Tie-in fiction loves a good crossover event and Star Trek, in particular, is full of them.
Outside of recent Trek crossovers with Planet of the Apes, Transformers and Green Lantern, IDW Publishing most recently have tied into Star Trek: Discovery‘s narrative trends with a heavy focus on the Mirror Universe (particularly the untold on TV story of The Next Generation side of the Mirror coin) and now The Original Series with the newly launched Year Five, but The Q Conflict is a different animal. It is the kind of story that could only take place in tie-in continuity for a variety of reasons, and more specifically the comic as opposed to the novel. It feels mostly in step with Doctor Who events such as The Two Doctors, The Three Doctors or The Day of the Doctor; tying together in this case the legendary Starfleet Captains and crews across the four most popular Star Trek series from the last 50 years.
The Q Conflict is, consequently, a huge gimmick which hinges on the excitement of seeing Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway, and key members of their crews, working together. How long that gimmick may last is open to question.
Writers Scott & David Tipton across this first issue choose to introduce their story through the prism of The Next Generation crew, which does make sense given the Q Continuum are at the heart of the galactic problem the Enterprise crew are thrown into.
While Q did appear once on Deep Space Nine in the episode Q-Less (romancing Vash from TNG’s Captain’s Holiday and boxing Sisko), his cosmic whimsy was an awkward fit for DS9’s darker, frontier geopolitics and adventure. Q later popped up a little more on Voyager, attempting to charm Janeway as the show delved a little deeper into the mechanics of the Continuum in The Q and the Grey, and tried to humanise the character somewhat by giving him a son in Q2. Q of course was an invention of Gene Roddenberry for The Next Generation pilot episode Encounter at Farpoint, so he didn’t canonically meet Kirk and The Original Series crew, but tie-in fiction has worked to try and connect numerous ‘Gods’ encountered on Kirk’s five year mission retroactively into Q’s orbit – such as Trelane from The Squire of Gothos, who appears here.
Q always, however, worked best on The Next Generation. He was a wonderful occasional foil for an ever-exasperated Picard, who rather than treating his omnipotence with awe considered him frequently an irritant, a space Loki from Norse mythology causing trouble for the Enterprise-D’s mission of scientific exploration. Q would challenge Picard’s perception of himself in episodes like Tapestry, or test his own limits in accord with characters like Riker in Hide and Q, and even threw the Federation in the path of the terrifying Borg in Q-Who? (although they already knew who we were thanks to some temporal hijinks…). Q bookended the original, pre-cinematic journey of The Next Generation crew in the pilot and time-jumping finale All Good Things… and outside of the Borg is the primary, iconic antagonist of that series. It is only right that Picard and his crew would be the ones to figure out a series of frequent, rogue supernovae defying the laws of physics would connect back to Q and his Continuum.
This opening issue is all about the Tipton’s establishing the threat to the galaxy and placing the characters where they need to be on the board, before presumably subsequent issues see them working together—likely in interesting combinations—to resolve the titular conflict between warring factions of the Q, made up of various aliens and enemies faced across numerous Star Trek series in the past. The problem with the issue as a whole is that it takes a long time getting us to Q, and tries to have the Enterprise-E crew investigating a mystery we already, logically, know the answer to. There is no drama or interesting character work as this happens, merely Picard and his crew in very technical fashion putting the pieces together before all four of the crews assemble and we’re left with an intriguing cliffhanger. It doesn’t exactly make for the most thrilling reading.
Visually there are decent character representations and colourful flourishes by David Messina, Elisabetta D’Amico and Alexandra Alexakis, and there is one huge showing all of the Starfleet characters and the Q’s in conflict which is particularly enjoyable, but you sense they may get the chance to really indulge their imaginations in future issues when the story truly begins to kick in. This first issue is all about setting pieces on the board in a fairly streamlined, scientific and formal way, and one hopes as the mini-series progresses we’ll get more vibrant dialogue and plot choices as the Tipton’s go for broke.
They have a universal canvas with The Q Conflict. Let’s hope it lives up to it.
Star Trek: The Q Conflict #1 is now available from IDW Publishing.