Trek: The Next Generation #2, published in 1987 by DC Comics

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…an honest-to-God Star Trek Christmas story. Look at Captain Picard defend that Christmas tree!

The comic was written by Mike Carlin with art duties from Pablo Marcos, Carlos Garzon, and Arne Starr.

So first, some context for where this story falls, in a publishing sense: This is the introductory six issue mini-series done by DC based around the very first season of Next Generation… and seemingly based on the first half of that series… so you’ve got a beardless Riker on the bridge of the Enterprise

and as you can tell from the cover, Lt. Tasha Yar is also still among the living. This is not my personal favorite era of Next Generation, but I’ll take what I can get. DC would go on from her to publish a long-running TNG comic but this was their first toe in the waters with these characters.

As penciller, Marcos presents all of the Enterprise’s crew as incredibly muscular, which is kind of a crazy choice… but I don’t think anyone was going for screen accuracy here so I kind of like it. Picard looks like a bald He-Man! Geordi LaForge looks like he could rip Wesley in two!

The story: It’s Christmas and as many of the crew begin to prepare for the Enterprise’s holiday party, the ship is buffeted by a strange energy “entity” while monitoring an unknown alien space craft.

Some of the aliens from that unknown alien craft are called The Creeg, and they beam aboard the ship.

It turns out that the Creeg have beamed aboard to track down the inspirational “entity” that engaged with the Enterprise and they are there to take that spirit from the Enterprise… by any means necessary.

So as anyone with a passing interest in Christmas can tell, the Creeg are CLEARLY designed to look a hell of a lot like The Grinch from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the entity (now hiding within the android body of Data) resembles a fat, bearded man. Hm. Wonder where this is going.

That energy then “attacks” Bronder, leader of the Creeg and Data and he agree…

So the crew hunt down the entity and yes, you guessed it…

The energy being looks a lot like Santa Claus and it spreads the spirit of love and togetherness on to the crews of both ships and brings us to a happy ending.

A lot to unpack! I will say, Carlin gets a lot of the broad strokes right in regards to the characters and their interpersonal relationships… but “broad” is the watchword here. Geordi and Data are buddies… and I know that because Carlin has Geordi explicitly say that he and Data are buddies a whole bunch of times. Again, not a ton of nuance, but I’ll take it. Characters straight-up telling us about facets of their personality rather than expressing them in any kind of elegant way is not my favorite thing in literature but I’ll cut Carlin some slack in that TNG was pretty new and it took the producers of the show a little while to pin down all the characters in a satisfying way.

Martin’s designs for the characters “off duty” clothes are a bizarre delight which, by a nice turn of events, sort of fit right in with the weird aesthetic fashion thrown down on TNG over the years. Theres’s a little Legion of Super-Heroes thrown in for good measure, which makes sense.

It does makes sense that Star Trek hasn’t engaged with Christmas beyond an impressive array Hallmark Keepsake ornaments and this comic book. Without coming off as a total Creeg here, the far-off culture presented in Trek has a lot of reverence for religion… while also acknowledging a future where people have put aside things like the fundamental differences that arise from religion to work together toward common goals in the universe. That we didn’t get a shirtless Kirk wrestling with The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come back in the 1960’s isn’t surprising.

…and yet, the aspirational angle on Star Trek is, in so many ways, exactly what Christmas time is about. As we reach the end of the rolling year and take stock, we absolutely should be looking to the stars. We should be thinking about how our tomorrows can be better than our yesterdays, if we really want them to be.

The ability to do that, the ability to hope is one of those things that defines Christianity in and of itseslf, does it not? Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Anyway, that’s why I like Star Trek. Despite feeling these days that I’m living through the worst of what my fellow man can do to one another, I can look to the skies and have hope for a better future where there really is Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Man.

…and Klingons.

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