Got this comic not at the 7-11 but rather the small candy store down the row from my barber, which carried a very small selection of titles, mostly Superman and Batman books. I can remember gripping the corner of the cover so much during the bike ride home that I left an impression in the book. This was the closing chapter of the three-part story that introduced the man-hating Kryptonian criminal Faora, who was in some ways the inspiration for Ursa in the Superman movies that the next couple of years would bring.
The preceding two chapters introduced Faora and how she was somehow using a psychic link with grieving widower Jackson Porter to project herself out of the Phantom Zone. Faora was also a master of Kryptonian martial arts, included the dreaded death punch, and she beat up on Superman so badly that the Man of Steel retreated to his Fortress of Solitude, intending to project himself into the Zone. Sounds like a classic clever Superman plan, doesn’t it? Let’s find out.
After the WGBS staff recap the situation to one another for the benefit of any newcomers, we cut to Supergirl en route to the Fortress. There. she finds a note from her cousin Superman confirming that he’s entered the Zone, but can tell her no more. Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, Faora runs rampant–and when sexist Steve Lombard ill-consideredly opens his big mouth, it’s seconds before he’s about to be on the receiving end of a fatal blow.
But before that blow can land, Steve finds himself in the Phantom Zone, along with Jimmy Olsen and everybody else on Earth. Faora’s engineered a switch–one that swaps the population of Earth with the Phantom Zone prisoners. The army of Kryptonian criminals sets off on a vandalism spree, destroying statues of their hated enemy Superman. While this is going on, Faora proceeds to the Fortress, where she demolishes the Phantom Zone projector so that everybody is stuck in the Zone. Everybody but Superman, that is, who brutally attacks her from behind.
After a brief battle, Faora punches Superman’s head off, revealing him to just be one of the Fortress’s robot sentries. From the Phantom Zone, a spectral Supergirl watches helplessly, unable to intervene. Returning to Metropolis, Faora strikes down the other male Zone criminals with her psychic bolts–just because they were all trapped in the Zone together doesn’t mean that Faora doesn’t want to dominate the others. Only one figure is unaffected, a newcomer to the Zone, who reveals himself to be Superman in disguise. He speculates that his long time under Earth’s yellow sun has built him up an immunity to Faora’s psychic power.
As Superman gives battle with the Zone criminals, pushing the advantage that they’re not as used to their powers as he is, he’s observed from the Zone by Lois and the cast–including new arrivals Batman and Green Lantern. They confirm that the rest of the Justice League is similarly trapped, but they have hope. Earlier, in their phantom forms, they spied on the disguised Superman as e located the device Faora used to switch everybody into the Zone and set it to reverse things at a certain moment (including putting the Kandorians back into their bottle city at tiny size, because “there would be certain dangers” if they came back from the Zone restored to normal eight. Yeah, I don’t really buy that either.
I also don’t know why Superman put a delayed action on this happening either, or why he ten revealed himself to his enemies so they’d all gang up on him. But roll with it. After putting up a good fight, Superman is eventually overpowered by his foes, setting Faora up to use her death blow. And once again, just as it’s about to land, the Dimensional Shifter does its thing, and everyone switches places. Faora just has no damn luck with that death punch. In the epilogue, Supergirl rebuilds the Phantom Zone projector, releasing Superman from the Zone. Lonely Jackson Porter requests to be sent to the Zone so he can be with the woman he still thinks of as is dead wife. And so, the final panel depicts Faora being haunted and annoyed by Porter in a reverse of the story’s set-up. Waah-waah-waah!