Warp Factor Trek

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Of all the branches of the Star Trek franchise, the Mirror Universe has proven to be one of the most fascinating. Begun in 1967 with the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror” and continuing through episodes on Deep Space Nine and Enterprise as well as numerous comics and novels, we have seen the growth of the Mirror Universe as a setting, so it’s no surprise that IDW Publishing, which currently holds the license for publishing Star Trek comics, has picked up the ball and ran with a number of excellent Mirror Universe tales. Now, IDW brings us the fourth installment in the Mirror Universe TNG series, The Mirror War, written by Scott and David Tipton and illustrated by Carlos Nieto. The events follow on from those of the previous three series – Mirror Broken, Through the Mirror, and Terra Incognita.

The story of The Mirror War begins as the crew of the ISS Enterprise-D, led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard, explore what they believe is an abandoned freighter for spare parts, when they are ambushed by a group of Cardassians using Klingon Birds-of-Prey. With the mission a failure, Picard finds even more threats aboard the ISS Enterprise, where he is personally attacked by a mysterious assailant. Picard, once the Terran Empire’s greatest warrior, is now suffering defeat and failure. His inabilities have been noticed by the heads of the Imperial Palace (the Mirror Universe version of Starfleet Headquarters).

Picard and Riker beam down to the Imperial Palace (IDW Publishing)

In discussion with Riker after they visit the palace, Picard plots to overthrow the current regime and take over as the new emperor of the Terran Empire. Meanwhile, Chief O’Brien and Geordi La Forge uncover a most interesting lead, one that follows in the wake of Terra Incognita and could lead to a turning point in Picard’s plans… but will it be for the better or the worse?

For me, this first issue (which, like the previous series, begins with an issue #0) is straightforward in its setup. The Tiptons continue to demonstrate their excellence in storytelling, having written many wonderful tales for IDW over the years. Picard is seen as vicious, conniving, willing to take the hits and keep on going, no matter who or what tries to kill him. The Tiptons set up plots within plots, as they depict Picard’s discussion with Riker about overthrowing the emperor. I disagree with their decision to have that conversation occur in a very public bar, however. I would have preferred if they had set the conversation in an extremely private setting, away from any prying eyes or listening devices.

Picard and Riker in a bar (IDW Publishing)

The artwork by Carlos Nieto was a bit more problematic for me. I’m not familiar with his artwork, and at times his portrayals of certain characters, most notably Picard and Geordi, barely resemble what we’ve seen on screen over the years.

For that matter, there are seeming internal inconsistencies in the portrayal of the Mirror Riker, who at one point is blind in one eye, but later in the story, that eye looks normal. This is actually intended to be a scleral shell (similar to a contact lens), which he only wears on formal occasions such as meeting the Emperor, as a sign of respect. However, I feel this intention could’ve been established in the story itself, even if previously established in other comics, since this is meant to be a new story. Furthermore, the eye even changes, at one point, from being brown to opaque within one specific scene, still with no explanation provided for the change.

In the bar scene, the color of Mirror Riker’s right eye changes within just a few frames (IDW Publishing)

In general, the artwork in this comic is far from what we would normally associate with a TNG story and at times harkens back to the Marvel Star Trek series of comics from the 1990s. Then again, I’m coming into this particular series cold, not having read any of the previous tales, so my sense of observed inconsistencies is at least partly my own fault.

This first issue is complimented with a gallery of alternate cover variants by Carlos Nieto, Ejiwa Ebenebe, and Tom Ralston, all of which are for various dealers and incentives. For me, the Ralston cover is the most appealing, as it closely reflects what the actors’ likenesses would be for a story like this.

The Ralston cover for issue #0 (IDW Publishing)
Rating: 3.5/5

The first chapter of The Mirror War has promise in setting up what appears to be a very interesting tale over the next several months, even if the artwork leaves a bit to be desired.

Issue #0 is available now from Amazon.com, and directly from IDW Publishing. Issue #1 is due for release on 6 October 2021.

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