Star Trek: “Hell’s Mirror” One Shot
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: J.M. DeMatteis
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Color by: Candice Han
Ah, the Mirror Universe. Legendary comic writer J.M. DeMatteis returns to Star Trek for the first time in almost 40 years for a special one-shot Mirror story starring a (good?) Khan Noonien Singh. If you’re a fan of the early Marvel Trek run right after Star Trek: The Motion Picture, you might remember that DeMatteis wrote the final issue (#18) in 1982.
First introduced in Star Trek’s season two episode “Mirror, Mirror,” this parallel dimension has been depicted across every incarnation of Star Trek in one form or another (either on television or in books or comics). I’ve always considered that episode my favorite of The Original Series and when DC went through the Mirror again in 1984, I was introduced to a whole expanded universe of comics, novels, and video games I never knew existed before. The Mirror Universe was my gateway into non-canon Trek so it’s safe to say I have a soft spot for these stories.
With Discovery going back there in season one, to IDW’s Discovery, Next Generation, and Voyager comics, I was worried we’d be running into Mirror Universe fatigue. So when I heard that IDW was going back yet again, this time with Khan, I have to admit I was cautiously optimistic, but a bit skeptical. Thankfully, those fears were put to rest like the augments on the Botany Bay. If you ever wanted to know how Khan could function using his powers for good, then pick this up now.
It is very cold… in space.
This alternate reality begins with Khan (Ricardo Montalbán, not the John Harrison version) narrating his history and how he got to where he is. In what we can still assume was 1996, Khan and his augments abandoned Earth to the Botany Bay and put themselves in suspended animation. Their failing ship was rescued by a group of Terran rebels whose mission was to overthrow the Empire. Khan eventually rose in ranks to lead the rebellion and enlisted a familiar bearded Vulcan as his trusted counselor. By the end of the prologue, Khan has taken back a third of the Empire and is poised to take over completely. Prime and Mirror Khan’s intentions “mirror” each other in the sense that they each want to rule the universe—but for very different reasons.
Mister… Chekov, isn’t it?
Going back to Khan in TOS is the perfect opportunity to retcon a meeting between Chekov and Khan on the Enterprise (even though this is the Mirror Universe and wouldn’t count). So when I saw Sulu and Chekov on the bridge, I thought that we would get to see that. But boy, DeMatteis pulls one of the biggest twists in Trek comics history.
Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny. Anything else is a waste of material
Mirror Kirk, in an effort to switch sides in the war, vaporizes his bridge crew with a phaser, beams to one of Khan’s rebel ships, and blows up the Enterprise, murdering his entire crew. All of this happens in the first few pages of the book and it’s shocking. In the brief time we saw the mirror version of Kirk depicted on screen in “Mirror, Mirror,” he was portrayed as a murderous, maniacal madman, threatening to kill anyone in his path. He was a bit one-dimensional. The DeMatteis version of Kirk is the same; however, there is more depth to his character, and his motivations are made clear. “Hell’s Mirror” is one of the things I love about comics – you can do pretty much anything, especially when you’re dealing with an alternate reality.
Ah, Kirk, my old friend
With Khan, Kirk, and Spock now on the right side to overthrow the evil Empire, the story really takes off. If you ever wanted to know what would it have been like to have a being with superior intellect on the right side of history, this is it. Khan takes Kirk under his wing as a mentor and turns him on to the teachings of Socrates, Surak, and Dickens. Side note—wouldn’t those be mirror versions of those writers, too? Khan reveals his plan for the eventual overthrow of the Empire (by creating a Federation of Planets) and the weapon he intends to use (it’s not what you’d expect). I have to say that this take on a benevolent Khan is really refreshing and the role reversal is especially engaging.
Artist Matthew Dow Smith’s take on Montalbán’s Khan is fantastic and really brings you back to “Space Seed.” The same is true for Spock; the likeness is really well done. For the most part, Kirk is the Shatner version but sometimes it looks as though there’s a hint of Pine. Not a bad thing at all, but just something that I noticed. Overall the art is really great and allows you to immerse yourself into the story.
I have been… and always shall be… your friend
This is a really enjoyable story and I’m happy they just made it a one-shot. It could’ve easily been made into a 4-issue series, but I appreciate IDW’s decision to keep it to one issue. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t sure about this when it was first announced but it’s definitely worth picking up. The ending may be an allegory for today’s society and I’ll just leave it at that.
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