Some might say that space adventures were popularized by comics strips like Flash Gordon, or that sci-fi was brought to the masses thanks to Superman and the Green Lantern in the ‘30s and ‘40s. If any of that is remotely true, then, for comic book readers of the 1960s, the original Star Trek must have felt like a space-adventure comic book come to life. Which is why it makes perfect sense that nearly every iteration of Trek has found another life in the pages of comic books.
Still, even if you know your way around the expansive TV and film canon of Star Trek, the multiverse of Trek comics might feel a little daunting. For over 50 years, there have been numerous publishers of Trek comics, all with their own unique vision. (For example, in the ‘60s Gold Key comics famously published Trek stories in which flames came out of the “rockets” of the starship Enterprise.) But, rather than recount the long and fascinating history of four-color Trek, here are five places that you can quickly jump into Star Trek comics without being too confused. From very contemporary titles, to a sampling of some vintage stuff, these are the best ways to just spore jump your way into the bold possibilities of Star Trek comic books.
1. Star Trek: Discovery — Succession (IDW comics, 2018)
This relatively new four issue miniseries is a direct sequel to the Mirror Universe episodes in Discovery’s first season. Basically, after Lorca is killed and Emperor Georgiou crosses over to the Prime Universe, a power vacuum in the Terran Empire makes everything nuts. Want to see Mirror Airiam in command of the I.S.S. Shenzhou? What about a Terran version of the I.S.S. Constellation from “The Doomsday Machine?” It’s all here and more. Although this four-part miniseries is self-contained, it cleverly connects and hints to various aspects of Mirror Universe history throughout the entire Trek canon.
Why it’s a good place to start: If you love Discovery, this lets you linger on some of the cooler elements from season one, without having to keep track of any confusing comic book continuity. Plus, like all the other Discovery comics, Kristen Beyer is one of the writers and she’s, you know, an executive producer of the TV show, so all of this is stuff reads just like extra episodes of the show.
Start with: Star Trek: Discovery Succession issue #1
Collected as: Star Trek: Discovery Succession
2. Star Trek: Waypoint (IDW comics, 2016-Present)
Spanning every single timeline and iteration of the Trek canon, each issue of Waypoint presents an array of bite-sized short stories in comic book form. Most recently, this means we got to see Janeway and Tuvok serving together on the U.S.S. Billings way before the events of Voyager. The first issue in 2016 also had a time travel story all about Captain Archer’s dog, Porthos from Enterprise. (Yes, Waypoint is also the first time there have been NX-01 Enterprise comic book stories.) Packed with different artistic styles and with a focus on smaller, heartwarming stories, there’s always something in each of these issues for each kind of fan.
Why it’s a good place to start: Not only is each issue self-contained, the stories themselves within those issues are self-contained. This is the definition of reader-friendly. If you like Star Trek, you’re all set to start reading.
Start with: Any issue of Star Trek: Waypoint.
3. Star Trek (DC Comics, Volume 1 1984-1988)
If you’re digging through back issues of Trek comics, the chances you what you’re holding is an old DC Star Trek comic are pretty high. From 1984 to 1996 DC published two different continuities of Trek comics based on the feature-film-era of the original series crew. But, here’s the catch: Issue #1 was published in 1984, but before The Search For Spock was released in theaters, which means, this is a Trek comic book series that just starts off with Saavik having essentially taken Spock’s place and Kirk more or less just in command of the Enterprise again.
These comics introduced a slew of supporting characters, including a Klingon who serves in Starfleet, named Konom! (Yes, this was three years before Worf.) Because new Trek films were coming out as this series was being published, writers like Mike Barr and Peter David spun some very creative solutions to their own comic-book continuity as new films kept coming out. For example: After the Enterprise was destroyed in Star Trek III, the comics just gave Kirk the command of...the Excelsior. So, for nearly two years worth of DC Trek comic books, Admiral Kirk is in command of the Excelsior and Spock has his own ship called the U.S.S. Surak . (Oh, did I mention there was a Horta who serves in Starfleet in this continuity, too? Yeah, that happens.)
Anyway, around the time The Final Frontier came out, DC rebooted its ongoing Star Trek comic book series with a new issue #1 and all of the kooky Excelsior stuff that happened in the intervening years was erased from existence. But, the 1984-1988 era was great for Star Trek stories in comic book form, mostly because the writers were trying new things despite having a lot of plot constraints from the films. So, while this might sound like a bad place to start because it’s so confusing, it’s actually great because the bizzaro internal continuity renders all of these stories like one long protracted alternate universe tale. And if you want to get to the really good stuff first, then start with issue 9, which is where the Kirk and the stolen Klingon-Bird-of-Prey from The Search For Spock encounter...the Mirror Universe!
Why it’s a good place to start: If you’re looking for something vintage, this series is great because it’s so creative and specific.
Start with: Star Trek No.9 (December, 1984) “New Frontiers Chapter 1:Promises to Keep"
Collected as: Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Saga
4. Star Trek “Parallel Lives” (IDW comics, 2014-Present)
It’s another IDW title! Look, IDW has been the publisher of Trek comics since 2007 and the reason why there are three IDW shout-outs on this list is because, the Trek comics have never been better than they have been in the 21st century. In 2011, IDW began an ongoing monthly Trek series set in the Kelvin universe, starring the reboot crew. Mind you, this is before Into Darkness came out, and way before Beyond.
Ambitiously, the first several storylines tackled Kelvin-universe versions of TOS stories like “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” and “Operation: Annihilate!” And though those stories are great, the first IDW Kelvin Universe series arguably got the best about 25 issues into its run. One of the coolest stories is easily “Parallel Lives” in which the Enterprise encounters another Enterprise in which the entire crew are gender-swapped. This means you’ve got “Jane” Kirk and Spock meeting James Kirk and Spock with awesome results. This two-part story also set-up the return of Jane Kirk and her Enterprise in the 2017 Star Trek: Boldly Go series “I.D.I.C.” in which various parallel universes converged.
Why it’s a good place to start: The IDW Kelvin Universe comics are great, but it’s fun to start with a small two-part story that you’re already going to understand. Plus, I mentioned Jane Kirk, right?
5. The Marvel Federation Universe (Star Trek Marvel Comics in the ‘80s and Early ‘00s)
These days, we tend think of Marvel as a media empire that influences all of pop-culture and makes occasional shout-outs to Star Trek. For example, this year’s Avengers: Endgame name-checked Star Trek in time travel discussions, and in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, producer Kevin Feige brought back actor Kirk Thatcher as the bus punk from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home! Really!
But as a comic book publisher, Marvel produced Star Trek comics in two, very brief eras. First, from 1979 to 1981, Marvel published monthly comic book adventures starring Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise immediately after the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In terms of wonky canon stuff, the writers were mostly limited to material only found in The Motion Picture, which gives these issues a kind of interesting quasi-reboot quality. At the time, the ridged-forehead Klingons were brand-new and the Starfleet uniforms from TMP were thought to be the future fashion of Trek. Because it was so short-lived (barely three years) it’s hard to say if Marvel really got a chance to make its mark on Trek comic before The Wrath of Khan changed everything, again. Still, the issue featuring Bones’s daughter is worth the whole run.
The second Marvel dip into Star Trek comics was even shorter (18 months) but far more productive. In one of Trek’s golden era’s; the 30th Anniversary year of 1996, Marvel comics produced a ton of ongoing titles and limited miniseries. Chances are you’ve probably only ever heard of the crossover with the X-Men. But, as fascinating as that crossover series is, the more interesting stuff from this era was the only ongoing Star Trek: Voyager comic series ever, and a Captain Pike-centric series called Star Trek: Early Voyages. Prescient!
Start With: Star Trek: Early Voyages #1 (1997)
Ryan Britt's (he/him) essays and journalism have appeared in Tor.com, Inverse, Den of Geek!, SyFy Wire, Vulture and elsewhere. He is the author of the 2015 essay collection Luke Skywalker Can't Read. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife and daughter.