New Star Trek 2 prequel comic reveals surprise character

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Jan 23, 2013, 7:18 PM EST

The first issue of the Star Trek Into Darkness prequel comic drops a huge surprise on its last page.

Spoiler alert: Back in 2009, IDW did a four-book series called Countdown that served as a sort of prequel to that year's J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek reboot. We say "sort of" because the story actually took place in the future, featured Star Trek: The Next Generation characters and detailed the events that led up to the Romulan villain Nero's (Eric Bana) leap back into time to kickstart the movie's plot.

Now IDW is doing a similar series for this May's Star Trek Into Darkness, called Countdown to Darknesswhich is being co-written by Mike Johnson and one of the Into Darkness screenwriters, Roberto Orci. The story follows the crew of the Enterprise as they try to ascertain how an alien race on the planet Phaedus acquired technology beyond their means. But, as Coming Soon discovered, lurking on the last page of the book is a huge surprise for longtime Trek fans, as Captain Kirk comes face to face with a man named Robert April.

Who is Robert April? Quite simply, he is officially considered the first Captain of the Enterprise. When Gene Roddenberry first outlined his series proposal for Star Trek back in 1964, his captain was originally named Robert April. That later turned into Christopher Pike (who, as played by Jeffrey Hunter, appeared in the first pilot, "The Cage") and then James Kirk, who made his debut in the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and managed to stick around in the form of William Shatner and now Chris Pine.

So although he was never mentioned on the original series (but did show up in an episode of the animated Star Trek show called "The Counter-Clock Incident"), April has over time been accepted in Star Trek history as the first captain of the Enterprise, before Pike and Kirk. And now he's popped up on the last page of Countdown to Darkness, greeting Kirk by saying, "My name is Robert April, former Captain of a ship called Enterprise!"

What exactly does this mean for the movie? Well, for one thing, events in these IDW comics don't necessarily all have an impact on the screen, and it should also be noted that in the 2009 film, Pike (played now by Bruce Greenwood) was the first captain of the newly constructed Enterprise. But since Abrams' films are set in a different timeline, could April have somehow slipped through from the original continuity? Or could there have been another Enterprise around before the current one?

The other big question is: could April be the real identity of the movie's villain, "John Harrison," as played by Benedict Cumberbatch? Or perhaps the shadowy character played by Peter Weller? Coming Soon also points to a Hitfix report in which this very theory is suggested, and where a visit to the Bad Robot production offices revealed a sketch of a weapon used by Cumberbatch that was titled "April's Gatling Gun."

Are these all just more "mystery box" riddles leaked out by Abrams and company to throw us off the trail? Or is Robert April, the one-time captain of at least one version of the Enterprise, the secret nemesis of Star Trek Into Darkness

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