For us Brits, the word ‘annual’ holds a significantly different connotation in publishing terms than our American cousins. Once again, two nations divided by a common language. We usually associate that with the large format hardback books we got each Christmas when we were kids, published by the likes of Grandreams, World Distributors, or D.C. Thomson.
These would be either based around existing weekly comics, American superheroes, or tie-ins to whatever was popular in films and on TV at the time, such as The Dukes Of Hazzard, Knight Rider, and the like. In addition to comic strips, there would be games and puzzles, factual features, text stories, and other content with which to fill out the page count. The British annual has still managed to survive well into the 21st Century, although it would be anyone’s guess as to whether or not it has a lengthy future ahead.
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Overseas, however, an ‘annual’ tends to be a bumper edition of a comic book, with about twice or thrice as many pages as normal, acting as a companion piece to the main range, with their own separate numbering in many cases. For IDW’s lead Star Trek title, focused around Captain Benjamin Sisko and the intrepid crew of the USS Theseus, it now gets its very own Star Trek Annual, which acts as something of a breakpoint in the current ongoing storyline, giving the characters – as well as the readers – chance to catch their breath and have a little bit of downtime.
Leisure pursuits in the 24th Century evidently aren’t all Tri-D Chess, Poker and Holodecks: the command team’s pursuit is RPGs, so there will undoubtedly be adventurers out there in the readership who will be thrilled to learn that Dungeons & Dragons and its ilk will manage to survive the near-collapse of human society. Of course, it seems only appropriate that senior officers would engage in such a pastime, as a game of strategy would be a natural choice, and help in honing those skills needed to make the difficult, life-and-death calls they face on a daily basis.
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A potentially catastrophic and calamitous issue arising with the ship’s systems results in the perfect excuse for the kind of crossover jamboree of Star Trek shows and eras that fans would never be able to see on screen, due to the passing of so many cast members from the original series. Luckily, comics have no such limitations to worry about, and they can easily throw into the mix pretty much everything from the lengthy history of the franchise. This is a big, celebratory issue, much like the multi-Doctor tales in Doctor Who, so we can perhaps look to cut them a little slack here.
Of course, much like Doctor Who, there can only be so many ways in which you can convincingly find reasons to have the Trek characters from different time periods meeting up. In order to achieve that here, writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing have managed to cheat a little bit, but in a way that avoids all that tedious needing to iron out all the pitfalls of such meetings without risking mangling the timelines. So, the crew of the Theseus can rub shoulders with people from Enterprise or Strange New Worlds and not have to fret over the consequences.
A key part of Star Trek’s overall mission statement is “to seek out new life”, and this story certainly sees that in effect, with the latest discovery being rather closer to home than might perhaps be expected. To say any more about that would be to give away a huge chunk of the plot, so the revelation is best left for the reader to experience for themselves. Suffice it to say that this feels like a meaningful reveal, and the selling of the tale is helped greatly by Rachael Stott’s artwork, which – aside from a couple of curious stylistic choices – manages to capture the character likenesses well.
This Star Trek Annual is an interesting and fun diversion for the readers, and a worthwhile exercise which does warrant it being a regular fixture in the schedule. Now, if only there was a word to sum up something recurring yearly…
Star Trek Annual is out now from IDW Publishing.