Review: Supergirl Vol. 2: Escape From the Phantom Zone (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

March 13, 2019

 ·  1 comment

Steve Orlando's Supergirl Vol. 2: Escape from the Phantom Zone is a mixed bag. Certainly Orlando's portrayal of Kara Zor-El is more palatable than some of the extremes from when the Kryptonian Supergirl was first reintroduced, and seeing this Kara teamed with Batgirl (of Burnside) Barbara Gordon is a treat. But already almost a dozen issues in, there feels a lack of direction here, as if already Orlando is biding his time for when Marc Andreyko takes over. Again, the "original" Supergirl and Batgirl battling their way out of the Phantom Zone is nothing to scoff at, but an extended off-world story to the exclusion of most of this book's supporting cast in just the second outing seems a questionable choice.

[Review contains spoilers]

Way back when, the Batgirl annual collected here was solicited as Batgirl and Supergirl sneaking into Arkham Asylum to liberate someone with ties to the DC Universe. At that time, the DCU's most Rebirth-connected Arkham resident was one Saturn Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes, also about to appear with other Legion members on the CW's Supergirl show. With the Legion's Emerald Empress also solicited to be appearing in this title, a Legion tie seemed guaranteed. As I mentioned in my review of Orlando's Supergirl Vol. 1: Reign of the Cyborg Superman, given the Supergirl TV show's prominence and the extent to which this comic is styled like the show, tying the Supergirl comic to one of Rebirth's central mysteries seemed like a smart way to draw new fans right into the heart of the DCU.

But the Batgirl annual (this book's first chapter) ultimately sees Supergirl and Batgirl breaking in to a Cadmus lab, where they free two young prisoners, neither of whom is Saturn Girl. One of these does turn out to be Psi, a long-running Supergirl nemesis, who factors into their later excursion to the Phantom Zone, but there are no Rebirth ties at all. This was likely out of the control of Orlando or Batgirl writer Hope Larson, but it's indicative of where Phantom Zone struggles; there's a lot of momentum here -- a team-up, a crossover -- but in the final tally it doesn't feel as though the book grows or changes much through this story.

To wit, the last volume saw Kara start a new school, gain an internship at Cat Grant's Catco, build a grudging rapport with her human foster family, and defeat her father Zor-El, the New 52-era Cyborg Superman. In this volume, while Supergirl does interact with Batgirl a lot and reestablishes her relationship with Superman, she is almost never at school, work, or home, and instead spends most of the time punching bad guys within and without of the Phantom Zone. Ben Rubel -- the book's proto-Winn Schott -- tags along for the ride, but I didn't think we learned particularly more about Ben than we knew before and saw him interact with Kara (as opposed to Supergirl) almost not at all. I faulted the first volume for being too much a rehash of Supergirl's previous encounters with the Cyborg Superman, but at least that book had a breadth of story that this one seems to lack.

There's plenty that Orlando does well here. The friendship between slightly older Batgirl Barbara Gordon and slightly younger Supergirl and the way they tease one another is a lot of fun, and Orlando gets both characters just right. Orlando's Justice League of America was full of nods to past DC continuity, and bits like the Wild Huntsman here and Superman and Supergirl playing catch with the old Corgi Supermobile are great call-outs. Orlando also demonstrates himself a fan of Supergirl in her many iterations, using Selena, Indigo, and Psi, and even carrying over events with Tychotech from the New 52 run. Again, Orlando's Supergirl is heroic and likable, traits that haven't always been present in every recent Supergirl era.

Artist Brian Ching ends his Supergirl run here, and he'll be missed. There's a cutesy wonder to his art here that I think helps define Orlando's Supergirl well; Robson Rocha comes on next time, and previewing those issues, the third book has a look of traditional superhero comics that I don't think benefits it. (At the same time, a bevy of one- and two-page splash pages in this book does contribute to the overall sense of the story's lightness.) Matias Bergara also fills in with a style much similar to Ching and depicts a darling dinner with Supergirl and young Jon Kent.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Supergirl Vol. 2: Escape From the Phantom Zone

At the end of the Rebirth Supergirl Vol. 1: Reign of the Cyborg Superman, I remarked that the book was mild for my tastes but that I was eager for the various guest-stars next time around. Here again, finishing Supergirl Vol. 2: Escape from the Phantom Zone, I'd again consider this a book where not much happens, but I am interested in the "Supergirl Revenge Squad" that's about to appear, including some favorites like Indigo and Gog -- so maybe I just don't learn. Mainly I'm just trying to catch up to the Marc Andreyko run that ties in to Brian Michael Bendis' Superman and if Steve Orlando can keep writing a respectable Supergirl like he's doing, that's enough for me.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Supergirl Vol. 2: Escape From the Phantom Zone
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Poor Supergirl has really struggled of late to find her place in the DC Universe - ironic, since most of her stories involve some degree of handwringing about her place in the DC Universe. It seems that this first Rebirth run isn't sure whether it's a continuation of the New 52 version or whether she's closer to the CW's take. (I can't imagine why the writers have muddied the waters with her father as a Cyborg Superman while Dan Jurgens has the original flavor running around.)

    The book ought to be a continuity wonk's delight, with cameos and teasers galore (true to their name, The Unexpected turn up in the last few issues). But there's an equal sense that the book is killing time - for what, we don't know - and its Rebirth teasers end up being solely teasers. The perils of studying solicitations?

    Marc Andreyko has been doing neat things with Supergirl in space, moderately close to how Bendis has been reshaping the Superman office. With a crossover coming up, I do think this is, finally, the Supergirl we've waited for. If nothing else, it's a great showcase for Krypto.


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