812. The Quality of Mercy
PUBLICATION: Star Trek #15, Marvel Comics, August 1981
CREATORS: Martin Pasko (writer), Gil Kane (artists)
STARDATE: 8822.5 (follows the last issue)
PLOT: Kirk and crew go on a secret undercover mission where they must post as guards in galaxy's death row to rescue the half-Antosian son of a commodore. Doing so, they find a host of human rights violations and the shapeshifting Antosian who, though exonerated from criminal charges in the accidental death of the woman he loved, is now trying to commit suicide by posing as other prisoners due to be executed. Kirk saves him (though not from a lifetime of therapy) and the sadistic prison supervisor suffers a coup at the hands of his lieutenant who hopes to push for mercy and reform.
CONTINUITY: The people of Antos IV and their shape-shifting abilities are mentioned in Whom Gods Destroy. Spock's inner eyelid gets a mention.
DIVERGENCES: The Enterprise has a cloaking device. Spock uses "mind fusion" to teach his crew mates an alien language (Pasko really broadened his powers).
PANEL OF THE DAY - The first time that term has ever been used in Star Trek.
REVIEW: The main attraction here has to be legendary artist Gil Kane (though not his best work). No stranger to space opera from his days on Green Lantern, he proves quite adept at likenesses as well, usually with the smallest number of lines, though his Enterprise isn't quite as strong. As for the story, it plays a little too fast and too loose with its Trek continuity hits for comfort. The Enterprise has a cloak and there's no explanation why? And Pasko not only uses Spock's telepathy for new uses every issue, but here turns the Antosians into Firestorm - able to change not only their molecular structure, but that of object as well (even ships!). But if you don't think too hard about how this fits the wider universe, it's a fairly enjoyable cloak and dagger piece, with dynamic art by one of the medium's masters.