By Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
Feb. 6, 2020 — Have you begun watching Star Trek: Picard? Maybe binge-watched the third season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina? Have you sampled October Faction?
Well, if you haven’t read the comics that inform those shows, you don’t know – with apologies to Paul Harvey – The Rest of the Story.
Take Star Trek: Picard, for example. It launched Jan. 23 on CBS All Access, and so far it’s pretty, ahem, engaging. Each episode is like a chapter in a book, slowly advancing the plot with a steady drumbeat of reveals as to what happened in the 18 years between Picard and the last “Next Generation” movie, Star Trek: Nemesis (released in 2002).
Some people don’t like to wait. If you’re one of them, you can find a few answers already in print — in the three-issue Star Trek: Picard — Countdown miniseries from IDW.
For example, have you wondered how and when Picard met Laris and Zhaban, his Romulan aides? Countdown tells us they were originally from the Romulan colony Yuyat Beta, where they were vintners. (Makes them naturals to help out at Chateau Picard.) Events there make it obvious why they feel a debt to Picard – and why the Tal Shiar (the Romulan secret police) would very much like to see him dead.
Those events take place while Picard was captain of the U.S.S. Verity. His first officer on that ship is a familiar name: Lt. Commander Raffi Musiker. There’s no indication of how Raffi and Picard fell out — as implied on TV — but you get to know her a bit.
Countdown doesn’t give up all of Picard’s secrets. Jean-Luc says that he “takes comfort that the Enterprise is in good hands,” but doesn’t say whose hands those are. It’s not Geordi LaForge, who’s depicted at the Utopia Planitia shipyards overseeing the construction of the Romulan evacuation fleet. It’s not Riker or Troi, who are said to be on the U.S.S. Titan. Data died in Nemesis (and is still dead), Wesley Crusher resigned his commission in the original series and Michael Dorn, who played Worf, son of Mogh, says he isn’t coming back any time soon. We’re rapidly running out of palatable options.
Another mystery is what happens to LaForge. As noted, he’s in Martian orbit above Utopia Planitia in Countdown. Those shipyards — and most of the orbiting fleet — are destroyed by the artificial life form numbered F-8 (“fate”) in the second episode of Picard. All of Countdown takes place prior to those events, so LaForge’s F-8 is unknown.
Now, you might be saying “It’s just a comic book. Things that happen in the comics never affect the TV shows/movies.” And often that is true. But Countdown is co-written by Picard’s supervising producer Kristen Beyer, who is also involved in all of IDW’s Star Trek: Discovery comics. And Countdown, like the “Discovery” books, are very much canon. So there.
Meanwhile, the comics that primarily inform Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are the eight issues of the comic book of the same name, that were published in 2014-17. That series was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who then developed the series for Netflix. But those issues can’t tell us much — all of the events found therein have already occurred on the TV show, and besides, Aguirre-Sacasa never finished it.
But what we do have at hand are Sabrina’s current appearances in Archie Comics, which are downright fascinating.
But first a little background. If you’re not a regular Archie reader, you might not know that the company rebooted their flagship character back in 2016. Mark Waid, a fan favorite writer of approximately umpty-jillion beloved comics, masterminded the revamp. And it was killer.
Well, not literally — let’s leave that for Riverdale, the TV show that might be the murder capital of small towns. But Waid’s take on the Riverdale gang was modern, joyful and downright fun.
There was no mystifying love triangle between Betty, Archie and Veronica, for example, which would never fly in the #metoo era. Instead, Archie did date both of them — just not at the same time. As a result their relationships, while complicated, make a lot more sense. They’re just confused teenagers, after all.
Also, the hair on the sides of Archie’s head no longer look as if he had been burned by a waffle iron. Among other changes. But yeah, I’m glad to see the weird checkerboard on the side of his head go away.
That take on the series ran 33 issues before reverting to the original numbering for Archie, a title whose first iteration began in 1942. With issue #700, former Marvel Comics writer Nick Spencer began his own tale – and guess what bewitching Greendale resident is suddenly attending Riverdale High?
Yes, Sabrina is now in Riverdale. Moreover, she and Archie are dating — but on the down low. Both have reasons for keeping it quiet, but most especially Sabrina. Being a witch and all. “You’re not even my fifteenth deepest, dark secret,” she tells him.
But even though Archie is having trouble coming to terms with the witch thing, the relationship is strong enough that Archie became Archie and Sabrina with issue #705 (at least on the cover). And you’d think that would be the start of something big …
And maybe it will be. But not in Archie, which was Nick Spencer-less with issue #710, and boasted a cover logo of Archie and Katy Keene. Yes, the same Katy Keene who is getting her own show on The CW. She’s an Archie character, too, going back to 1945. Even though, like the Archie characters, she never seems to age. Lucky her.
But what about Sabrina? Well, she and Archie are still dating, but that doesn’t seem to be the focus any more. And the last time we saw her prior was in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a five-issue series by writer Kelly Thompson and artist Veronica Fish in 2019. Charming and just a little dangerous, it sold sufficiently well that the creative team is coming back for another five-issue go in 2020. Sabrina and her aunties are in Greendale for these series, but don’t worry about it — call it a parallel world, and just enjoy the story.
Lastly, we have October Faction. And probably the less I talk about the TV show, the better.
It started out very much like the comic book, with the Allen family consisting of two adult monster-fighters who keep that secret from their two teenage children, who start manifesting witchly super-powers. The TV show kept that premise for about half the first season’s run, when suddenly everything got very murky, morality-wise.
Yes, teenage girl, you can be angry at your parents for keeping secrets. But no, you cannot call killing vampires – who exist to kill us – genocide. That’s a little over the top. That was just the start, with all the good guys suddenly cast as bad guys, and vice versa. By the end of the season there was literally no one to root for, and my suspension of disbelief snapped like a cheap bowstring, no matter how hard the actors tried to sell me some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard on Netflix.
The comic book, on the other hand, was much better.
Yes, the Allen children discover in their teens that their parents are monster-killers. But unlike the TV show, they embrace their heritage and join in the mayhem. The team begins picking up other members, as comic book super-teams tend to do, all of the supernatural variety. They also attract stronger and stronger opponents — again, as super-teams tend to do. It’s great fun, even if you don’t think horror is fun.
Written by creepster supreme Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and illustrated in a lush, dark, painterly style by Damien Worm, October Faction can be found in five discrete trade paperbacks that — unlike the TV show — finish as strongly as they start.
And now you know … The Rest of the Story.
“Jean-Luc says that he “takes comfort that the Enterprise is in good hands,” but doesn’t say whose hands those are... [It’s not] Data [who] died in Nemesis (and is still dead).”
That contradicts the Countdown Official Movie Prequel (2009), in which Data was shown to be Captain of the Enterprise, which was also considered “cannon” at the time. Just sayin’.
That series was so good that, when I went to re-watch the movie a couple of years later, I was surprised to discover some of my favorite scenes weren't in it. I rememebered the comic book as the movie.
Who said that was canon? Lying liars!
Data is dead everywhere else. He's VERY dead on Star Trek: Picard, because it's a plot point. Doesn't mean he's going to stay that way, though, given the nature of the mystery Picard is solving ...
“Who said that was canon? Lying liars!”
Well, that’s what they said 11 years ago.
NOTE cover blurb above: “THE OFFICIAL PREQUEL TO THE UPCOMING MOTION PICTURE”
“[It’s not] Data [who] died in Nemesis (and is still dead).”
The original Data died in Nemesis, yes, but his memories were uploaded to a duplicate body at the end, remember. He was something of a tabula rasa in terms of his personality, but I assume “Captain Data” of the Countdown limited series (the 2009 one) was that one who got better. If Data is going to be featured in Picard (and I assume he is), it must be the duplicate Data from the end of Nemesis.
The duplicate Data was an earlier, primitive version named B-4 (nyuk, nyuk). That has been addressed in Star Trek: Picard, in that B-4 was too primitive to handle all of Data's, uh, data and so all was lost. Picard has a disassembled B-4 in a drawer, which looks disturbingly like the girl on the cover to OMAC #1:
Anyway, they've put a gun on the mantelpiece for Data's return, and it's the theory of a scientist named Bruce Maddox that all of Data's data could be held in a single positron from his brain (somehow). The positron might be obtained by the MacGuffin of the series, Data's "daughter," who doesn't know what she is and is working as a researcher with Romulans in an abandoned Borg cube. Not sure how any of that works but (waves hand) it's Star Trek technobabble.