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Comic Book / The Supergirl Saga

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Not the same one as before, but it is her!

The Supergirl Saga is a three-part Story Arc that took place in the Superman comic book titles in 1988, published by DC Comics. It was John Byrne's final arc on Superman, with artwork by Byrne and Jerry Ordway. It was written as an introduction to the first Post-Crisis version of Supergirl known as "Matrix", with previews of the character appearing as early as Superman vol. 2 #16 (April, 1988).

In the story, Superman encounters a young woman wearing a variation of his outfit that calls herself Supergirl, claiming that her powers came from Lex Luthor. A brief fight occurs due to a misunderstanding between the two, but after Superman and Supergirl straighten things out, it is revealed that she came from the Pocket Universe that Superboy of the Legion of Super-Heroes had come from.

With the both of them now transported into that universe, Superman learns from its Lex Luthor the history of its Earth since Superboy had departed: that Lex had accidentally let loose the Phantom Zone criminals that have terrorized and devastated the entire planet, leaving only those who are within Lex's Smallville citadel its only survivors. The Phantom Zone criminals eventually killed the last surviving people of that Earth and reduced Supergirl to a protoplasmic puddle, where it is revealed that she was actually an artificial lifeform created by Lex Luthor to replace the deceased Lana Lang.

Realizing that he was the only superhero left in the Pocket Universe, Superman rounded up the Phantom Zone criminals, stripped them of their powers, and subjected them to lethal radiation from that world's Green Kryptonite.

At the end, Supergirl was brought back in her protoplasmic form to the mainstream DC Universe by Superman to be cared for by the Kents.

The story was published in Superman (1987) #21-22 and Adventures of Superman #444.

This story arc provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Zaora is based on Faora from the Pre-Crisis Earth-1 universe. One wonders why Byrne changed her name.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: General Zod, who was a conqueror Pre-Crisis, was reduced to a mass murderer here.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Pre-Crisis Quex-Ul was a good man framed for a crime he did not commit. He even made a heroic sacrifice to save Superman in The Phantom Zone. In this story, he willingly helps Zod destroy Earth.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Zaora pleads Superman for her life to be spared as she is radiated to death by Green Kryptonite.
  • Alternate Universe/Pocket Dimension: The Pocket Universe, which came into existence when the Time Trapper took a sliver of the mainstream DC Universe from the distant past and crafted it into his own private universe, eliminating all life-giving worlds except two: Krypton and Earth. Its Krypton was crafted into one resembling the Silver Age/Bronze Age Pre-Crisis Earth-1 version, while its Earth resembled that of Earth-1, minus all its heroes save for Superboy.
  • Artificial Human: Supergirl is revealed to be this in the final part by Pocket Universe Lex Luthor.
  • Atmosphere Abuse/Planetary Core Manipulation: The Phantom Zone criminals destroyed the Earth's atmosphere by destabilizing the planet's core, causing hot gases to erupt, stripping the planet to a lifeless husk.
  • The Atoner: Pocket Universe Lex Luthor, who sought to end the threat of the Phantom Zone criminals that he unleashed on the world, though if he had bothered to use the Gold and Green Kryptonite isotopes on them in the first place, he wouldn't have risked his world becoming a Ghost Planet.
  • Between My Legs: The cover of the issue featuring the first part of the story has Superman knocked into a wall looking at what's apparently Supergirl, as seen from between her legs.
  • Beware the Superman: The appearance of the Phantom Zone criminals in the Pocket Universe Earth, once they were released, had such a devastating effect on that world that they ended up eradicating most of all life on that planet, with only Lex Luthor and his resistance team in Smallville being its only survivors, and even they proved to be no match for them.
  • Bookcase Passage: Superboy's secret lab is discovered by Lana Lang accidentally touching a brick in the wall of the Kents' house's basement.
  • Bound and Gagged: The Kents and Lana Lang of the mainstream DC Universe when Superman finds them in Lana's home after his initial encounter with Supergirl.
  • Brainwashed: Superman's initial impression of Supergirl, when she reveals herself to be Lana Lang and that her powers were given to her by Lex Luthor, with Superman only knowing about his universe's Lex Luthor up to that point.
  • Chronoscope: Pocket Universe Lex Luthor discovers this device in Superboy's secret lab, which he uses to try viewing the future in search of Superboy. However, in his search, he ends up encountering the Phantom Zone criminals who communicate to him through the device.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover suggests the Silver Age Supergirl somehow returned, hence Superman's utter surprise.
  • Crapsack World: The Pocket Universe Earth, ever since the Phantom Zone criminals were let loose, until it eventually became a Ghost Planet.
  • Dead All Along: Pocket Universe Lana Lang is revealed to be one of the first victims of the Phantom Zone criminals. Supergirl was simply given false memories and Lana's appearance in order to get Superman's trust.
  • De-power: The Phantom Zone criminals in the final part, through Gold Kryptonite. They boast that they will find a way to regain their powers and then travel to Superman's world and destroy its people...until Superman ends their threat with Green Kryptonite.
  • Dirty Coward: The Phantom Zone criminals, when faced with death by Green Kryptonite radiation. General Zod is ready to throw Quex-Ul and Zaora under the bus to save his own skin, and Zaora is left pathetically begging for her life, promising to show pleasures to Superman for her freedom.
  • Domed Hometown: Smallville on the Pocket Universe Earth is protected by a force-field bubble that provides enough atmosphere for its residents, though it eventually fails as the Phantom Zone criminals destroy the field's generator, turning Smallville into a Doomed Hometown.
  • Downer Ending: In the end, Zod and his underlings' massacre isn't stopped and they kill every single being on the planet, with Matrix as the sole survivor. Superman is forced to execute the three, riddling him with guilt over having to break his vow.
  • Final Battle: Superman and the Pocket Universe Earth resistance against the Phantom Zone criminals in the final part. The resistance is wiped out and Supergirl is melted, leaving only Superman to finish the battle once and for all.
  • Final Solution: The Phantom Zone criminals eventually decided that humans were too bothersome to rule over since they actively resisted the rogue Kryptonians' efforts and put their plan in motion to kill them all.
  • For Want Of A Nail: In the Pocket Universe, Lex Luthor came to Smallville after Superboy had left, thus avoiding the situation of his Silver Age counterpart becoming a criminal. Also Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan, and Oliver Queen in this universe never adopted any superhero identitiesnote , though they serve as part of Lex Luthor's La Résistance team.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Superman is basically pushed to his limit when he's faced with the three Kryptonian criminals; he has already depowered them with gold Kryptonite, but as Zod proclaimed his intention to find some way to restore their powers and come after Superman's world, the Man of Steel is left with no other choice but to use green Kryptonite to ensure that they can be no further threat.
  • Good Twin: Lex Luthor of the Pocket Universe, being the heroic counterpart of his mainstream DC Universe version. Although this Lex Luthor was modeled after the Pre-Crisis Earth-1 version (just before he lost his hair and became a criminal) rather than be a direct copy.
  • Grand Finale: Of John Byrne's Superman run.
  • Green Rocks: Superman made use of the two specific isotopes of Kryptonite from the Pocket Universe against the Phantom Zone criminals — the Gold Kryptonite to strip them of their powers, and the Green Kryptonite to kill them. They do not work on Superman due to the difference of radiation emissions between the universes' isotopes.
  • How We Got Here: Much of the second part is Pocket Universe Lex Luthor telling Superman how his world got to the broken state that it was in at the present time, following the death of the Pocket Universe Superboy.
  • Human Popsicle: Supergirl, in her first appearance prior to this story, with the story explaining how it happened.
  • In the Hood: Superman wears a black executioner's hood on the cover of the third part's issue as he opens a box of Green Kryptonite.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Superman, basically saying this about himself verbatim, when he has to pass sentence on the three Phantom Zone criminals and execute them through fatal radiation of Green Kryptonite.
  • Kryptonite Is Everywhere: Pocket Universe Lex Luthor tells Superman that the Phantom Zone criminals had destroyed all samples of Kryptonite everywhere on the planet so that they couldn't be defeated. All, that is, except for the samples still stored away in Superboy's lab and sealed in lead containers.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: When transporting Supergirl from the Pocket Universe to the mainstream DC Universe, Lex Luthor blanked her memory so that she would not reveal anything to the Phantom Zone criminals if she got captured, but he also planted in her mind a compulsion to go to the Smallville of that universe so that her memories could slowly return.
  • Milking the Giant Cow:
    • Superman on the cover of the second part of the story, when he sees the graves of Superboy's foster parents.
    • General Zod in the second part after he and his fellow Phantom Zone criminals trash Superboy's secret lab.
    • Also Superman in the final panel of the second part as he stands with Lex Luthor's La Résistance force, ready to take on the Phantom Zone criminals.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Superman's reaction, in a rather subtle single-tear-falling-from-his-eyes way, when he has killed the Phantom Zone criminals with Green Kryptonite, realizing that he was now responsible for killing someone, even in the cause of justice.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • While trapped in the Phantom Zone, Quex-Ul pretended to be Ston-Ar, sharing the same last name as Rog-Ar, the criminal who framed Quex-Ul in the Silver Age.
    • Superman and Supergirl's first exchange is taken from The Supergirl From Krypton (1959).
    • Lex Luthor creating an artificial lifeform is a nod to How Luthor Met Superboy.
  • Off with His Head!: Zaora knocks off the head of one of Pocket Universe Lex Luthor's resistance fighters in the Final Battle.
  • Phantom Zone: The Pocket Universe version of the Phantom Zone appears here, though General Zod under the guise of Superboy's uncle Von-El calls it the Survival Zone, which he claims he discovered to save himself, his wife Mara, and her brother Ston-Ar (in reality, Zaora and Quex-Ul) from the destruction of Krypton.
  • Pride: What doomed the Pocket Universe's Earth to its fate was its Lex Luthor. He told Superman that, although he knew about the various isotopes of Kryptonite that were in Superboy's lab, he refused to use them to take down the Phantom Zone criminals because he felt that their defeat should be by his hand alone. He dies regretting that decision and passes on the responsibility to Superman to execute the Phantom Zone criminals through exposure to Green Kryptonite.
  • Reading Lips: Pocket Universe Lex Luthor communicates to Superman what he wants the hero to do by having Superman read his lips so that the Phantom Zone criminals would not find out in the third part.
  • La Résistance: Lex Luthor's team of heroes, which included Lana Lang, Pete Ross, Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan, and Oliver Queen.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Phantom Zone criminals that Lex Luthor accidentally let loose from their prison. The minute they escaped, they destroyed the Phantom Zone projector as well as anything else in Superboy's lab that could be used against them. All, of course, except for the isotopes of Kryptonite which were most likely sealed in lead containers, which Lex Luthor refused to use to stop them and which Superman ended up using.
  • Shapeshifter Default Form: Supergirl's default form in this story was that of Lana Lang, who, as it turned out, was killed by the Phantom Zone criminals and was thus recreated with her memories via Lex's artificial lifeform. Up to the point where she revealed herself to Superman in the story appearances leading up to this arc, Supergirl had blond hair.
  • Single Tear: Superman, after the Phantom Zone criminals died by his hands.
  • Taking You with Me: Quex-Ul strangles General Zod as they both die together by Green Kryptonite radiation.
  • Terrible Trio: The Phantom Zone criminals, with General Zod as the main Big Bad, and Zaora and Quex-Ul as his co-dragons.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Superman had to violate that personal ethic in order to keep the Phantom Zone villains from carrying out their threat on his own world. That eventually had consequences in the stories following this one, to the point where Superman exiled himself into outer space to deal with the issue.
  • Time Travel: Pocket Universe Lex Luthor transported Supergirl at least two centuries into the past of the mainstream DC Universe's Earth, believing that its Superman had the ability to time-travel by himself and could find her within that time period. However, because such was not the case with the mainstream DC Universe Superman, Supergirl remained buried in the Antarctic until scientists came and discovered her and revived her in the present day.
  • Wham Episode: Superman is forced to break his vow of not taking a life and sentence the Phantom Zone criminals to death.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: The title of the first part of the story. Also the ultimate fate of Supergirl by the end of the story.