An ongoing discussion of how the comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the Star Trek episodes and films, soon to be a book from BearManor Media. Click here to view an archive of this article series.
81: IDW Publishing, 2008
Star Trek is a multiverse containing an infinite number of parallel realities and alternate timelines, in which any possible combination and permutation of events can occur. J.J. Abrams’ three movies occupy one such reality, while other dimensions and timelines have been revealed in “The Alternative Factor,” “The Tholian Web,” “The Counter-Clock Incident,” “The Magicks of Megas-Tu,” “Parallels,” “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “Scorpion,” and many other episodes. But one specific parallel dimension has been the most widely mined on TV: the so-called “mirror” universe, in which the characters are similar to how we know them but, in many cases, are evil.
How can we tell they’re evil? Because Spock has a beard, that’s how.
That reality was introduced in The Original Series’ “Mirror, Mirror.” Deep Space Nine expanded on the concept across five episodes, then Star Trek: Enterprise aired the two-part “In a Mirror, Darkly,” which retroactively made “The Tholian Web” a mirror-universe tale as well. More recently, Star Trek: Discovery incorporated that universe into its basic fabric, with numerous episodes and an entire season’s larger arc built around the mirror reality. The latter series, in fact, even starred two mirror counterparts, Gabriel Lorca and Philippa Georgiou (neither of them bearded), among its main cast. If only “Mirror, Mirror” screenwriter Jerome Bixby had lived to see it all happen.
In the four-color realm, DC Comics was the first to revisit the mirror universe, with its extraordinary “New Frontiers” storyline. Malibu and Marvel Comics each published a mirror tale of their own, but otherwise, that reality remained underutilized in comics for decades. We’re now in the IDW years, however, in which the mirror universe has been a frequent stopover, starting with Peter David’s Star Trek: New Frontier. This week, we’ll reflect on the mirror universe once more with Star Trek: Mirror Images, a five-issue miniseries from writers Scott and David Tipton.
Mirror Images was the fourth and final Trek title released under IDW’s “Second Stage” umbrella. Originally announced as a four-parter, it was slated at one point to be cowritten by IDW editor Chris Ryall. The miniseries sported interior art by David Messina and Sara Pichelli, with vibrant covers from Messina and Joe Corroney. Messina had previously illustrated IDW’s Klingons: Blood Will Tell, Alien Spotlight, and Intelligence Gathering for the Tiptons, and he’s remained a staple part of the publisher’s artist pool ever since.
The miniseries explores how James T. Kirk’s mirror counterpart assumed command of the ISS Enterprise after assassinating Christopher Pike, whose prime counterpart was introduced in “The Cage” and now stars on Strange New Worlds. As Pike’s first officer, Kirk arranges for the components of the Tantalus field device (his hidden assassination tool in “Mirror, Mirror,” which makes enemies vanish at the press of a button) to be delivered to the starship by an Orion smuggler—who, amusingly, hides the parts in plain sight as the scant clothing of three slave women.
Mirror-Kirk has his crafty accomplice, Montgomery Scott, secretly build the machine so he can kill the captain and assume command. Pike suspects the coup will happen, but Jim stays three steps ahead thanks to covert assistance from Scotty, Spock, and Leonard McCoy. With tight plotting, a simple yet intriguing premise, and strong characterization, Mirror Images is among the better tales from IDW’s early days. It depicts the tyrannical Pike as dangerously paranoid, establishes a genuine camaraderie between the mirror Kirk and Scotty despite their deceitful natures, and might be the only place you’ll ever see a tortured Bones screaming in an agony booth.
The miniseries also ties in with “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” as Lee Kelso’s alternate serves under Pike and later Kirk, while McCoy is said to have been promoted to chief medical officer following an “accident” involving prior physician Mark Piper, who’d appeared in Star Trek’s second pilot before DeForest Kelley had been added to the cast. Kirk’s lover Marlena Moreau is absent from the series, though he does romance Christine Chapel. One wonders if Chapel will have an unfortunate encounter with the Tantalus field once Kirk sets his sights on Marlena.
The Orion subplot pays homage to The Animated Series, for the uniform and helmet of the Orion trader, Juraav, are based on those featured in “The Pirates of Orion.” What’s more, Juraav and the slave girls are depicted with that episode’s greyish skin tone rather than the more traditional green tints used for live-action Orions. Whether or not this was intentional on the colorist’s part, it provides a fun Easter egg for fans of the ‘70s cartoon. The Orion women’s posing is reminiscent of the seductive entrance of Navaar, D’Nesh, and Maras in Star Trek: Enterprise’s “Bound,” and just as in that episode, there’s more to these three than meets the eye—because their outfits are a deadly weapon.
Sharp-eyed readers may notice a connection to Discovery’s “Vaulting Ambition,” though since that show would not exist until years after Mirror Images’ publication, the tie-in is of course purely coincidental. In one scene, the mirror counterparts of Kirk and Hikaru Sulu discuss an illegal alcoholic beverage called Bolian brew, apparently made from actual Bolians. With this, the Tiptons predicted Discovery’s disturbing revelation that Imperials eat sentient species. Perhaps Bolian brew goes well with Kelpien ganglia.
The gag may have been intended as a callback to the 1991 film The Addams Family, in which Wednesday Addams asked a Girl Scout selling cookies if they were made with real Girl Scouts. Either way, it’s a humorous moment that cleverly underscores the deceitful duo’s sadistic cruelty since neither seems disgusted at the idea of drinking a Bolian. Another funny Sulu moment occurs when the security chief comments “Oh, my” upon being presented with the Orion women. This, of course, references George Takei’s frequent catchphrase, popularized following his appearances on The Howard Stern Show, and also the title of the actor’s autobiography about life as an Internet sensation.
Issue #3, unlike the other four, is set during the era of Jean-Luc Picard and plays off elements of that century as revealed in Deep Space Nine’s “Crossover.” As a young starship officer, Picard assassinates his captain after the latter surrenders to the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. Assuming command of the crippled vessel, Picard vows to keep his crew safe through strength, no longer subordinate to the crumbling Empire. The younger Jean-Luc is drawn to resemble Tom Hardy’s Cadet Picard photo in Star Trek: Nemesis, a smart artistic choice since this Picard, like Shinzon, represents Jean-Luc’s darker impulses taking hold under divergent circumstances.
The Picard issue introduces the mirror counterpart of the USS Stargazer (“The Battle”), here called the ISS Starbreaker though Diane Duane’s novel Dark Mirror and the Tiptons’ own Mirror Broken both have Picard commanding the ISS Stargazer. Jean-Luc and Jack Crusher (“Family”) serve under a Vulcan captain called Sorek, and Jack’s death due to Sorek’s ineffective leadership, combined with Picard’s disgust at how weakened the Empire has grown under Spock’s peaceful reforms, spurs him to claim the captain’s chair and declare the Starbreaker independent from the Imperial fleet. We can assume he trades that ship in for the Stargazer at some point before Mirror Broken.
At the time of publication, plans were in place for a Mirror Images sequel set in the 24th century, with this issue setting up that story’s premise. That intended sequel was reworked as Myriad Universes: The Last Generation (to be discussed soon), with the mirror-reality connection jettisoned. Still, the Tiptons would revisit mirror-Picard’s renegade crew in not only Mirror Broken, but also Through the Mirror, Terra Incognita, and The Mirror War, while IDW would explore other facets of that reality in Star Trek: New Visions, Discovery: Succession, Mirrors and Smoke, and Hell’s Mirror, all of which we’ll get to in later installments.
Once Georgiou returns in her upcoming Section 31 film, it’s a safe bet IDW will continue to gaze into the mirror. In the meantime, there are more strange new comics to explore. Next week, we’ll conclude John Byrne’s “Balance of Terror”-inspired Romulan saga with Hollow Crown, Schism, and Pawns of War. Jolan tru, citizens.
Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- My ongoing column for Titan Books’ Star Trek Explorer magazine
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, curated by yours truly
- The Star Trek Comics Checklist, by Mark Martinez
- The Wixiban Star Trek Collectables Portal, by Colin Merry
- New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, by Joseph F. Berenato (Sequart, 2014)
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter (Hermes Press, 2009)
- The Star Trek Comics Weekly page on Facebook
Rich Handley has written, co-written, co-edited, or contributed to dozens of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Planet of the Apes, Watchmen, Back to the Future, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Stargate, Dark Shadows, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Red Dwarf, Blade Runner, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman, the Joker, classic monsters, and more. He has also been a magazine writer and editor for nearly three decades. Rich edited Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection, and he currently writes articles for Titan’s Star Trek Explorer magazine, as well as books for an as-yet-unannounced role-playing game. Learn more about Rich and his work at richhandley.com.