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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

X-amining Star Trek/X-Men #1

"Star TreX"
December 1996

In a Nutshell
The X-Men meet the crew of the USS Enterprise!

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencilers: Marc Silvestri, Billy Tan, Anthony Winn, David Finch
Background Assists: Brian Ching
Inkers: Batt, D-Tron, Billy Tan, Aaron Sowd, Joe Weems
Ink Assists: Victor Llamas, Team Tron, Jose "Jag" Guillen, Viet Troung, Mike Manczarek
Letters: Dennis Heisler
Colors: Tyson Wingler, Steve Firchow, Jonathan D. Smith, Richard Isanove
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

The USS Enterprise returns to Delta Vega, site of the death of former crew member Gary Mitchell. Drawn there by reports of a rift of psionic energy in space, they arrive just as a Shi'ar craft emerges from the rift. It is quickly destroyed by the anomaly, but a second larger ship soon emerges, out of which Gladiator flies, warning the Enterprise to stay away from the planet. Meanwhile, Wolverine reconnoiters the Enterprise, as he and the rest of the X-Men teleported onto the ship shortly before their Shi'ar vessel was destroyed. The X-Men hope to keep their presence a secret, but Doctor McCoy discovers Storm, Beast and Gambit in sick bay while Spock detects Jean Grey's telepathic scans and deduces the X-Men's hiding place. After a brief scuffle, he brings the X-Men to Captain Kirk. They tell Kirk that the other ship is under the control of Deathbird, who is tracking a powerful reality-altering mutant from their universe, Proteus. On Delta Vega, Proteus has taken control of the body of Gary Mitchell. Beaming down, the X-Men and Enterprise crew discover Proteus has transformed the planet into a replica of a Scottish village. Deathbird arrives, and offers Proteus use of their ship in exchange for an alliance. As the X-Men battle Proteus and the Imperial Guard, Jean and Captain Kirk enter Proteus' mind, convincing the remnants of Mitchell's consciousness that he needs to die again. As Bishop and Chief Engineer Scott find a way to re-channel the psionic rift's energy in order to close it, the rest of the X-Men and Enterprise crew destroy Proteus. Commandeering Deathbird's ship, the X-Men prepare to return home before the rift closes completely, telling Kirk and his crew they are grateful, for all the terrible futures they've known, to encounter one which seems hopeful. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The X-Men meet the original cast of Star Trek! Released thanks to/in order to publicize Marvel's acquisition of the Star Trek comic book license and its launch of "Paramount Comics", a new imprint featuring a line of Star Trek comics from different eras, this issue teams up a roster of X-Men (Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine, Storm, Beast, Gambit, and Bishop) with Captain Kirk and the original TV crew of the USS Enterprise (a later one-shot and novel released in 1998 will team-up the X-Men with the Next Generation crew). 

The premise is that Proteus - who rather than dying at the end of his last appearance in X-Factor Annual #6 (the conclusion of the "Kings of Pain" story) went off into space in search of a better world - attracted the attention of the Shi'ar before entering a psionic rift that sent him to the Star Trek future/universe, and that Lilandra sent the X-Men after him. This marks the second (of three) returns for Proteus that end with the character immediately going back to being dead by the end of the story. 

In the Star Trek universe, Proteus then takes over the (dead) body of Gary Mitchell, a being with reality-altering powers of his own who served aboard the Enterprise and was (reluctantly) killed by Kirk in the series' first broadcast episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before". 

The story goes back and forth as to whether the Star Trek character inhabit a different universe from the X-Men, or are merely from the future of the X-Men's universe (which would mean that in the Marvel Universe, the entirety of Star Trek fits somewhere between "Days of Future Past" and Cable's future). Either way, this issue seems to suggest that Star Trek doesn't exist in the Marvel Universe, as none of the X-Men are like "hey, we know you guys from TV!" (or else, that these seven X-Men have just never seen or heard of any Star Trek), despite evidence to the contrary elsewhere. 

And yes, this story is considered canonical as far as the X-Men are concerned; I've seen at least one Marvel Handbook entry refer to it vaguely  (because Marvel no longer has a license for Star Trek comics) as an adventure with "an enterprising crew of space explorers". 

Art comes (mostly) from former Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine penciler Marc Silvestri; he is assisted on pencils and inks by seeming the entirety of his Top Cow studio. 

The issue concludes with a series of pinups (mostly of Star Trek characters, but a few that are a mix of both) by a variety of different artists. 

There's also a preview section of the various Star Trek comics Marvel is planning on publishing, including a Starfleet Academy series that is unique to Marvel (in that it's not an adaptation of an existing TV series) and a series set in the alternate "Mirror, Mirror" universe drawn by Mark Bagley. 

The Chronology Corner 
The X-Men appear here pre-"Onslaught" (and for Wolverine, pre-nose loss), between X-Men (vol. 2) #49 and #50 and after X-Men: Brood

A Work in Progress
Deathbird's role in the story as a sub-boss to Proteus is curious, as she was on generally good terms with Lilandra at this point in time (serving as regent of the Kree remnant). Even if she simply saw Proteus as a chance to strike out on her own and usurp her sister, she shouldn't have the Imperial Guard backing her up as they are here if her actions were illegitimate and not sanctioned by Lilandra. 

Speaking of the Imperial Guard, their opening salvo comes when Gladiator punches the Enterprise, which is one of those fun crossover moments. 

To Boldy Go Where No One Has Gone Before
I type this after pushing my glasses up my nose with the utmost flourish and in my loudest "um, actually" tone, but Beast incorrectly refers to the Enterprise as a "Constellation" class vessel, when it is, in fact, a Constitution-class ship. 

We get a "I'm a doctor, not a __!" exchange from Bones. 

And the fact that each group has a "Doctor McCoy" in it is called out. 

At one point the X-Men plan to steal a shuttle from the Enterprise, and as someone for whom the mechanics of how pilots actually fly Star Trek vehicles remains a mystery, I say, "good luck with that (it involves circles and lots of typing, I think)!" 

The Best There is at What He Does
Narration says it should be obvious to Spock why Wolverine is called "Wolverine"; is it obvious? 

Spock quickly dispatches Wolverine with a Vulcan neck pinch (though Wolverine surprises Spock by recovering from it quickly). 

Human/Mutant Relations
Spock is familiar with the term "Homo Sapiens Superior" in reference to mutants. 

Young Love
Kirk hits on Jean, and is bummed to discover she's married. 

Later, Gambit can be seen saying forward to Uhura in the background of a panel. 

Austin's Analysis
To properly enjoy something like this, one needs to go in prepared to not take things too seriously and have a bit of fun. This may technically be considered an in-continuity story, but from the perspective of the ongoing narrative of the X-Men, it is patently ridiculous and mostly forgettable as anything more than a curious bit of cross-promotional fluff. But that doesn't mean the story itself can't be fun, or is entirely devoid of merit. Unfortunately though, this is a bit of a mixed bag. Lobdell, to his credit, hits most of the beats you want to see from something like this - Spock giving Wolverine a Vulcan nerve pinch (a nod to the countless "who would win in a fight!" theoretical arguments that fill playgrounds and social media), an acknowledgement that both groups have a "Dr. McCoy" in their ranks, Kirk being an unabashed horn dog - while doing his best to speak to the (sparse) common thematic ground between the two properties. The actual plot is mostly nonsense (and, in the end, devolves into a standard Star Trek climax where a bunch of techno-babble stuff is said to be happening but the resolution really hinges on more personal human actions) and the presence of the Imperial Guard and Deathbird seem superfluous, but Lobdell is quick to get the two different groups together (which is, after all, what we want to see most), and pairing up the respective "reality altering" villains of each property is a smart way to use some of that common ground between the X-Men and the Enterprise crew to the story's advantage. 

Where this issue really falters is in the art. In theory, Marc Silvestri is a big get for the issue, a superstar artist who has a history with the X-Men and whose presence definitely guaranteed eyes on the page in 1996. But in execution, he doesn't really bring his A-game, or else is A-game is being completely undone by the small army of inkers coming along after him (to say nothing of the latter portion of the issue when Silvestri gives up and another squad of pencilers - including future occasional X-Men artist Billy Tan - takes over completely). The Enterprise crew comes off decently, with Silvestri and company able to more or less use the same body silhouette for everyone and just focus on the faces (which generally land in the preferred realm of "recognizable relative to their actors but not eerily photorealistic"), but the X-Men vary widely from page to page, with Bishop going from a relatively fit superhero to a Hulk-like behemoth, or Jean going from a standard superhero woman at one point to a kewpie doll at another. The real problem, though, is just how dark and muddied everything is. Star Trek - especially the original series - is known for its bright, bold colors, the reds of its uniform shirts, the greens of its alien skins. Here, everything is overly rendered, and then gets run through the mid-90s (bad) computer coloring filters so it all comes out heavily shaded and murky. "Dark and moody" are rarely good words to use when describing the look of a TOS story, especially one predicated on the goofy premise of "they meet some comic book characters!". 

Thus, it's hard to really enjoy this as anything more than a curiosity and historical footnote. Do I love the fact that there's a story in the X-Men's canon where Spock kicks Wolverine's ass and Beast meets Bones? Where Proteus, of all villains, comes back and takes over the dead body of the villain from the very first Star Trek episode? Absolutely. Do I feel compelled to ever revisit this again? Absolutely not. 

Next Issue
Next week: Remember that time Black Knight seemed to remember Exodus? Find out why in Black Knight: Exodus #1! Then, the post-Warren Ellis era begins in Excalibur #104!

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  1. I read this once after it came out I've never had a particular desire to revisit it. The novelty was amusing but that wore off pretty quickly. And, truthfully, there just isn't much substance to what is, basically, a retelling of the far superior X-Men/Teen Titans crossover. I suppose this was a good way to drum up interest in Marvel's impending Star Trek line.

    I think my biggest issue is, like you stated, the colors. Between Silvestri and Co. on art and those colors it gives the impression that it's supposed to be taken far more seriously than the story merits.

    On the plus side, it is nuni to have Silvestri drawing X-Men and seeing Kirk strike out with Jean Grey.

    1. Also, I love the implications of Spock being familiar with terminology of mutants. Basically that they get wiped out at some point before the time of Star Trek.

  2. I know I read this, as well as the TNG one shot and even the novel, but I confess that I remembered absolutely nothing about it until your summary brought back a few scattered recollections. I was never a huge TOS fan in my younger days, so the main appeal of this series was seeing Marc Silvestri draw the X-Men again. I think I looked forward to the TNG stuff more, but I feel like I was ultimately disappointed by both the comic and the novel.


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