Supergirl on the CW may be over for the season, but you can still get your Kara Zor-El fix in comics. This month, in Supergirl’s tenth issue, we catch up with Batgirl, Supergirl, and Ben Rubel who have been sucked into the Phantom Zone. This is an extra-dimensional prison for galactic ne’er-do-wells, so escape is near impossible. Somehow, they will have to figure a way out without SG’s powers because there’s no sun in the Phantom Zone. Good thing they have a Batgirl.
Prologue of WTF
Before we get started, we have to make a quick stop in Limbo Town, a subterranean village below New York that has maintained its puritanical roots. Two jailers taunt a witch in a cell. They give her some moldy bread which she then uses to free herself because magic! She is greeted by Emerald Empress and Magog, who have both made recent appearances in Supergirl, as well as Indigo (Brainiac 8). They are there to rescue the
witch sorceress and set her up as the heir to someplace called Ataxia. Her name is Selena.
Wait just a second… A sorceress named Selena. Could this be? Can it be that DC comics have resurrected the character of Selena from the 1984 Supergirl movie? The Selena played by Faye Dunaway? Is this that Selena? We don’t know for sure, because that’s all we’re given. Two pages of prologue and we’re off to the Phantom Zone. Steve Orlando is playing a hell of a long game here with characters we haven’t seen since Kingdom Come, (or a 30+ year old movie if my hunch is correct, and I think it is).
With Magog’s talk of The Fatal Five last issue, I can’t help but notice that Emerald Empress is building her own version of the Fatal Five in the present day. Magog, Indigo, and now Selena makes four. They would only need one more member. Who’s next? Suddenly I wish this comic was twice monthly.
The Phantom Zone Sucks
It’s the Phantom Zone. It’s kinda supposed to suck. Our heroes just didn’t realize how much until it was too late. Now they are groping blindly through nothingness unable to see or feel much of anything, until they are rescued by a mysterious stranger. He and his crew sail on an airship, and speak Kryptonian. If this seems too good to be true, it’s because it is. The mysterious sailor turns out to be Doctor Xa-Du, the equally mysterious villain from last issue.
Xa-Du is hatching a plot to escape the Phantom Zone by rendering the bodies of other prisoners down to an elemental liquid form for use in his powered battle armor. With Kara’s yellow sun-rich essences, he will be able to complete his suit and activate something called the Aethyr Switch. I’m not sure what that will do, but it can’t be good. Xa-Du takes them on his Aethyr ship to Aethyropolis and puts them in Aethyr jail.
Supergirl might be powerless, but Babs doesn’t need a yellow sun to use her powers. Her skills as a detective and her eidetic memory are put to good use here. Even though she doesn’t understand Kryptonian, she still recognizes a Kryptonian phrase used by Xa-Du. It’s something that was uttered before by Psi, the girl that Batgirl and Supergirl rescued during Batgirl Annual #1. Suddenly, Psi’s disappearance in that story makes sense.
As if to confirm Batgirl’s hunch, the next scene is between Xa-Du and Psi. She is imprisoned inside a shell of psionic energy. She can enter and exit the Phantom Zone at will, and Xa-Du wants her power so he can escape. He just needs to be strong enough to break the shell. That’s where his power armor comes in. With Kara’s body rendered down, he will be able to add her power to his suit and get to the Aethyr Switch (Psi). He visits his people-melting factory and uses creepy gross egg metaphors. Ugh, this guy.
It’s Good to Have a Batgirl
Supergirl and crew have a plan of escape. Ben spills a whole pitcher of character development while they wait for their jailers to return. The goon squad finally arrives to taunt our heroes while they march them to the meltorium so the Skeksis can drink their essence. No, wait, that’s a different story.
Once again, Batgirl shines, as she takes advantage of the dulled senses of the Phantom Zone Aethyr jailers. They searched her, but were unable to find her lockpicks with their phantom fingers. All three break out of their handcuffs and the fight is on.
Ben proves himself useful at fisticuffs even if it’s as a diversion. Once the thugs are down, the trio follow Psi’s telepathic pleas for help. Supergirl finds her and wakes her up. Unfortunately, this falls right into Xa-Du’s plan of waking her up to use for his nefarious schemes. Xa-Du shows up in his admittedly pretty cool looking Aethyr armor. The battle begins, and a powerless Supergirl isn’t standing up well to a besuited villain.
A ticked off Psi uses her powers to tip the scales way in her favor, and Supergirl goes directly into the belly of the beast. (Literally). We’ll have to wait a month to find out what happens next.
Last month, I complained a bit about Brian Ching’s linework. It’s hyper-stylized and, while it looks pretty cool, is difficult to take over long stretches. Well, this issue it works much better than last month. His artwork seems to shine brighter the more outrageous the circumstances are, and boy are they. This week, we’re spending a lot of time in the fantastic world of the Phantom zone with psychic monsters and crazy suits of armor, and everything looks pretty cool. That said, there are still a couple panels where bodies look a little janky and out of proportion.
Still, I gotta hand it to Ching this month. While his style is still not a favorite of ours, it is as good as it’s been in issue ten. Props to Michael Atiyeh on colors too. His work is stunning, especially when we get to crazy stuff like psychic monsters and boiling people down to their essences.
Team-Ups are Fun
It has been a pretty wild ride for Batgirl. She’s not typically facing these kind of cosmic threats in Gotham, but Babs is taking it in stride. In fact, she’s arguably out-heroing Supergirl this issue which makes total sense with Babs being the veteran hero. Last month they were trading good-natured barbs (no pun intended) but I can tell it was all in good fun. When the stakes are high, these two make a great team. Ben is pulling his weight as well. It’s good to see him taking an active role in their escape from danger and not just sidelined as a normal or becoming a whiny load.
This teamup is proving to be as fun as I’d hoped. The art is working better for me this month too. I can’t wait to see what Supergirl faces next, but I especially can’t wait to get more information about the new Fatal Five that Orlando keeps dangling in front of our noses. Come back next month for the finale of Escape from the Phantom Zone, and Brian Ching’s last issue as regular series artist.
Fanfinites Rating: 7/10 melted kryptonians
Images Courtesy of DC Comics and Tri-Star Pictures
Supergirl #10: Escape from the Phantom Zone Part Two
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Brian Ching
Colors: Michael Atiyeh
Letters: Steve Wands