When we last left Kirk & crew, they had just trans-warped themselves into the Mirror Universe to head off an invasion fleet seemingly destined to take over the primary timeline. Issue #13—Masquerade!—takes readers deeper into the dark side of Star Trek’s fascist stand-in society than the television show ever did, and in the process turns over some pretty interesting plot points that position this issue as the high point of the saga so far.
(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.)
Masquerade! kicks off with Good Kirk in the Starfleet High Command confrontation pit impersonating his evil doppelganger while making the case that he should lead that very invasion fleet. His argument? The ‘purloined’ U.S.S. Excelsior is a far more potent weapon than anything found on either side of the dimensional divide, and is perfectly positioned to help turn the tide against the more peaceful Federation.
To prove his point, Good Kirk calls for an impromptu demonstration of the Excelsior’s might by, uh, randomly destroying whatever happens to be nearby.
Naturally, this causes more than a little consternation among the gathered brass, particularly a Captain Jorkins who had parked his ship inside of the now-vaporized spacedock.
Still, the Terrans value actions over words, and Kirk gets his way while Jorkins gets stuffed.
Issue #13 continues its movie quote hangover, with borrowed Wrath of Khan dialogue again re-purposed as the Excelsior gets scanned by the lower-tech Terran fleet headquarters…
As well as when Chekhov for some reason confirms that the ships ‘automates’ are functioning, this time a re-tread from Search For Spock.
Fortunately, it’s easy to forget the somewhat ham-fisted recycling thanks to the convergence of two genuinely interesting story developments. The first is Good Spock and seemingly Newly Good Spock working together to follow the Excelsior into the Mirror Universe. The confrontation between double-Spocks was the strongest thread offered by the previous issue, and writer Mike W. Barr continues to pull at it in a bid to bring the entire crew back together—or should I say, the entire crew plus-one?
Getting to the next plot payoff requires wading through a mix of exposition and ‘sex-position.’ Kirk leads his crew on an Earth-bound mission to get a better feel for what Terran society is actually like. Barr fills it alternately with scenes of gladiatorial ultra-violent, like this ‘Live Death Duel’ bar…
…as well as McCoy’s totally-in-character threat to permanently scar Sulu’s face if he won’t stop picking at his prosthetics. How well we all remember the simmering animosity between these two characters, and the constant threat of a physical altercation written into each and every one of their on-screen interactions.
And of course, Chekhov never lets us forget that he is Russian, and that Russians are always drinking vodka. Because why give him any other dialogue, right?
At the murder-bar, Saavik catches us all up on what caused the Mirror Universe to diverge so dramatically from the future-Earth history Star Trek fans all know so well. It turns out the Earth-Romulus war didn’t go nearly as well in this timeline as it did back in the prime, resulting in slavery, rebellion, and a reorganization of culture along xenophobic lines.
How, exactly, Saavik came across all of this information is never explained, but you know what? If they don’t care, I’m not going to care, either.
Shortly after this exposition dump, Kirk and Jorkins go mano-e-mano alongside the murder-bar’s main card, but unlike McCoy, Kirk is content with embarrassing his foe and doesn’t feel the need to either permanently alter his face or honorably end his life.
If you’re keeping track, so far we’ve had a history lesson and some bloodsport, which means that the next item on the dystopian Earth agenda is definitely some form of intercourse between a timeline native and a member of the Excelsior’s crew. Of course, this turns out to be Kirk, who manages to transition from a scene of pathos about the dangers of imitating barbary, to, well, having his way barbarian-Kirk’s undercover mistress, Marlena.
Having soaked the reader in history, blood, and whatever Mirror-fluids Good Kirk might have produced, it’s time to get to by far the most interesting twist Barr has in store for this alternate history tale. Marlena tells Kirk it’s time for a late-night, post-coital rendezvous with the leader of Earth’s resistance…
…who turns out to be David! Yes, that David, Kirk’s very own son who was murdered by the Klingons in Star Trek III.
I have to say, this is a very satisfying moment, and one that was completely unexpected. It’s a masterstroke for Barr to amplify the importance of the rebel leader by making him a character who isn’t just familiar to the reader, but also emotionally poignant for Kirk, who is forced to stare into the eyes of the son whose death he no doubt feels responsible for back in his own timeline.
Throw in the fact that David-as-a-younger-Kirk would of course find himself at the center of any organized resistance to the Terran Empire’s jackboot, and I’m willing to forgive clumsy dialogue like this, which seems to hinge David’s belief that Good Kirk isn’t Evil Kirk based on his inability to feign surprise or sadness.
Of course David and his dad hooking up to take down the Terrans can’t be allowed to proceed smoothly, as there’s a mole planted among the rebels who of course hears crucial aspects of their openly-discussed plan.
With David on board the Excelsior, everything seems to be coming together for Kirk’s gambit. We get some decent reactions from the crew, who are of course shocked to see that Kirk Jr. is still alive on this side of the Mirror.
Including this update from Chekhov that yes, he is still Russian, and that Russia was once ruled by Lenin.
Really, the only who isn’t phased by David Marcus’ re-appearance is Saavik, possibly due to some type of Romulan/Vulcan sexual connection between the two of them from their non-canon time together on the Enterprise outlined in Issues #7 and #8. Based on the subtlety with which Saavik’s sexuality was handled during that particular arc, I can only assume several throbbing panels were left on the cutting room floor here.
We don’t focus too long on that particular reunion, however, because a much more important one floats into view mere moments later. It’s Spock, and, uh, Spock, back with their stolen Bird of Prey. There’s two of them, and in case you didn’t catch that, McCoy helpfully points it out.
Although initially restrained, Newly Good Spock explains that his mind-meld with Good Spock not only helped reorganize the latter’s addled brain, but also allowed him to come to terms with the years of self-hatred that had driven him into the service of the Terran Empire.
It’s a satisfying resolution to two character arcs that were at the center of the Mirror Universe storyline, and it almost makes it possible to overlook Good Spock and McCoy giving each other the Predator handshake. Again, another completely spot-on characterization of two individuals readers have decades of history with.
The issue ends with Kirk’s command of the Terran invasion force undermined the revelation from the rebel spy that he’s a traitor. This leaves the Excelsior surrounded by the Empire’s warships, with orders to have her blown out of the stars. A fun, and thrilling cliffhanger that will push me to read the next issue more quickly than I’d planned.
Best Retro Ads From This Issue
There are three great classifieds that I pulled from Issue #13. The first is this ‘TERROR from the DEEP’ offer of a ‘genuine killer shark’s tooth pendant’ for $3 that comes not just with a 30-day money-back guarantee, but also the pledge that you’ll be the ‘envy of all your friends’ as well as a contest entry to win a ‘hi-proformance’ BMX bike.
Next up are these ‘Radio Sunglasses’ that promise you can ‘Enjoy Any Activity.’
Finally, we have the mysterious ‘HOT AIR BALLOON FREE LANCE FLIGHT.’ I’ve thought long and hard about what that particular combination of words could possible mean, especially in conjunction with the low, low price or $1.99, and although I am completely baffled I remain hopeful that whoever signed on for this adventure had the thrill of a lifetime.