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.
126: IDW Publishing, 2017
When the 1960s Star Trek show introduced a darker playing field in “Mirror, Mirror,” it’s doubtful anyone could have predicted how important that episode would ultimately be to the franchise. Not only was that alternate reality revisited in multiple episodes of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, but it also provided the surprise twist of Discovery’s freshman season, with the mirror analogues of both Gabriel Lorca and Philippa Georgiou becoming main characters on that show, and the latter even soon to star in her own telefilm, Star Trek: Section 31.
The so-called “mirror universe” proved popular with viewers, and the novelists have since mined its concepts. In the comics, that reality has been explored not only by DC (in Star Trek #9–16), but also by Malibu (Deep Space Nine #29–30) and Marvel (Mirror Mirror #1). IDW has gazed through the mirror as well, in its New Frontier, Mirror Images, and New Visions lines, as well as in two arcs of its ongoing monthly comic (#15–16 and #50–52). But all that was just a prologue for what was to come.
Previously, IDW’s mirror-universe tales were not interconnected. What transpired in New Frontiers, Mirror Images, and New Visions had no impact on the ongoing comic, nor did those titles refer to each other, despite all having been produced by the same publisher. That approach changed with the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation—Mirror Broken, a seven-issue miniseries from writers David and Scott Tipton, interior artists J.K. Woodward and Josh Hood, and cover artists Woodward, Hood, George Caltsoudas, Joe Corroney, Adam Rosenlund, Tony Shasteen, Jen Bartel, and Rachel Stott.
Unlike the prior standalone tales, Mirror Broken has been expanded upon in Through the Mirror, Terra Incognita, and The Mirror War, all of which will be discussed in future columns. Mirror Broken debuted with an issue #0, distributed gratis on Free Comic Book Day 2017, then continued with a five-part main story, as well as a mail-order one-shot, Mirror Broken: Origin of Data. The latter was initially offered exclusively as part of Loot Crate’s 2017 “Robotic” box, then was later included in a trade paperback of the entire saga, titled The Mirror Universe Collection.
The series, edited by Sarah Gaydos, Chris Cerasi, and Chase Marotz, revolved around an exploration of the mirror reality during the era of Jean-Luc Picard, building upon elements of Deep Space Nine’s “Crossover” by showing a Terran Empire in decline, threatened with imminent defeat at the hands of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. According to that episode and its sequels, mirror Spock had risen to become Emperor in the aftermath of his encounter with prime James T. Kirk in “Mirror, Mirror,” then had instituted a series of reforms that ironically weakened the Empire to the point that its enemies descended and crippled it.
By Picard’s time, the once-mighty Empire is now a dying and decaying dinosaur. Picard commands the broken-down ISS Stargazer (the counterpart to prime Picard’s former starship, from “The Battle”), with Deanna Troi serving as the captain’s inquisitor. Troi’s mirror counterpart is a fascinating character, having put her Betazoid abilities to a much darker use, routinely scanning the crew’s minds to ferret out disloyalty. She’s still Picard’s trusted confidant, but everyone else fears and despises her. Even Reginald Barclay hates Deanna, whom he considers a “mindwitch,” the polar opposite of his onscreen infatuation with the comely counselor in the prime timeline.
Barclay is far more confident and formidable here than he was when introduced in “Hollow Pursuits,” and he becomes one of Picard’s key operatives in a plot to commandeer the Empire’s secret new weapon: the Enterprise-D, a Galaxy-class vessel being launched to restore Terra to its former glory. Reg’s first act is to assassinate Tasha Yar, whom Picard views as too ambitious to be trusted, for which Barclay is named the Stargazer’s new security chief. It’s hilariously incongruous with the shy and passive Barclay on TV, but for his mirror doppelgänger it’s a good fit.
Picard, Barclay, and Data (Jean-Luc’s bodyguard, who sports an array of arm gadgets, including those of Borg design) recruit Geordi La Forge and Leah Brahms (“Booby Trap”) to help carry out their plan, along with Will Riker, who serves as first officer under Edward Jellico (“Chain of Command”). Beverly Crusher is Jellico’s CMO, and young Wesley has accompanied his mother aboard the Enterprise, hiding his genius intelligence to prevent the Empire from exploiting him. They, too, join Picard’s coup, and the spikey-haired prodigy becomes a bridge officer under Jean-Luc’s command. In a great cross-franchise Easter egg, Jellico’s decompressive death as he is expelled into space recalls the demise of Vilos Cohaagen, actor Ronny Cox’s character in Total Recall.
At first glance, Mirror Broken seems to contradict Mirror Images, also scripted by the Tiptons yet excluded from The Mirror Universe Collection. In that miniseries, a younger Picard had served aboard the ISS Starbreaker until assuming command so he and his shipmates could chart their own course independent of Imperial rule. In Mirror Broken, however, an older Jean-Luc still serves the Emperor, while the Stargazer retains its prime-universe designation. This discrepancy can be reconciled, however, by assuming Picard changed his mind about betraying the Empire when he was younger, and that he and his crew transferred from the Starbreaker to the Stargazer. Or perhaps it’s simply a different mirror universe—IDW has introduced other mirror realities, after all.
Data’s story (and that of creator Noonian Soong) is explored in the Loot Crate one-shot, and it differs from prime Data’s history from “Datalore” and “Brothers.” Picard is shown to have rescued Data from enslavement—the mirror Soong runs a mining facility, with Data, Lore, and other androids providing forced labor—by faking an industrial accident. Picard allies with the cyberneticist, supplying materials in exchange for dilithium, then discreetly liberates Data to serve aboard the Stargazer, and later the Enterprise. In another clever Easter egg, Soong resembles Brent Spiner’s Independence Day character Brackish Okun, though he appears rather younger than he should be, given Soong’s advanced age in “Brothers.” Then again, he’s a scientist—he may have de-aged himself. Or maybe he’s a golem.
As is typical of Tipton Trek tales, Mirror Broken is a trivia hound’s dream, replete with episode references and in-jokes for those knowledgeable enough to recognize them. In issue #1, a trio of Bynar pairs (“11001001”) serve at the Utopia Planitia shipyards, and they’re drawn with red eyes, befitting their devious nature in this reality. (Someone really needs to write a story about evil Bynars. IDW, I’m available.) In that same issue, an officer who appears to be Bruce Maddox (The Next Generation’s “The Measure of a Man” and Picard’s “Stardust City Rag”) oversees the Enterprise’s construction, though he is not identified by name.
Leland T. Lynch, one of the prime Enterprise’s season-one chief engineers (“Skin of Evil”), is initially the mirror starship’s engineering chief, but Brahms puts him out of commission during the coup, then La Forge replaces Lynch in that role, just as he did onscreen. What’s more, the mirror analogue of Lian T’Su (“The Arsenal of Freedom”) serves under Jellico, and when Picard takes over, she remains aboard under his command. In fact, she appears to be a friend of Riker, which explains why she manages to remain aboard following the change in command.
Other returning faces include Tryla Scott, Walker Keel, and Admiral Gregory Quinn from “Conspiracy.” Keel, commanding the ISS Horatio (as in the prime universe), and Scott, captaining the Stargazer (following Picard’s abandonment of same), are dispatched to bring Jean-Luc to justice. But after he fights alongside them to defeat an enemy armada, Quinn rewards the mutineers by absolving them of all crimes and officially assigning them to the stolen Enterprise. This sets the stage for the Tiptons’ follow-up minis, which continue to this day, and provides a sly nod at all three characters having been connected to an attempted coup within Starfleet in the prime universe.
Issue #4 calls back to Mego’s inaccurate but highly collectible Star Trek action figure line from the 1970s. After stealing the Enterprise, Picard purges all Jellico loyalists at a prison on Neptune Station, commanded by his alien friend Teusta Fonn, who is drawn in homage to Mego’s Neptunian figure. What’s hilarious is that no such species existed on Star Trek when the figure was released—or even to this day—which makes Mego’s figure a retroactive Mirror Broken tie-in 43 years after the fact. The creative team had included a similar Mego in-joke in Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive, and this one is just as funny.
Fonn has a neural neutralizer (“Dagger of the Mind”), with which he modifies prisoners’ minds. The chair is said to have been built by his predecessor Adams, presumably the episode’s Tristan Adams, and whereas the prime version was built for rehabilitation, this one is, naturally, used as a torture device. Fonn employs Gorns as prison wardens, and in keeping with the Mego motif, they are drawn like the design used for the company’s Gorn action figure, rather than how the species appears on TV. Amusingly, this includes the classic Klingon uniform which the toy company repurposed for that figure.
IDW’s exploration of alternate Star Trek universes will continue for another week as we wrap up our discussion of Boldly Go in the next installment and say goodbye to the Kelvin timeline. After that, we’ll tackle the final chapters of the publisher’s New Visions and Waypoint titles, followed by its first forays into Star Trek: Discovery. We’re edging closer to IDW’s current titles, so stay tuned.
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.