It is difficult to place a genre on the superhero realm of comics; they tend to have one all of their own. The closest you can come is that of science fiction, because if you think about it, most the characters gained their special powers through some kind of science experiment gone awry. Then there is Superman, who is in fact an alien from another planet. Superhero characters have even been given crossover stories with science fiction shows like Star Trek.
The popularity of comic book characters saw them upgraded to novels, television, and film, but these days the reverse is true. If a television program becomes popular it gets novelisations made and, later on, comic books follow. This brings in an audience who might not otherwise read comic - myself being among them.
I am not a fan of comic books but, when I saw Star Trek in such a format, I whipped them up at light speed. There are many forms of comics, from a few panels in a newspaper to a thick graphic novel. My first introduction to Star Trek comics was through Star Trek Magazine; in each issue, a six-panel serial comic was included, called Trek Life. Three trekkies would converse, until the punchline at the end. Before the serial ended, it went on an epic year long journey to find the Galileo shuttle that appeared in the original series.
When Trek Life rode off into the event horizon, it was replaced by a parody, featuring characters such as Dr. Ann Dorian and Lt. Bucket.
I was very surprised when Star Trek came out in manga format, and the fact that only two books were released probably solidifies my scepticism. The artwork style made the characters look barely old enough to drive a car, let alone roam the galaxy in starship. Still they were an amusing read.
Published by Tokyopop, many of the story-lines are based on actual scripts that never made it to screen. And for good reason. Bandi, for example, is about a Care Bear lookalike that boards the Enterprise and brainwashes the crew with thoughts of love. It is up to the unemotional Spock to save everyone from a trip down hippy lane.
A more intriguing story-line sees the crew board a ship full of people in stasis. These people have integrated cybernetic technology into their bodies, and could prove to be the origins of a deadly foe.
Suffice to say, Star Trek is much better off in the traditional comic book style. When these were first released, it was in the form of a flimsy booklet, easily torn. But upon re-release, all these stories were collected into volumes, with glossy and robust front covers.
The characters are far more realistic, and actually look like adults. If anything, they look older than their television counterparts because of the heavy facial lines drawn in. It is great to see the comics in colour, as you only get black and white with manga.
They quality of the plots is still a mixed bag tough. If you thought a Care Bear visiting Kirk was odd, what about Captain Picard being turned into a satyr? Granted Q was responsible, so it does provide some kind of plausible explanation.
Q appears frequently in Star Trek comics, probably because it allows the stories to delve deeper into the realms of fantasy. There are occasions, however, when a heartfelt plot is brought in with a serious message. Unfortunately, on such an occasion, it completely ignores the television cannon about Picard's family. Picard is meant to have an older brother called Robert, not a younger brother called Claude.
My favourite Star Trek series is Voyager, but there are very few comics for it. I have only ever seen two - one of which is a single story that can be found inside the large collected volume. Despite this, it is interesting to see the same pictures with both a matte and gloss finish.
The story is called Elite Force, and based on a video game of the same name. I enjoyed reading the comic after having interactively played out the story.
My favourite story, however, is Avalon, in which the Doctor goes on an Arthurian adventure on the holodeck, and Captain Janeway dresses up like a (tasteful) warrior princess.
Overall, the Star Trek comics are entertaining, and have beautiful artwork; I love comparing the styles of different artists. If you are looking for believable plots and through characterisation, however, comics are not the format to find them in.