CREDITS: Written by Hilary J. Bader and Alan Burnett; directed by Butch Lukic.
REVIEW: There's really not reason why the Phantom Zone should only open up on Earth, and thanks to a black hole, Mala and Jax-Ur get another shot at ruling a world and do. It's a peek at what they would have turned Earth into had Kal-El not been in the way - a unified world of order, where peace and productivity are important, but personal freedom is not. Even painted in positive terms by the villains, you can still see it's terrible. Instead of education, they have indoctrination. Productivity is all well and good, but they've done away with art and the environment to achieve it. And why have an army at all, if not to invade other worlds, Earth first among them?
And that's where my ambivalence begins. See, Superman doesn't want to help the resistance until Earth is actively threatened. The moral dilemma is interesting - he claims he can't interfere because a Kryptonian battle would destroy the planet and they would all be worse off... But is it true? He's fought them on Earth, after all. Not at full power/experience, and with a Phantom Zone projector available, but still. And when he DOES fight them here, he manages to win without "New Krypton" getting destroyed in the process. So it's not much of a justification. It might have been better to see Superman struggle with destroying what was now left of Kryptonian civilization, but even that would necessitate a major rewrite. There's just no way Superman wouldn't throw in with the rebels given the fascism perpetrated by the Kryptonians, especially given the fact he hand-delivered the escapees himself. Maybe if he didn't know these two beforehand...
Do they die? They get event horizoned in a cool, dramatic way, but given some of the physics in this episode, someone could always bring them back. Black hole as interdimensional gateway or something. Spoiler: They don't return in the DCAU, but the comics might feel the itch. Other than that moment, I don't think the animation is that strong. The fights are cursory, the spaceship action fairly old school, the weightless flips wobbly. It's okay, just not exemplary. And if I can't count on the action to distract me from the tepid exploration of Superman's moral dilemma, I don't have all that much to rave about.
IN THE COMICS: The planet is only called "New Krypton", an appellation used in the comics as well when Kryptonians show up alive to inhabit or rule a world, most notably in the early part of this decade in a year-long arc which saw Superman leave Earth to be among his people.
SOUNDS LIKE: Mala is now played by Sarah Douglas, who was the close analog Ursa in Superman II. In the alien camp, Carl Lumbly (Alias, and in the DCAU, the eventual voice of J'Onn J'Onzz) is the traitor Alterus, while Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and lately of The Hateful Eight) is Cetea.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A fairly good outing, but fails to delve into its emotional core in a memorable way.