Review: Star Trek – Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever #4

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Publisher: IDW

Original Teleplay: Harlan Ellison

Adaptation: Scott and David Tipton

Art: J. K. Woodward

Letters: Neil Uyetake

Cover: Juan Ortiz

Variant Cover: Paul Shipper

Editor: Chris Ryall

Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever  continues with part four of five this month from IDW Publishing and it may be one of the most beautifully painted books I have ever seen.

Not since first picking up a copy of Dave McKean’s masterpiece Arkham Asylum have I been quite so struck by the art on offer as I was by J K Woodward’s work here.  About a third of the way through this fourth act Woodward switches to black and white to show a discussion between Kirk and Spock and such has been the lavish colours and shading on offer in the proceeding pages that this stark exchange is given a much more mighty heft.  This really is a terrific piece of work.

The plot must be well know to all given this book is re-telling of the legendary season one episode of the original series of Star Trek (the one with a young Joan Collins) but just in case you aren’t familiar we find Kirk and Spock alone, adrift from the Enterprise, back in time in order to ensure events that must play out in a specific way or their own future, one with a noble Federation and a peaceful Starfleet will be lost are not effected by the presence of a renegade member of the Enterprise crew who has transported himself back in time via an artifact found in an ancient city on a distant planet on the edge of forever.

Here Trek comic stalwarts the brothers Tipton are helming a graphic novel version (as surely IDW will be offering a prestige format collection of a work of this quality one the run completes next month) of the original Harlan Ellison screenplay.  One that we have been told for decades was radically changed by  Gene Roddenberry with the assistance of über Trek writer D C Fontana but none the less went on to win not only awards but also the hearts of Trek fans for generations. However, over these four issues thus far the changes apparent between this and the show that made it to the air are not radical, sure we have an escaped drug dealing crew member on the run as opposed to a temporarily insane McCoy but otherwise the changes are more subtle.  And mainly to do with the placement of the events in the history of the characters (at one point here we hear Kirk talk of first signing up for space travel as kid as a ‘wiper’ on an old chemical fueled rocket which makes no sense in the hyper advanced world of the series) or the voice of the heroes (on more than one occasion thus far Spock has said things that are just plain odd when placed in context with the character as we know him).  But, for all that, they do a terrific job of keeping things on track and bridging the difficult jump from a screenplay designed to be seen in one 45 minute sitting to an episodic monthly comic book and things really do flow nicely.

Juan Ortiz and Paul Shipper both offer terrific covers (Shipper once more providing the subscription variant) as they have throughout the run.  Not simple funny book covers these but real additions to the run.  Ortiz’s in particular are terrific each one worthy of a place on the cover of one of Ellison’s many award winning sci-fi novels never mind a ‘mere’ comic.

But it is Woodward’s work that really impresses.  It really is something very special here in issue four when the real emotion of Ellison’s tale comes to the fore, when the distance between Kirk and Spock is at its greatest and Jim faces the toughest decisions of his captaincy that he really excels.  This is a special one folks.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

IDW’s The City on the Edge of Forever his this shelves on the 24th of September get on board.

Check out our preview here.