Many of you have “trekked into darkness” merely by buying a ticket for the movie. Some of you may think you're extreme by staying out late for a midnight screening (hopefully in IMAX 3D) or seeing the movie 6 times. But the truly devoted have been following the exploits of the new timeline's characters in comic book form since IDW Publishing's first "ongoing arc" issue from January of 2011. That's when they began leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that acutally started the moment Chris Pine stepped onto the bridge wearing command gold (and shouting a jovial “Bones!”) at the end of the 2009 reboot, leading directly to the adventuresome, mysterious mission on Nibiru that kicks off Star Trek Into Darkness.
If you want to head to the comics shop and mass dose on the entire series (handily collected in trade paperbacks) here are ten awesome things that lay in wait in the recent run of Star Trek comics.
10 - Gary Mitchell
The first comic in the series, amusingly enough, mirrors the first Kirk adventure filmed, Star Trek's second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” While not exactly a reproduction of the story beat-by-beat, it covers much of the same ground, and proves that a best friend granted Godlike powers with creepy glowing eyes is enough to unnerve even the most cocksure of Starfleet captains.
9 - Kirk's Brother Lives
Kirk's brother George didn't fare too well in the original Star Trek timeline. Both he and his wife were killed by neural parasites on Deneva Prime in “Operation – Annihilate!” This time around he still suffers because of these gross, flying brain-suckers, which look even more disturbing, particularly when they consume Spock's head instead of just sticking to his back. All's well that ends well, though, when this timeline's crew is able to rescue George Kirk and his family. Also of note: this time he's a bit of a longhair outlaw, and while we learn there was plenty of bad blood between the brothers Kirk over the years, the adventure on Deneva goes a long way to heal those wounds.
8 - The Archon
The mystery of the ship Archon is one of the greatest lost pages of Starfleet history in any timeline. The IDW comics once again show how a population of Federation descendents can be controlled by an unthinking, powerful computer program. While this new timeline does away with “Red Hour,” we get to see what a planet powered by a reconfigured starship actually looks like – and that imagery is striking. (Bonus points: lots of swashbuckling Sulu in this one.)
7 - Romulan Ships
The recent comics continuum offers a great deal of insight into how the few remaining Vulcans are dealing with the destruction of their planet. Spock, for one, is greatly stricken with survivor's guilt and seems to be going out of his way to put himself in dangerous situations. (This psychological scarring makes itself known in Star Trek Into Darkness.) A storyline in the comics shows how a band of vigilante Vulcans are working to collect microscopic remains of Red Matter to bring vengeance onto Romulus. It's a nail-biting scenario with lots of cool moments, chief of which, I must confess, is getting a look at some of the alternate reality Romulan vessels.
6 - Kronos
The Klingons and their homeworld Kronos lay at the very edges of the 2009 Star Trek reboot. (You have to listen real closely – or check out the deleted scenes.) They play a key part in Star Trek Into Darkness, and we first see how this warmongering, anti-Federation planet plays into things in one of the most recent issues of the IDW comic. Don't worry, they keep their helmets on, saving that big reveal for the movie
5 – Robert April
The man who contacts Kronos is none other than Robert April, and if you know your deep Star Trek history you know that he was once a captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
First shown in The Animated Series (voiced by James Doohan), April was on board as a visiting dignitary in “The Counter-Clock Incident.” Here he's shown as a long-embedded Starfleet operator effecting planetary change that may or may not violate the Prime Directive. Kirk's entanglements with April raise the ire of Admiral Marcus, putting Admiral Pike in between them – a scenario that will be repeated once again at the beginning of Star Trek Into Darkness.
4 – Tribbles
Boy, you really can't get rid of these guys, can you?
The new timeline makes room for our favorite interstellar purring furballs, finally giving some insight into their historical and biological background. We'll see Tribbles in their natural habitat, we'll see how their prodigious reproductive proclivities are kept in check (giant pink space vacuum cleaners?) and how one special tribble that gets beamed back to Starfleet Headquarters endangers the entirety of Sector 001. If you think Tribbles don't have a place in Star Trek Into Darkness, think again – but this time you may be cheering them instead of hissing.
3 – Cupcake
Stay through the credits of Star Trek Into Darkness and you'll see Jason Matthew Smith listed as playing “Cupcake.” If you remember the 2009 film well, you'll instantly flash back on the burly redshirt that gets in the Iowa bar fight with Kirk. He pops up again in Star Trek Into Darkness (you may recall he also was the one who brought Kirk and Scotty to the bridge after their transwarp beam from Delta Vega), but a special comic devoted JUST to Cupcake helps get inside his head. As we always knew, but this story confirms, he and his Redshirt brothers are the spine that keeps Starfleet stable and it is great to see an adventure (one similar to “The Apple”) from his point of view. Oh, he's also got a real name: Hendorf.
2 – Keenser
Scotty's li'l buddy from Delta Vega? He's more than just comic relief. The pride of Royla is the first of his people to serve in Starfleet. His natural talents as a fixer-upper were soon spotted by none other than the crew of the U.S.S. Kelvin, the Federation visitors who made First Contact. Turns out Keenser worked closely with Kirk's father before he sacrificed himself. His current work on board the Enterprise sometimes goes unthanked by Chief Engineer Scott, especially considering how the ship isn't really designed for someone his size, but after reading the entirety of “Keenser's Story” (yes, one whole issue devoted just to him) you'll see how his hard work pays off.
1 – Mudd
The only specific villain to appear twice on TOS, Harcourt Fenton Mudd, has a name that lingers across the timelines. But in this version, the interstellar smuggler and ne'er-do-well is a woman. Not just that but a Bajoran! (Technically, half-Bajoran.) Maybe this Mudd is Harry's daughter? It's a little vague. Mudd works as a weapons trader, and her involvement in Robert April's secret projects dances ambiguously on the line between good and bad. She's also tough as nails, which is great to see. And her ship plays an important role in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Hopefully I've inspired you to go into a little bit of debt and to race off to the nearest comic shop to buy the 20 or so issues you may have missed. If you've been following all along as I have, and there's something I missed, please let me know what have been some of your favorite Trek comic moments between the two films.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.