In the Star Trek universe, few villains loom larger than Khan, but in the dark world of Trek's Mirror Universe, Khan is a freedom fighter. Fans meet this shocking new version of the classic villain in Star Trek: Hell’s Mirror, a one-shot from IDW Publishing, written by J.M. DeMatteis, with art by Matthew Dow Smith and colors by Candice Han.
Khan Noonien Singh first appeared in the classic series episode “Space Seed,” portrayed by Ricardo Montalban. A genetically engineered superman from the late twentieth century, Khan and his followers were forced into cryogenic sleep and launched into space where they were found in the twenty-third century by Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. After a failed attempt to take control of the ship, Khan and his followers were exiled to Ceti Alpha 5, and when disaster struck their new home, Khan swore revenge against Kirk. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, he almost got it, cementing his place as one of Star Trek's most memorable villains. So how did he become a hero?
The Mirror Universe is a dark counterpart to Star Trek's regular timeline. Instead of the Federation, Earth is the center of the Terran Empire, a fascist regime ruling the galaxy with an iron grip. In this reality, a group of rebels finds Khan’s sleeper ship and awakens him, hoping he will join their cause. He agrees, and quickly becomes their leader, scoring a major coup when he seemingly recruits first Mister Spock, and later Captain Kirk to his cause. Yet in the end, Khan falls victim to the Empire when it is revealed Kirk and Spock were working undercover the whole time; trying to infiltrate Khan’s rebellion and bring it down from within.
Star Trek: Hell’s Mirror takes Khan, arguably Trek’s most popular villain, and drops him smack into the middle of the Mirror Universe - a world populated with villains. But what's fascinating is that even in this world, Khan retains many of his flaws, convinced his superior intellect will be able to topple the Terran Empire. In the end, however, not even Khan can match the ruthlessness of the Mirror Universe’s Kirk and Spock. Watching Khan die as the ISS Enterprise and the Empire skate away to another victory will go down as one of the most brutal moments in Star Trek history.
Khan became Star Trek’s premiere villain because he was a complex and sympathetic character - a tyrant with his own code of honor. But it seems that no matter the situation, he's no match for Captain Kirk, partly because his inherent sense of superiority makes it far too easy to underestimate his enemies. In Star Trek: Hell’s Mirror, Khan may have died a hero, but he also showed that his worst qualities are an unavoidable part of being Khan.
He agrees, and quickly becomes their leader, scoring a major coup when he seemingly recruits first Mister Spock, and later Captain Kirk to his cause. Yet in the end, Khan falls victim to the Empire when it is revealed Kirk and Spock were working undercover the whole time