This week's issue of IDW's Star Trek ongoing brings an end to five years of boldly going for the Kelvin-timeline version of Kirk and friends. But it also faces the pretty daunting task of celebrating Star Trek's 50th anniversary and mashing together Enterprise crews. Thankfully, it succeeds at both of those things in some pretty touching ways.
The final story, "Connections", written by Mike Johnson with art by Tony Shashteen and Davide Mastrolonado, sees both versions of the Enterprise encounter an anomaly that causes members of the crew to have their minds placed into a body on an Enterprise they never seen before. It starts, naturally, with both Captain Kirks waking up in each other's body, finding themselves on eerily familiar ships, with familiar crews, but with a different face — before spreading among the bridge crew.
It's a clever premise that at this point only a comic can do: To get William Shatner standing alongside Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana, or Simon Pegg talking to DeForest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy. Each encounter is short-lived, but amidst the confusion the crew feels in its predicament, Johnson nails each character, whether it's the new crew or the old.
It works incredibly well visually as well, thanks to Tony Shashteen and Davide Mastrolonado's brilliant art — each page is split to tell the concurrent stories in each timeline, and when a character experiences the effect of their mind entering the alternate universe, their head essentially gets placed onto the opposite body. The dialogue flowing between both stories is the thread that links the two sides, but Shashteen and Mastrolonado's formatting and artwork is what really keeps "Connections" as a cohesive whole.
It's all very fun — and as we mentioned before, it has some fun ribbing on the differences between the Prime and Kelvin timelines — but there's never a sense of finality through this last tale, nor does it feel like it's overtly subservient to being a celebratory special, putting the emphasis on the two crews meeting.
The crews never really actually meet — it's not a traditional crossover in that regards, they just intermittently find their minds being swapped across the timelines while trying to figure out what's causing the strange goings on. But it feels thoroughly Trek: Like a lost episode where the crew encounter a strange anomaly, learn something about it and then move on to the next adventure in their five-year mission.
The blurring of lines between the Kelvin crew and the Prime crew is almost ancillary — not every anniversary bash has to be this big, momentous event, after all. There's something wonderfully subdued about this both as an end to the comic, and as a nod to the franchise's 50th birthday.
But for as fun as the actual story is, the pangs of emotion don't really set in until the final moments. With the day saved and the crews separated once again, the Enterprises move on — Kirk prime jokes about the alternate McCoy looking much fitter and younger with his curmudgeonly Doctor, the Kelvin Spock and Uhura ponder their lack of a relationship in the other reality — but not before both Kirks reveal that the brief merging of the two crews shared data across each ship: Specifically personal logs.
Neither Kirk can resist a peak before filing them away as classified information, and they both find a strange sense of comfort in it. For no matter how divergent their lives were, how differently the decisions they both made played out, there was always one defining thread, one shared desire: The need to boldly go.
This isn't the end: IDW has already announced a new anthology series to fill the gap between this and a new Star Trek ongoing comic set after the events of Beyond in October. But as an anniversary-themed final huzzah, it couldn't have been done better. It might not really be the end — never the end, as the final page intones — but as its five-year mission comes to a close, Star Trek goes out on a high.