Young Justice: Phantoms Is a Who’s Who of New Gods

Some big mysteries are resolved in “Beyond the Grip of the Gods,” as the latest Young Justice: Phantoms episode is a love letter to classic New Gods DC Comics.

The New Gods in Young Justice: Phantoms on HBO Max
Photo: Warner Bros. TV/DC

This Young Justice: Phantoms review contains spoilers.

Young Justice Season 4 Episode 18

When we asked Greg Weisman, Executive Producer of Young Justice: Phantoms, if we could expect arcs focusing on Rocket and Nightwing (the last two original cast members of the show yet to have their own arcs), he was coy.

“I think we’ll refer you to the main title,” he told us. 

I didn’t expect the response to both to come immediately.

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The strongest episode of the season had two big things going for it. It was the most plot-dense episode of the season, and it was a loving homage to 40 years of New Gods lore that is a blast to see on screen.

“Beyond the Grip of the Gods” has three main plot strands. The most revelatory is the start of the payoff to Conner’s ghost journey. We’ve long suspected Phantom Girl phased him into whatever dimension she shifts to when she becomes intangible, but it didn’t become clear that dimension was the Phantom Zone until Weisman lampshaded the season title in the interview. Here it becomes explicit: Conner meets a stranger who tells him his hallucinations are Phantom Sickness and helps him get past it. 

The most sinister plot thread comes on Apokalips. Ma’alef’ak is rooting out peasants with disloyal tendencies and generally humiliating himself, when Darkseid calls him in for a special mission. This story twists around Conner’s as we find out the name of the person leading Darkseid’s mission: Lor Zod. Son of General Zod. Who just found Conner in the Phantom Zone.

And while the plot movement is a pretty big deal, the real joy of the episode happens on New Genesis. Rocket, Jay Garrick (on his first League mission) and Forager head to Supertown to get Highfather to sign a treaty with the League to help their battle with The Light. And from the second they make video contact with Orion on New Genesis, this story turns into a love letter for all things New God.

Supertown, capital city of New Genesis and home to the New Gods, looks amazing. It’s not a platform topped with some vaguely Kirby-esque buildings; it’s a Mobius strip city, twisting around on itself.

New Genesis’ premier himbo, Lightray, gets more dialogue and action here than he has anywhere but the comics, and while it’s not quite enough to verify his himbo credentials, he’s certainly close. Antinoos and Celestia, two throwaway characters from high points in the New Gods’ history (Antinoos from Walter Simonson’s slept on Orion and Celestia from a Lightray flashback in Jack Kirby’s New Gods #6) pop up in a warehouse together.

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We also get Highfather Izaya and the surprising Highmother, Avia. In the comics, Izaya was widowed by Steppenwolf in the same issue Avia was introduced in (New Gods #7, the single issue that had probably the largest amount of influence on this episode). So seeing her here, acting as a loving mother to Orion, was very interesting.

Speaking of Orion, he’s the biggest reason why I loved this episode so much. I think I’ve only seen this in the original Kirby run of New Gods and Simonson’s Orion book, but Orion is generally pretty tough on the eyes, and as the biological son of Darkseid, just packed full of rage. He’s furious all the time, and the only thing that keeps him from looking Apokaliptian and monstrous, and from going ape on everyone around him, is the soothing presence of his Mother Box, which he waves over his face to re-center himself. He does that a ton in this episode, and while they don’t quite make him bestial enough in his appearance, you very clearly see him soothing himself with it. 

This is the first episode of a new arc, so while “Beyond the Grip of the Gods” starts to answer a lot of questions lingering since the start of this season, it asks several more (“Why is Zod’s son in a time sphere?” is one that jumps to mind). And I’m really excited for more answers.