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Cover date: February 2013
"The Mysterious Alien Menace!"
Writer: Art Baltazar and Franco
Artist: Art Baltazar
Reviewed by: Marc Pritchard
The elemental aliens arrive, recount the details of Brainiac developing AI and "going rogue" and advise the Family that Brainiac is now on his way to Earth. They fight and the aliens are eventually defeated when Superman uses a Phantom Zone Projector to send them all to, you guessed it, The Phantom Zone (where Zod promptly commences a Phys-Ed lesson with them). Meanwhile, in the satellite Krypto has discovered additional video footage of him as a puppy being placed in a rocket with baby Kal-El and Jor-El telling Lara about his plan for the two of them to take refuge in the Phantom Zone.
Next, Superman uses the satellite's technology to repair the Family's damaged outfits and a curious Superman uses the Projector to retrieve Lara from the Zone. At first confusing Superboy for Kal-El, she is welcomed back to the Family with wide-open arms.
However, Brainiac is indeed on a collision course with the Fortress of Solitude!
Story - 5: Both Forrester and I are excited at the prospect that these stories have started to grow, which is to say that with this issue a stronger sense of continuity and broader arc development seems to be taking root. I bemoaned the evident lack of this kind of forward motion just two reviews ago and am very pleased to now be singing a different tune.
For his part, Forrester was more animated during our reading than he has been for at least the past three issues, asking a lot of questions or just otherwise being very intent on the proceedings. That was especially surprising given all of the exposition in the early part of the issue, with the school lessons and whatnot. The (possibly best) Donner reference so far (Zod's physical education drill: "Up, down, KNEEL!") was entirely lost on my young nephew, of course, but it had both me and his father, who is usually not present when Forrester and I are doing this, in stitches.
Otherwise, beyond introducing us to Zod, explaining who the elementals seen at the end of last issue are and - probably craziest of all - retrieving Lara from the Phantom Zone and reuniting her with Kal-El and all of the Family, this entire issue is really a set-up for what will clearly be next month's (probably epic) battle with Brainiac. But because it's obviously part of something bigger, as opposed to being just another in a generally random series of adventures, it completely works - for the kids as well as the adults.
And that, friends, is about all you can ask from an "all ages" book. If it keeps up like this, I'll probably start feeling like I'd be happy to keep reading it even if I didn't have a little one to read it to. Cool.
Here, by the way, though you probably did this yourself, is what the Jerk Bug (or whatever) had to say in its two bits of dialogue, decoded:
Totally not worth the time to decode, actually. I was hoping for something a little less obvious. Oh well.
Art - 5: "This work is exactly what it's supposed to be - iconic, expressive and simple. And all of those things consistently.©"
Cover Art - 5: Another great cover that both makes perfectly clear what the "menace" is (or looks like, at least) without giving away anything important about the story (or, worse, as I've discussed, showing something that contradicts what's actually in the story). I can't begin to tell you the kind of good this kind of cover does me. Bravo, Baltazar.
Forrester's Final Word(s): "Uncle Marc, Brainiac is the big robot bad guy, right?!"
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2013.