The third entry in the DC Comics Star Trek ‘Mirror Universe’ saga, ‘Mindmeld’ is surprisingly one of the better issues in the book’s early run. For the most part avoiding the tired Trek retreads so generously sprinkled through previous volumes (although not entirely, as we’ll see), ‘Mindmeld’ also manages to strike off into less familiar territory for its evil-twin antagonists as well. The hinge on which all of this fresh perspective swings is Mirror-Spock’s well-considered subplot, which finally allows readers to spend some time with the Enterprise’s most favorite son, albeit through a glass darkly.
(I’m blogging each and every issue of the DC Comics Star Trek run that debuted in 1984. Why would anyone want to do that? I explain all here in an introduction to this project that includes very first post in this series.)
‘Mindmeld’ opens with the confrontation between Good Kirk and Evil Kirk that was promised on the last page of the previous issue, but it’s all over rather quickly. There’s a splash page where E-Kirk slaps G-Kirk on the bridge (because that’s what tough guys from other dimensions do to assert dominance), but it’s the following panels that are a lot more interesting. Specifically, this strange confrontation between Evil McCoy and Good McCoy that everyone seems to be really excited about, but which is of course immediately forgotten by the narrative.
Of greater importance to elevating the story, however, is Kirk’s surprise that Spock hasn’t made good on his promise of taking down the Terran Empire from within in the 15 years or so since the pair last met (during the Original Series episode ‘Mirror, Mirror.’) Wait a minute—aren’t you always complaining about callbacks? Yes, but this one is far from extraneous, as it serves to separate Spock from the other cookie-cutter baddies populating the Evil Enterprise, giving him the beginnings of a backstory that ultimately pays off in the form of his own plot line throughtout this issue.
What qualifies as an extraneous callback, you might ask? How about this instance of ‘I guess I’ll just borrow another line from the movie’ writing from Mike W. Barr when E-Spock gets sent to Vulcan to kidnap G-Spock and recover precious information about the Genesis Device, which E-Kirk of course plans to use as a tool of destruction.
Spock also gets what feels like a throwaway line regarding the state of Klingon technology. I’m hopeful it comes into play later.
On their way to the brig, or torture center, or whatever the Mirror dudes have planned for the Enterprise bridge crew, G-Kirk and company perform the standard ‘beating up the guards’ routine that again could have been lifted from any season of Classic Trek.
Good Kirk then impersonates Evil Kirk and orders the crew beamed over to the Evil Enterprise, where they segue into activating the ‘intruder control circuit’ again, knocking everyone out with poison gas except for the Good Enterprise crew members, for reasons that are never fully explained. In fact, Kirk asks Sulu to prepare an antidote to the gas, in case they have to use it again. But..what about the first time you used it? I guess we’ll never know.
Things get a little weird over the next few pages. Good Kirk heads to Evil Kirk’s quarters to check out his Tantalus Field, which was used during the ‘Mirror, Mirror’ episode by E-Kirk to somehow spy on and occasionally murder his enemies. It’s a bit of deus ex machina that doesn’t go much further than its discovery here, because almost immediately Good Kirk is attacked by Marlena, who had served as a sex slave to Evil Kirk 15 years previous. She’s still kicking—quit literally—but she realises that Good Kirk is back by observing that his eyes are ‘less cruel.’
More disturbing is the idea that after so many years apart, and in the middle of a crisis, Kirk and Malena would instantly rediscover their sexual chemistry. I’m not going to shame depictions of older characters getting it on, but this is a Kirk who’s trying to save his entire crew from imminent peril, prevent the colonization of the Federation by his own doppelganger, and who also just came off the murder of his son and the death and rebirth of his soul mate, Spock. I don’t know about you, but middle age is a confusing time at best without these factors weighing someone down, so I find it hard to believe that Kirk’s first instinct here was to service his erection. I’ll have to chalk this up to another instance of poor characterization on the part of Barr, who is still motivating Admiral Kirk based on a decades-old television depiction rather than the mature version we saw in ‘Wrath of Khan’ and ‘The Search for Spock.’
After arguing post-nookie about the resistance to the Terran Empire that Malena is deeply involved with, the pair put it back in their respective pants (or catsuit) and make it to the bridge, where we do get one, nice, genuine character moment for E-Kirk.
This really rings true as a reaction that Admiral Kirk would have upon returning to the nerve center of the second love of his life, as opposed to the hormonal Captain Kirk we’ve seen up to this point in the issue.
Of course, Barr can’t leave well enough alone, and so on the next page we get the satisfying, if again years out-of-date sequence where E-Kirk coldcocks Stiles unconscious and dumps him in a shuttlecraft to warn the rest of the Federation about their Mirror foes.
Way back at the begining of this post I mentioned that ‘Mindmeld’ elevates itself primarily through the exploration of Spock’s character, and we’re finally there by the issue’s halfway point. Spock shows up on Vulcan, and things immediately get ridiculous. First, taking a page from Kirk’s book, he immediately goes full-UFC on his father, knocking Sarek out with a single punch.
Then, Sulu gets in on the bloodlust by randomly phasering and extremely frail Vulcan elder, for absolutely no reason.
But he’s not done—because immediately afterwards, Sulu doubles down by PHASERING SPOCK’S OWN MOTHER.
Spock is pretty pissed about all of this, and ‘agonizes’ Sulu until he passes out, instructing Chekhov to repeat the process once he regains consciouness.
With that comedy behind us, we’re treated to an intriguing peek into E-Spock’s mind as he melds with G-Spock and discovers the turmoil within his counterpart.
This leads to some kind of ‘mind battle’ that I’m hopeful will resurrect Good Spock and possibly convince Evil Spock to fight alongside his twin against Evil Kirk. Either way, I’m happy that Spock’s back, especially if we get a double dose in the next issue.
In the final few pages, Barr proves he’s still not done harvesting his plot points from movie scripts by setting up a cliffhanger where Evil Kirk remotely commands the Evil Enterprise to self-destruct from the bridge of the Excelsior. But I’d rather finish this issue’s discussion by returning to Issue #10’s most persistent theme: just how big, exactly, is the U.S.S. Excelsior?
Is it, conservatively, 7 times the size of the Enterprise, as we see here?
Or is it closer to how it’s depicted in the movies, a somewhat larger, but not absurdly gargantuan upgrade over the Constitution-class? Stay tuned for Issue #12 where hopefully the mystery will be sold.
Side Note: Continuity
I’ve been pretty harsh about how DC Comics decided to handle continuity in this series. Ostensibly beginning after the events of ‘The Wrath Of Khan,’ and caught between a rock and a hard place with almost no advance information from Paramount about the plot of ‘Star Trek III: The Search for Spock’, Barr and his team were forced to wipe the slate clean in Issue #9 after the movie came out and revealed that, well, zero time had passed between the two flicks. Certainly not enough time for the battle-damaged Enterprise to be repaired and sent out on the new missions described in Issues #1-8, in any case, which ‘The Search For Spock’ made clear in discussing the vessel’s decommissioning.
Somehow, the editor for the Star Trek comic series disagrees with movie canon. In the ‘Letters’ section of this issue, Bob Greenberger pushes back against a fan’s concerns regarding where these stories actually fit in the Trek narrative by claiming that ‘Just because Kirk and the others made no mention of the time that passed bwetween films, two and three, that doesn’t mean our adventures may not have happened. As far as we’re concerned, for the sake of the comic’s internal continuity, those stories did happen and will be remember by all concerned.’
Good luck with that.
Best Retro Ads From This Issue
When I was a kid, video game ads always made amazing visual promises that the graphics of the ’80s simply couldn’t deliver. I didn’t care: the adventure lived inside my mind, which was higher resolution than any 4k display could ever hope to achieve, but it did leave a design legacy that in no way resembled the actual gameplay or visual depiction of the game itself. A classic of the genre is this Pitfall II one-pager on the back cover.
I was also obsessed with miniature starships. I loved model kits, and would have killed for all of the mini-ships described in the ad for this ‘Star Trek III’ tabletop game, even though I never got into role-playing in real life (only on my PC, where I actually programmed my own Star Trek text-based games in BASIC). If anyone out there has actual pictures of what these ships looked like, I’d love to see them.