Star Trek Guide

Star Trek Finally Sends Its GREATEST Villain Into the Mirror Universe

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Star Trek: Hell's Mirror, by J.M. DeMatteis, Matthew Dow Smith, Candice han, and Neil Uyetake, on sale now.

IDW's Star Trek: Hell's Mirror special is a fascinating one-shot story set in Star Trek's Mirror Universe, where humanity's Terran Empire has been terrorizing the universe for decades and familiar figures like Kirk and Spock twisted into evil villains. The Mirror Universe presents the lawful good characters of the Enterprise in a universe shaped by their amoral, utilitarian and warmongering approach.

In this one-shot, Star Trek's most famous villains, Khan Noonien Singh is the protagonist. But here, he's not the fearsome, genius warlord of Star Trek: The Original Series or Star Trek: Into Darkness. Instead, he's the head of the humanistic Resistance to the Terran Empire.

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In most incarnations, Khan is a superhuman who has been genetically engineered to be better at everything: stronger, healthier, faster, and smarter than regular humans. That means he's almost always three steps ahead of Kirk and Spock. In the main universe, Khan is a villain who wanted to wake up his crew and rule over humanity, which he considered an inferior species. But in the Mirror Universe, he's awoken by the Resistance, who need someone to lead them out of centuries of war and tyranny and into an ethically better world.

This issue doesn't change Khan's personality or backstory -- he still thinks that he's superior to every other human, and he was still sent far away from Earth aboard the Botany Bay. His return is a luminous version of Khan's from Star Trek: Into Darkness (which is a dark, divergent reboot in itself) than with the accidental encounter between the Enterprise and the Botany Bay in TOS. He proceeds to wake up his crew to help him lead a rebellion, and they prove to be very capable leaders who are ultimately too scarce to prove a true menace to the Terran Empire.

In this timeline, Spock was one of the first defectors from the Terran Empire to joined Khan and his cause. Kirk soon follows on the Vulcan's steps, but not before perpetrating a shocking act of violence that foreshadows his true nature. Despite this, Khan takes Kirk at his word, even as Spock warns him that he shouldn't trust anyone, arguing that Kirk's past history proves that he cannot possibly become a party to Khan's ultimate plan to win the eternal war.

Of course, this was a ruse on Spock and Kirk's part; both of them had just pretended to defect to the side of the Resistance to get Khan to trust them and to share the mysterious Project Satori. However, to Spock and Kirk's great surprise, Khan's ultimate weapon is not some kind of Death Star; it's an enormous library filled with ideas that could inspire a revolution.

Ultimately, Kirk and Spock kill Khan, sending him off by mocking his ideals and bombarding his library. Khan dies, in this timeline, but the ending of the issue holds a glimmer of hope: Kirk still has a smuggled book from his childhood, T.H. White's The Once and Future King, reading it over and over like he did when he was a kid. This book retells the Arthurian legend and insists on the folly of war and the silliness of grand titles. In the end, Arthur's body is carried off to Avalon, where he will rest until the world needs him again, much as Khan did in this issue.

Although it's not clear if this story will continue elsewhere, this story recontextualizes one of Star Trek's most brutal villains as a surprising symbol of civility, and one who could legitimately inspired a revolution against the Terran Empire. Where Khan was a figure whose time had long past in the main Trek universe, the Mirror Universe seems exactly like teh kind of place where Khan could've thrived. However, this twisted world was simply too savage for Trek's most savage villain.

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