Early on in the second issue of The Q Conflict the key reason for this crossover gimmick becomes apparent: an opportunity to mix and match the Star Trek crews.
You almost feel a little embarrassed that Enterprise was left out of this saga, as it perhaps says more about the underwhelming nature of many of its characters than writers Scott & David Tipton might have at first envisaged (Discovery is still new enough to get away with not being here and has had a bounty of comic tie-in material from IDW Publishing lately). The Tipton’s have fun replicating the school yard problem of trying to choose your football teams (American or in our British case, 5-a-side) and someone being left with the two dunces nobody *really* wants but will have to take. In this case, that honour goes to Quark and Harry Kim. Quark you can understand but how embarrassing for Harry!
Once you can accept the whole point of The Q Conflict is to see a mis-matched team up between the legendary Star Trek characters of the 60’s and 90’s, you can start to climb aboard what is it trying to do.
The rules of the titular conflict appear to be a series of challenges for the Starfleet crews that they must accomplish on behalf of the omnipotent beings they represent – Kirk for Trelane, Sisko for the Organians, Janeway for the Metrons and Picard for Q himself. In this case it is recovering the Gateway Engine of the ancient Iconians, one of the races lost to Star Trek antiquity who the Enterprise-D crew had a brush with in The Next Generation episode Contagion – a race who used highly advanced ‘gateway’ technology to transport across the universe, technology from the distant past still way ahead of our current present.
This second issue therefore becomes a race to reach the Gateway Engine between each mixed crew and their four ships, which leads to inevitably enjoyable match-ups; Worf on the bridge of the original 60’s Enterprise as Kirk openly suggests having a Klingon on his crew means their races find peace one day; Chekov enjoying Voyager’s futuristic helm technology or Sulu promising he can fly the Defiant with his eyes closed. The Tipton’s are having enormous fun throwing these characters we know and love together, even if they have little time to dig in and explore the consequences of these interactions given they have to keep the plot rattling along.
Issue three adds a little extra context about the higher, warring beings in the conflict and serves to try and paint Q as the ultimate, devious mischief maker behind proceedings. The Metrons and Organians are less thrilled about being pitched into such an impish, extra-dimensional conflict than it first appears, and Ayelborne of the latter even apologises to some of our Starfleet crew members for being dragged in as avatars for Q’s games. Trelane is certainly playing a trickster God role too, especially in how he pulls in the Doomsday Machine (from The Original Series episode of the same name, of course) for the four ships and crews to face down amidst a game of capture the flag, but Q is consistently pointed out as the true villain controlling the chess board.
The Q Conflict still though lacks a level of dramatic consequence to the whole thing. It is enjoyable on a basic level of seeing all of these different characters in unique orbits, but there are so many of them the Tipton’s have little opportunity to really dig in and have these crews interacting with each other; here we get a brief exchange of Spock observing the antipathy between Picard and Q but beyond that, the crews are reacting to the game challenges and working to overcome them and that’s… well, that. On one level this makes sense, as The Q Conflict is about as non-canonical and unlikely to truly affect the future of these characters in any way, but surely the point of such a large-scale crossover is to explore these classic characters interacting and sparring with each other.
There is still three issues in which this could happen but given the structure of the narrative, and how it is geared around the cosmic conflict and challenges therein, The Q Conflict seems unlikely to deliver much depth or fun, memorable uber-crossover clashes and conversations beyond the surface. Time will still tell.