Here at Marvel Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about the various crossovers between groups of the X-Men and the crew of the various Starships Enterprise.
A good crossover is a wonderful thing. However, seeing Superman team up with Batman or having Spider-Man team with Wolverine is old hat to comic book readers. Those sorts of stories have been happening for decades now. It’s the intercompany crossover where something new, different, and more likely than not, weird, can still surprise even the most jaded of readers. Such was the case with the several crossovers between the Star Trek franchise and groups of X-Men.
Star Trek was first adapted into a comic book all the way back in 1967 by a company called Gold Key. From there, the franchise jumped around to various publishers and went on several hiatuses. Marvel published Star Trek comics, then DC, and then a company called Malibu. Marvel bought out Malibu Comics in the mid-1990s and signed with Paramount, Star Trek’s owner, to publish new series based on the franchise. With Paramount’s approval, Marvel quickly developed the first Star Trek intercompany crossover with 1996′s Star Trek / X-Men.
The book was written by Scott Lobdell with the art duties handled by a small army. Marc Silvestri, Billy Tan, Anthony Winn, David Finch, Brian Ching, Batt, D-Tron, Aaron Sowd, and Joe Weems V contributed pencils and inks to these pages. That list doesn’t even mention the five names listed under “Ink Assists” or the four colorists. It seems pretty clear that this book was rushed to print, which is odd considering it had absolutely no bearing on continuity. A little more time could have been spent and the book could have been pushed back a few months. Few would have noticed. Perhaps it was rushed to get it into stores to somehow tie-in with the film Star Trek: First Contact. But, it wasn’t delayed and this is what we’re left with.
Opening on Captain Kirk’s Enterprise investigating a spatial rift, things quickly spiraled out of control when the Enterprise ran across a Shi’ar spacecraft. Suddenly, Gladiator flew out of the ship and claimed a nearby planet for the Shi’ar Empire.
Though the mystery of how Gladiator talks is space is brought up, it’s never mentioned again as the Shi’ar warrior doesn’t appear in the rest of the issue. No, the script had other topics to focus on. Soon, it was shown to readers that the X-Men had managed to sneak aboard the Enterprise. It seemed that the spacial rift had allowed the X-Men and Shi’ar to leave their universe and entire the Enterprise‘s universe. During an exposition dump, Wolverine explained to Jean Grey, who really should have already known this information, that the X-Men were following Deathbird, sister of Lilandra of the Shi’ar, through the spacial rift when their ship became damaged. Before it was destroyed, the X-Men managed to teleport on board the Enterprise.
At some point, Gambit had gotten wounded off-panel during all the excitement. Not knowing what else to do, Beast brought Gambit to the medical bay where Bones began healing the injured mutant. It was Nurse Chapel who accidentally pointed out something I’d not noticed before: Beast and Bones answer to the same name.
While Bones was fine with helping random stowaways with their medical needs, Spock was more suspicious. He ran across the mutants and proceeded to demonstrate his patented Vulcan Nerve Pinch on Wolverine.
It put Wolverine out, but he quickly recovered thanks to his healing factor.
After these “meet cutes,” the plot kicked in. The planet closest to the spacial rift was Delta Vega, an uninhabited planet which the Enterprise had visited before. It was during the third Star Trek episode aired (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”) that Kirk and his crew came to this planet. During that episode, Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell gained psionic powers that poisoned his mind. He and Kirk fought on Delta Vega and Gary was killed. Meanwhile, a powerful X-Men villain named Proteus came through the spacial rift with Deathbird. Proteus was mostly made of energy and he took over people’s bodies. Sensing Gary’s dead body far below, the mutant took him over and gained all his powers.
An all out brawl quickly ensued though Kirk and his team could really do very little except use their phasers on their opponents. Of course, the heroes won and the X-Men and the other members of their universe returned through the rift back to their universe. Before they did so, Cyclops and Kirk talked about how great each other’s groups were.
Truth be told, the whole thing was a mess. Not only was the art rough at spots, the story was rushed and huge plot points were handled by awkward exposition. If you didn’t come into the story knowing who Gary Mitchell and Proteus were, then the story’s stakes were a little fuzzy. While it was great to see Cyclops and Kirk hanging out and talking, the surrounding story wasn’t strong enough to justify this comic.
Still, there was a kernel of an idea in there that was intriguing. Two years later, it was decided that another crossover was going to happen, but this time it would going to be called Star Trek: The Next Generation / X-Men.
This book already had a leg up on its predecessor simply because it had a consistent art team. Written by Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton with pencils by Cary Nord and inks by Scott Koblish, this story began moments after the events of the film Star Trek: First Contact. As the Enterprise-E made its way back home through time and space after defeating the Borg in the 21st Century, the ship and its crew found itself shoved sideways through time to a different Earth. This turned out to be the mainstream Marvel universe. As they investigated ways of getting back to their Earth, they ran across several of the X-Men. After the events of Star Trek / X-Men, Storm and Wolverine remembered the United Federation of Planets and agreed to help Captain Picard and his crew. It was all highly coincidental, but that’s the name of the game when it comes to intercompany crossovers.
As the X-Men and Enterprise crew talked, Kang suddenly appeared and said that time was going crazy. The only way to fix it was for teams of four to don Chronal Compass Wristbands, go to another point in time, and fix the errors they found there. Forgetting that Kang is evil, everyone agreed to his plan. When Counselor Troi, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Captain Picard activated their wristbands, they found themselves in the far future of 2013 and right in the middle of the “Days of Future Past” storyline. Sentinels were on their tail.
Meanwhile, Storm, Data, Wolverine, and Worf found themselves fighting the Borg during the events of the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds.” This was obviously fan service all the way, but it was quality fan service.
That’s when Wesley Crusher came in to save the day. Having been traveling with the alien entity known as the Traveler since the events of the “Journey’s End” episode of ST: TNG, Wesley had a more than passing knowledge of the inner workings of time and space. He and the Traveler knew that Kang was lying about why he wanted the help of the X-Men and the Enterprise‘s crew.
With the interference of the Traveler and Wesley, Kang’s plans began to fail. Realities started to blend to an extreme degree and only by working together was everyone able to overcome the threat of a group of Borg-possessed Sentinels.
With a combination of phaser power, mutant ability, and good-old human know-how, the Borg-Sentinels were defeated. Kang soon followed suit and the universe’s timeline was once again set right. Using the Chronal Compass Wristbands, the X-Men and Enterprise went their separate ways. The Enterprise was back in its universe and the X-Men remained on theirs. Things were quiet for a moment as the X-Men relaxed on the front lawn of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Suddenly, a white light flashed in front of them and they were again gone. Readers wondering what happened were told to keep their eyes open in a few months for a novel which would conclude the story. For the first time, a comic book story would continue on exclusively in prose.
Shortly thereafter, the paperback novel Star Trek: The Next Generation / X-Men: Planet X hit bookstore shelves. It was something most readers had probably never seen before.
The late 1990s were a golden age of Marvel prose novels. Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, and other characters were granted stories told exclusively in prose. Paperback Star Trek novels stretched back all the way to 1967 but their production had been kicked into high gear by 1998. Still, this kind of a crossover between two franchises was unheard of during these stories. It was an event when the various Star Trek universes crossed over in novel form, let alone when they crossed over with Marvel-owned characters.
This time, instead of the Star Trek characters coming to X-Men’s Earth, the X-Men found themselves in the Federation’s universe. After that white light hit the X-Men on Xavier’s grounds, they found themselves on a Federation outpost in deep space. A year had passed for Picard and his crew, but for the X-Men it was mere moments. The two groups reconnected and started to investigate what had caused the X-Men to show up in the Federation. The X-Men’s costumes and abilities scared the crew, but Riker attempted to explain everything.
“I heard one of them can fly,” Robinson told him.
The first officer chuckled. “Like a bird.”
“Hard to believe a man can do that,” she said.
Riker shrugged. “Not when you put them in context.”
Robinson looked at him. “Context, sir?”
“Think about some of the other beings we’ve run into in our travels. Take Q, for instance.”
Their frequent visitor from the Q Continuum had demonstrated his amazing powers for them time and again. Once, he granted the first officer a taste of them.
“Or the Traveler,” he continued, “who can manipulate the very fabric of space and time. And don’t forget the Douwd, who were able to wipe out an entire race with a single thought.”
Riker wasn’t done. In fact, he was just warming up.
“Then we’ve got the Founders of the Gamma Quadrant, who can reshape themselves into anything they can imagine. And our own Mr. Data – who’s as fast or powerful as any of the X-Men.”
That passage reads as though Riker is trying to convince the reader of this crossover more than Lieutenant Robinson, but it does make a good point. Still, picturing Wolverine walking around the Enterprise with his mask on is an image that it takes a good deal of suspension of disbelief to agree with.
As the story continued, a number of interesting interactions happened between the Enterprise‘s crew and the X-Men. There had been little time for such diversions in the pages of the comics, but a novel allowed for more side scenes. Worf and Wolverine battled together in the holodeck. Doctor Beverly Crusher pointed out that Archangel’s body, changed by Apocalypse’s experiments, was more similar to the Borg than a regular mutant. But it was a conversation between Storm and Captain Picard that struck right at the heart of both the X-Men and Star Trek franchises.
Storm frowned. “You have to understand something about the world we came from, Captain. As long as we can remember, we have been hunted and feared by so-called ‘normal’ human beings. Being accepted as we are… it has always been a dream to us, a goal we could hold up but never realistically hope to attain.”
“So I’ve been apprised,” said the captain.
“Yet in your reality,” she continued, “prejudice and race-hatred seem to have been eliminated. Had we not seen it with our own eyes, we would never have believed it. Yet, here it is.”
Storm’s voice trembled ever so slightly. Her eyes took on a surprising liquid cast, as if they looked upon something precious and holy.
“We wield powers your people have never heard of. In our world, we have been cast out for that – purged mercilessly from society. But no one here has tried to purge us. On the contrary – they have done everything in their power to embrace us.”
Picard nodded. “I see,” he said softly.
The mutant heaved a sigh. “I hope so. I hope you comprehend the wonder of a society that judges each being on his or her own merits. More than your technological advances, more than the great distances you have traveled in your search for knowledge… this is the true miracle of your Federation, Captain. This is your greatest achievement.”
It was a wonderful conversation and something worth remembering about the Star Trek universe. Had the entire book just been various characters from the two franchises meeting, hanging out, and interacting, I’d only have loved it more. However, plot had to eventually rear its ugly head. It seemed that the planet Xhaldia suddenly found itself beset with a population of mutants they called “the transformed,” who were quickly rounded up and put in prison. After the transformed escaped, the Enterprise and its crew came to help out. Aliens appeared in orbit around Xhaldia and things only got crazier from there. The X-Men, of course, were sympathetic to the transformed and joined the battle as well.
In the midst of all this, Dr. Crusher felt that she needed help with some scientific experiments. Towards that end, she used the holodeck to create an eerily accurate simulation of one of the foremost minds on genetics: Charles Xavier. This wasn’t completely unheard of as Data had been shown playing poker on the holodeck with Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Isaac Newton in the two-part episode “The Descent.” In any case, this was really an excuse to get Xavier and Picard in the same room together, a feat that hadn’t happened in any of the previous crossovers.
At the far end of the room, hovering in some kind of antigravity unit, a man was peering into a microscope. Taking note of of visitors’ entrance, he looked up from his work.
“Dr. Crusher,” Xavier said, his voice calm and commanding at the same time. “I’ve been wondering when you’d return.”
Then he turned his gaze on the captain, and a flicker of something like amusement crossed his features. Nor was it difficult for Picard to see why. As the doctor had warned him, he and the professor bore a passing resemblance to one another.
Xavier touched a button and his antigravity unit came closer to the captain and his colleague. He stopped it within a meter of them and studied Picard more closely.
“Mon semblable, mon frère,” the professor said.
The captain raised an eyebrow. “The Wasteland, I believe.”
Xavier nodded. “It pleases me that Eliot has survived into your twenty-fourth century. Indeed, now that I think about it, it pleases me that he exists in your continuum at all.”
Of course, two years after this novel came out, Patrick Stewart played the role of Charles Xavier in the first X-Men film, thereby making Picard and Xavier’s resemblance less “passing” and more “100% exact.”
The story ended with Xhaldian people safe and Geordi La Forge’s genius showing through again when he fixed the problem with the X-Men’s Chronal Compass devices. The mutants were sent home for good this time, and even though Q and the Watcher appeared to observe their return to Xavier’s school grounds, a followup adventure was never published. With the release of the novel, the Star Trek / X-Men crossovers were finished.
Crossovers are at their best when they compare and contrast two different loved characters or groups. A good story is more than simply a few flashy moments and spectacle, something the two comic book crossovers specialized in. With the novel, the relationships between the characters became more fleshed out and rounded, though it did have less Borg-Sentinels than its comic book counterpart. These are all fun, if minor, stories. If you can only get your hands on just one of these three stories, make it the novel.
Jeff Reid’s favorite Star Trek character was always Spock and his favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation character was Data. Jeff is very unoriginal. Get more Jeff Reid trivia on Twitter.