Supergirl #9 came out this week and opened up the next story arc with the new World's Finest trapped in the Phantom Zone and battling The Phantom King. I am a big fan of Supergirl and Batgirl being pals and between this and the Batgirl Annual, we have the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
But this comic really is about world building by writer Steve Orlando. There is the opening of the Phantom Zone arc. But there are two new villains. There is a potentially a third. And we get some character progression between Kara and the supporting cast. This book is probably setting the stage for the next year of this book. It really takes a nice giant step away from the opening arc and gets moving.
That isn't to say that the main plot is lacking. How Supergirl ends up in the Zone, the villain that attacks her right before, the twisted acts of Xa-Du in the Zone are all very intriguing plot threads. I am pretty invested here. And, as usual Orlando sprinkles in enough DC history to make and old-timer like me very happy.
Brian Ching is on art and I find myself getting more comfortable with his style. But more and more I am wondering if he has the right look for this book. The action, the layout, the expressive work is all solid. But maybe Ching would mesh more with a street level book or something more gritty.
On to the book.
The book opens with a plot point from earlier coming to fruition. The Tycho Corporation is showcasing it's Phantom Drive clean energy system. And they have invited Supergirl to be there to represent the device's Kryptonian origins. But an announcement like this brings in the media and scientists including Ben from CatCo and Babs Gordon.
The DEO isn't going to be there in force because they are welcoming Sirkian ambassadors. I can't imagine this is a throwaway scene. These aliens are probably part of an upcoming story.
Kara heads to the unveiling but before heading to the dais, stops to chat with Babs and Ben (who just happen to have run into each other). It is clear that Kara recognizes Babs as Batgirl from their earlier adventure. Kara drops hints that she knows. But the art makes it seem like she is annoyed. Maybe I am misreading it? Maybe Kara is just letting Babs know she is on the secret?
Long time New 52 readers will remember that Simon Tycho was a major villain in the early Supergirl book. A narcissistic, megalomaniacal, mad scientist, Tycho was willing to let his body be destroyed in his quest for power and robbing Supergirl of hers. So seeing the Tycho Corporation back in the book is welcomed. Supergirl needs her own rogues.
Now the new CEO Katarina Bissell sounds contrite enough about her company's history. She acknowledges their mistakes and wants to move forward. She even trained under the Contessa, a diabolical but successful woman who worked with the Luthors.
I can't help but think, especially after reading the whole issue, that this is all a ruse. That Tycho as a company is still pretty nefarious. But Supergirl seems blissfully unaware.
Bissell reveals the Tycho Eidolon, a Phantom Energy generator which will bring clean, renewable energy to the masses. Still, the DEO and Cameron Chase are listening in and remind Kara that Tycho shouldn't have Phantom Energy Tech. They must have stolen it from somewhere.
For readers like me, this looks more like a Phantom Zone projector rather than a generator. Maybe even a Phantom Zone cannon.
Again, the very fact that Tycho has this technology means that they aren't 100% above board.
The proceedings are interrupted when super-villain Magog shows up. With his energy spear he activates the Eidolon which, not surprisingly, begins sucking all loose matter into the Zone. Batgirl joins the fray to try and limit the damage.
The fight between Magog and Supergirl is brief but very interesting. For one, I don't exactly know where Magog stands in the current DCU. Wasn't he a hero in the JSA in the pre-New 52 days? What are his current origins?
He, of course, charges in and attacks. But Supergirl, being true to the ethos that Orlando said he wanted to give her, immediately says that the two don't need to fight. That was appreciated.
But Magog wants to fight. And he talks about how Supergirl and her motto of 'Hope, Help, and Compassion for All' will kill his family in the future. This plays heavily into the Emerald Empress storyline. Someone who has knowledge of the future is sending these people after Kara now. Another seed for the future.
As an aside, how great is it that 'Hope, Help, and Compassion for All' has now become Supergirl's official motto, originally appearing in Adventures of Supergirl by Sterling Gates but now seen here and even on the television show!
I also like that Orlando, at times, pulls out a sort of Silver Age level of power for Kara. Earlier in this run, we saw her whistle to destroy and prison. Here she does the 'sonic boom' snapping of the fingers, stunning Magog and dropping him quickly. As a guy who grew up with a pre-Crisis Superman, this brought back memories.
The art works well here. The action lines and lack of color around the snap give it a feeling of potency. Magog's spear flying out of the panel adds some oomph. And the slightly angled panel gives it even more of an unsteady, kinetic feel, adding energy to Magog's falling down
Unfortunately, Ben gets sucked into the Zone and Babs goes in to rescue him.
With the Eidolon portal closing, Supergirl has to make a choice. She can dive in to help her friends or leave them to their own devices.
Cameron Chase and the DEO has arrived to help and tell Supergirl not to go into the zone but a hero's choice is clear.
Chase's flat 'fantastic' is a nice end to the scene. I like that there will be some friction between these two as Supergirl grows into her role.
As for Magog, he isn't easily captured. A green portal appears and he teleports away.
But he drops a Fatal Five reference before he blips out. Obviously he has a link to the Empress. But is Magog part of a new Fatal Five? Has the Empress created a present day version with Magog the Persuader analogue? Maybe Mr. Bones as Mano?
Or is the 'real' Five currently in the present?
Either way, I am talking about the Legion in reference to a book that just hit the shelves. I am ecstatic.
The three youths regroup in the Zone and Kara explains how it is a cold unfeeling place reserved for the worst criminals of Krypton. It is a barren wasteland.
It does seem to have a physicality to it. These three aren't wraiths. It looks like the can walk, talk, feel. So this Zone is a little bit different than the one I am used to. Even in the pre-New 52days, I thought it was only Fort Rozz where a phantom would manifest a true body.
I am trying to remember the Phantom Zone stories from Batman/Superman and the Morrison Action run to recall if it has always been portrayed this way in the New 52.
The book ends on a nice cliffhanger. Professor Xa-Du, the Phantom King, seems to have taken over the Zone (maybe like a criminal in prison running a cell block?). He has been slaughtering other inmates, draining them of their residual power in hopes of using it to break free himself. And now he has a energy-filled Kara in his midst. He'll want to add her energy to his.
There is something very 'Wicked Witch of the West' in this image of Xa-Du watching our heroes. I like it.
But even better than that is how the word Aethyr is thrown around in Xa-Du's description of the Zone. This references the Phantom Zone mini-series from the early 80s where the Zone was thought to be a sentient force called Aethyr, another callback that makes me very happy.
So overall, this was a good opening chapter to this arc and the upcoming year. It felt like a first chapter but it had it's own mini-story in the battle at Tycho. It made me excited for the future of this book.
Unfortunately, the rough art pulled me out of the story now and then, especially in the Tycho fight were people in the background were drawn with the famous Ching shorthand style.