Star Trek: Debt of Honor

Star Trek: Debt of Honor
Alternative editions:
Star Trek Debt of Honor review
Alternative editions:
  • UK publisher / ISBN: Eaglemoss
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: IDW - 827714019728
  • Release date: 1992
  • UPC: 827714019728
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

As the first Star Trek graphic novel featuring original material, Debt of Honor was big news in 1992, first issued in hardcover, and remains highly regarded by fans, with a 2021 reissue also well received. Written by Chris Claremont, responsible from transforming the X-Men from cancelled failure to commercial juggernaut, the relatively unknown quantity at the time was artist Adam Hughes.

Hughes had a track record, but hadn’t graduated to superstar status in 1992, and he’s still not learned the use of space that would become such an artistic strength, although to be fair to him any artist would have problems accommodating the word count. Despite that, Hughes has fun with an adventure plot taking in the assorted alien races as they were back in the day, and responds with some stunning portraits. However, there are also places where attempting to capture cast likenesses from video reference results in stiff expressions, and familiar faces almost always look better when drawn from memory.

Anyone used to 21st century comics featuring considerably fewer words may dismiss Debt of Honor, but the obvious defect disguises a smart plot with much to enjoy. Claremont picks up after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, with marine biologist Gillian Taylor adjusting to life centuries ahead of her own time, and while present day events move forward he sifts though James T. Kirk’s memories at earlier points of his career. These are self-contained scenes all involving a Romulan named T’Cel. The name being a pun on a white blood cell, is one of numerous moments accumulating to become Debt of Honor’s distraction as Claremont packs in too many minor references, some name checks, others jokes, intended as easter eggs for fans.

Where Claremont scores is in using comics to present a threat beyond the capacity of an early 1990s film budget in the form of feral, non-humanoid aliens. They’re a variation on the Brood from his X-Men, themselves sourced from Alien, and their aggression makes the Klingons seem Tribbles. It’s the Klingons, though, prompting the title. These are the original Klingons, considering themselves disgraced and wanting to redeem their honour.

Some fine character moments include playing up to Kirk’s romantic reputation, a great dressing down for McCoy, and the looming threat of the unknown, while credit is due for not following Star Trek formula with the introduction of new crew. They’re not just awaiting cheap death scenes, and how things play out for them is well conceived. Factor in a plot hitting so many right notes and it’s worth working your way past those massive word balloons.

Amazon US only list IDW’s digital reissue, and while Titan Books published a UK version in 1992, Debt of Honor is now more easily sourced as part of the Eaglemoss Star Trek Graphic Novels partwork editions.