133: IDW Publishing, 2018
From 2011 to 2018, the Kelvin timeline of J.J. Abrams’ film trilogy was the centerpiece of IDW’s Star Trek comics output. But following the publication of Star Trek: Boldly Go and Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds, the company stepped away from the Abramsverse. That was an understandable decision, since the last film set in that reality was 2016’s Star Trek Beyond, and it’s unclear (so far) when there will be another.
That didn’t mean the publisher was moving away from all parallel universes, however. Quite the contrary, in fact, as the next miniseries IDW released was Mirror Broken, featuring the evil counterparts of Jean-Luc Picard and the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Introduced in The Original Series‘ “Mirror, Mirror,” then further explored on Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, and Discovery, the so-called “mirror universe” is a darker reflection of the prime reality, marked by bigotry, warmongering, misogyny, and political backstabbing—both literal and figurative. It’s like the modern-day U.S. and U.K. governments, but with more goatees and sneering.
After Mirror Broken‘s conclusion, IDW launched a new chapter of that universe’s history, featuring characters and concepts from Star Trek: Discovery. During the TV show’s freshman season, Captain Gabriel Lorca was revealed to be his mirror counterpart, and the show then crossed over to his universe for a time. Michael Burnham, Sylvia Tilly, and others posed as their alternates, while Philippa Georgiou reigned as the Terran Empire’s tyrannical monarch. Discovery‘s mirror arc concluded with “The War Without, The War Within,” in which Burnham and company made it back to their own reality just in time for a war with the Klingons.
This is where IDW’s Discovery: Succession comes in, as the miniseries chronicles what happens in the mirror universe in the wake of their departure. Written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson, the four-part tale features art by Angel Hernández, George Caltsoudas, Declan Shalvey, Elizabeth Beals, Yoshi Yoshitani, and Nick Roche. Intriguingly, the story opens with Keyla Detmer’s counterpart commanding the ISS Shenzhou—and then quickly dying, along with Joann Owosekun and others, when mirror Airiam kills the entire bridge crew and assumes the center seat for herself. But there’s a twist, as Airiam severs all ties with the Terran Empire, declares the Shenzhou an independent player, and aligns with mirror L’Rell’s resistance.
Meanwhile, Emperor Alexander—Philippa Georgiou’s xenophobic cousin—vows to cleanse the galaxy of all non-Terrans via a gene-toxin targeting specific species. This prompts the rebels to mount an attack on Earth, aided by the counterparts of Katrina Cornwell (who seeks the throne’s defeat) and Michael Burnham (who, having faked her death, plans to betray them all and become Emperor). It’s Star Trek told in the style of Game of Thrones, and it works quite well. Alexander would make a great Lannister.
Much like Star Trek: Enterprise‘s “In a Mirror, Darkly,” Succession offers a prequel to “Mirror, Mirror” by setting up the events of that classic tale. In fact, the ISS Enterprise has a cameo at the end, though aside from an offscreen captain’s log, no members of the crew have any screentime. According to “Mirror, Mirror,” the evil James T. Kirk assumed command after assassinating his predecessor, so it’s likely that Christopher Pike is the one recording the log, not Kirk. This allows a great retroactive tie-in to Discovery‘s then-unaired second season and Strange New Worlds, in which Anson Mount’s Pike has become the franchise’s central star.
A kinder, gentler Harry Mudd is drawn to resemble Rainn Wilson’s Mudd on Discovery and Short Treks, rather than Roger C. Carmel’s from the 1960s and 1970s shows—which is fitting, given the setting. A former gun smuggler, this Harry has striven to become a more principled person (though he helps Burnham obtain supplies from time to time), which includes aiding refugees on Risa. This Harry Mudd, while flawed, is a hero. IDW had previously introduced a mirror Mudd in Star Trek: 5-Year Mission #50–51, though that was technically the counterpart not to prime Mudd, but rather to his analogue in the Kelvin timeline—basically, mirror-Kelvin Harry Mudd. It’s confusing, I know. If a blue police box were involved, I’d call it “timey-wimey.”
As noted above, Airiam’s mirror analogue is a cyborg like in the prime reality, and she serves aboard the ISS Shenzhou, becoming its captain. Regrettably, this has since been overwritten by the episode “Terra Firma,” which portrayed her as a non-cybernetically augmented officer on the Discovery in 2255, with actor Hannah Cheesman’s human face. Dialogue indicates this Airiam has been a cyborg for most of her life, making it difficult to reconcile since the comic occurs only two years after that episode’s events. But since the episode had not yet aired, the discrepancy is not IDW’s fault.
By story’s end, Airiam becomes the new Emperor after assassinating Burnham on the latter’s coronation day. Thanks to the cyborg’s machinations, mirror Detmer ends up with one of the shortest captaincies on record (probably only a day or so), while mirror Burnham beats that by dying almost immediately after donning the crown. It’s a shame the TV show negated Airiam’s Succession depiction, as her arc—from mechanical woman mocked by shipmates to leader of the Empire—is among the comic’s more enjoyable aspects.
The above-noted rebels debuted in “The Wolf Inside,” including the Andorian Shukar and the Tellarite Gorch, both of whom appear in this story. L’Rell is their leader, and she regroups her faction—which includes Klingon warrior Kol (“Battle at the Binary Stars”)—in the wake of Harlak’s destruction. With Sarek killed in that atrocity, Amanda Grayson continues the cause in his memory. As with Mudd, she’s drawn as Discovery actor Mia Kirshner (“Lethe”) rather than as either Jane Wyatt or Winona Ryder. Alas, she’s executed for treason, continuing Star Trek‘s grand tradition of alternate Amandas facing grim fates (see The Animated Series‘ “Yesteryear” and the 2009 movie.)
Matthew Decker’s counterpart commands the ISS Constellation, the mirror version of his starship from “The Doomsday Machine.” His involvement is all too brief, for when the Emperor orders Decker to commit genocide on Qo’noS, the renegade Shenzhou destroys him and his crew. Apparently, Decker and the Constellation, like Amanda, are ill-fated in many realities. The counterpart of Ronald Tracey (“The Omega Glory”) also pops in to torture a cowardly governor. Oddly, Alexander orders Tracey to “put him in an agonizer,” despite that being a handheld device only a few inches in length. Presumably, the writers meant to say “agony booth”… or maybe the Empire has a shrink-ray.
Our gaze through the looking glass will continue for a couple weeks, as we’ve reached a point in IDW’s history when the mirror universe dominated its Star Trek offerings. Next up on the docket is Star Trek: The Next Generation—Through the Mirror, a sequel to Mirror Broken, courtesy of Scott and David Tipton, Marcus To, and J.K. Woodward. Long live the Empire!