Writer: Alyssa Wong
Colors: Sebastien Cheng
Letters: Janice Chiang
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: May 9th, 2023
Xanthe Zhou, warrior and spirit envoy, returns in Spirit World #1 after their appearance in the Lazarus Planet: Dark Fate book. Xanthe is a master martial artist, wields the hugest sword you’ll ever see, and can create weapons or other objects by crafting them with origami. Xanthe can also travel between the Spirit World and our world. With Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) trapped in the Spirit World and Xanthe trapped in our world, Xanthe teams with John Constantine to find a new gate back to the Spirit World so they can rescue Batgirl from a fate worse than death.
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Xanthe Zhou is a fascinating new character with a unique power set, and we get to see more of them in action in Spirit World #1, as Xanthe’s story continues in our world while a second story follows Cassandra Cain coping with being in the Spirit World. Xanthe is staying with Constantine (who’s watching an antique store for a friend) and the two have a great rapport. They’re like a father and daughter, Constantine overprotective of Xanthe and Xanthe impulsive with their powers. The book is heavily steeped in Asian mythology, which is a vast setting that has rarely been explored in comics. We basically get Asan mythology 101 this issue, getting all the little details and “rules” of this mythology. Like the fact that in the Spirit World, living beings can be smelled and everything in the Spirit World wants to devour them. But if you drink a certain type of herbal tea, it can dampen your life essence so it obscures the spirits’ senses and lets you move throughout the Spirit World without being attacked.
Spirit World is a surprisingly vibrant place. I expected it to look like something out of a Tim Burton animated film, dark and gothic with all the spirits cloaked in black and bones laying all about. But it’s quite the opposite. It actually resembles Hong Kong or any other big city, with bright colorful billboards dotting the sky and the spirits dressed decoratively in garb from the time period they passed away, bustling to and fro like denizens of any city in our world on a Saturday night. But when they smell the presence of a living being, they transform in terrifying fashion. Batgirl’s scenes are the most thrilling of the book, as she’s attacked en masse by tons of spirits the moment she arrives in Spirit World, and she defends herself like a whirling dervish, dealing damage in all directions while desperately trying to find a safe haven. My only complaint about the issue is that Constantine is a bit TOO friendly here and not the usual grouchy grumbling misanthrope he usually is. But watching he and Xanthe battle their way through a supernatural menace together is still a lot of fun.
Haining’s art on Spirit World #1 pops off the page and is as visually arresting in the action scenes as they are in the more horror-toned scenes. His depictions of the spirits in their true forms will send chills down your spine in the best way.
Spirit World #1 is a great first issue for Xanthe Zhou, one of the most fascinating recent characters to debut at DC. We get to see more of Xanthe’s powers in action, have some great scenes between Constantine and them and get to see Batgirl in an epic fight for her life. Recommended.