"Invasion of the City Builders"
Writer: Dick Wood
Artist: Alberto Giolitti
The third issue of Gold Key's irregularly published Star Trek comics came midway through season three -- but the photo collage cover for this issue still uses a pre-series publicity photo of Spock paired with a still from season one's "Charlie X". The issue itself takes another tentative step towards feeling more like Trek and less like a generic pulp space adventure, and also features the debut of a new series artist. Alberto Giolitti, like his predecessor, was an Italian artist with no knowledge of the show working solely off of publicity photos. His style is very similar to Zaccara's, with very good likenesses all around, but he's not quite as good. His rendition of the Enterprise in particular isn't as gorgeous, and famously features fiery exhaust trailing behind the warp nacelles (because it's a rocket ship, right?).
In this issue, the Enterprise is journeying to planet Alpha Z-21, which is believed to be highly advanced technologically but no contact has been made with before. And I don't recall how bad it was in previous issues, but Dick Wood goes overboard on bad sci-fi terminology in this issue. Y'know the kind -- that sort of pulp sensibility of referring to money as "space dollars" and so on. In this case, a crewman tells Kirk that the ship's ETA at the planet is "two lunar hours, one galaxy minute"! What the hell is a lunar hour? Is it a 24th of a lunar day? Because just say "two days" then, man! And what the heck is a galaxy minute? If we're on lunar time (why?), why would you switch measuring scales? That's like saying I'm five feet and 12.7 centimeters tall. Why??
There's a lot of that kind of dialogue in this comic. Real haphazard half-ass stuff. Anyways whenever they manage to arrive at the planet, the Enterprise does a flyby of the planet, fiery exhaust trails and all, at an extremely low altitude. Like it's buzzing the tops of buildings. Dramatic? Yes. How the ship works on the show? Nope.
Anyways a landing party of Kirk, Spock and two nobodies beams down (still referred to as "teleporting" in this comic), and we learn what this planet's deal is -- the society became super automated with machines doing everything to the point where the machines also built the machines and those machines built the cities. Until finally the machines built more city than there were people for and now there's just a tiny bit of natural planet left and a tiny amount of inhabitants and soon the city building machines will pave over that paradise and put up a parking lot too.
Kirk & Spock meet with a local leader named Krill and pledge to help destroy the machines, teach the people agriculture, help them rebuild the planet, etc. At first Krill is skeptical, he even tries to sabotage them at one point when he feels his authority is being usurped by these newcomers, but when Spock discovers a chemical weakness in the metal the machines are made of, Krill volunteers for the risky mission to destroy them and win back his people.The comic ends with a civilization saved, quite a stark contrast to the apocalyptic ending of the previous two issues.
This is the first issue of Gold Key's Star Trek to try and do one of the series classic "social problem as sci-fi story" tales, in this case a story about over building, destruction of natural resources, and overreliance on machines. It handles it very simplistically, but then this is a comic book for children, and the fact that it tried at all raises it above the level of the previous two issues.
My question continues to be why Trek comics were coming out seemingly just once or twice a year when the show was on, and why the creative team behind the comics was only so passingly aware of what the show was like, even this far in the television run.
Rating: 3 out of 4
Next Voyage: "An alien form invades the Enterprise through Spock's mind!" in The Peril of Planet Quick Change.