A tough guy with a beard makes his way through a desolate desert landscape to make sure Patrick Stewart is safe. It sounds and looks a little like Logan , but it’s really the latest IDW Star Trek comic book adventure. A new series called Deviations is a glimpse into an alternate universe where beloved characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation exist in an almost Mad Max-esque dystopia. Will Riker is taking sartorial tips from Snake Plissken in Escape from New York, Troi has a robot-arm, and Worf is a pacifist.
IDW comics released Star Trek: Deviations #1 yesterday, and comic book readers will find a few familiar tropes, just not necessarily ones they might associate with the sunny future depicted in The Next Generation. Series writer Donny Cates told io9 that he wanted to show the Federation “at their lowest point imaginable,” which lead to the concept of an alternate history in which the Romulans enslaved all of humanity sometime after the era of Captain Kirk in the 23rd century. As freedom fighters, Riker and Troi believe this was never their destiny, which mixes this version of Star Trek with a similar concept as The Man in the High Castle, insofar as the Romulans are actively suppressing “real” history in this story.
This isn’t the first time Star Trek comics have presented a dark vision of the ussually upbeat 24th century of The Next Generation. In 1993, when Star Trek comics were still published by DC, Michael Jan Friedman wrote the multi-issue story “The Worst of Both Worlds” in which the Enterprise entered a dark alternate dimension where the Borg successfully invaded Earth. Riker rocked an eyepatch in that world, too. IDW has also done a dystopian version of The Next Generation before. In 2008, writer Andrew Steven Harris imagined an alternate dimension called “The Last Generation” where the TNG crew were freedom fighters against the Klingons, after the peace talks in The Undiscovered Country went sour.
One of the covers for The Last Generation was even styled to look like the iconic X-Men: Days of Future Past cover. Instead of Wolverine and Kitty Pryde in front of a wanted poster depicting various mutants and superheroes, Picard and Wesley were in the same pose in front of a poster showing various famous Star Trek characters.
So while bizzaro, dystopian world, tough-guy Riker isn’t exactly a new idea, the new IDW series Deviations does possibly present the most hardcore version of this idea. Because Riker, Data, Geordi, Troi, and Worf were basically slaves prior to this reality, they’ve got far fewer resources than any versions of the characters before, making their struggle to boldly go, fresh and exciting. Star Trek: Deviations #1 is in comic book stores now.