Written by James Peaty
Pencilled by Gordon Purcell
Inked by Bob Petrecca Lettered by Mike Sellers
Colored by Heroic Age Edited by Rachael Gluckstern
Smoke drifts out from within a newly formed crater on the face of the bleak, rocky terrain of an alien world. The Man of Steel grits his teeth in pain, covered with bruises and dirt as he tried to rise again from his stooped position. A green gauntlet appears to seize Superman by his collar, a voice bellowing, “...It is time you learned your place, Son of Jor-El. And that place is on your knees... before Zod!”
Floating in the inky reaches of space orbits the Justice League Satellite, proud monument and headquarters to our world’s greatest assembled heroes, within which one asks, “The Phantom... what?”
Why are you all looking at me? You don’t know something, you ask a question.
Or is it just me?”
J’Onn J’Onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, assured, “It’s okay Booster. The Phantom Zone is an extradimensional prison that was created by Krypton’s finest scientists to house its worst criminals. Existing outside of time and space—no one can enter or leave unless they’re ‘beamed’ in or out. However, counter to all known scientific fact... three days ago the Phantom Zone began to bleed through into our world. “
Flashback: Superman stands resolute, fist clenched in defiance. Martian Manhunter’s brow is furrowed with mouth agape, “It’s too dangerous!” Batman clutches the Man of Steel by his upper arm, “You can’t go in without backup.” Superman insists, “I’m sorry, but this is my burden to bear... and mine alone.”
Return to present: Martian Manhunter preps his group of Booster Gold, Green Lantern John Stewart, and the former Hawkgirl. “Ignoring our advise, Superman entered the Phantom Zone. Twelve hours later, we lost contact with Superman’s signal. In light of this, we have decided to send a rescue team into the zone to retrieve him. We’re aware that this is a risky mission, but I think you would all agree... Superman is worth the risk.” Blue Beetle works the controls as Batman cradles the Phantom Zone projector that sends the Leaguers to the beyond. Each Leaguer has been fitted with a retrieval device on their arm, of which Superman’s in no longer functional. He is curious how the League’s return will be affected by two additional passengers.
Green Lantern detects residual energy from Superman’s recall device, as the Martian Manhunter telepathically scans ahead. “They’re both in there. Superman is weakening fast, so I’ve told our ‘passenger’ to make his presen—“ The thought is interrupted by the armed assault of former Kryptonian soldiers turned criminal, led by Jax-Ur and Mala. J’Onn J’Onzz immediately goes into command mode, leaving him vulnerable to a painfully energy blast. Booster Gold shields him as Green Lantern and Hawkgirl go on the offensive. Meanwhile, the Atom appears to explain the secret plan, as Superman realizes Batman had planted the Tiny Titan on his arm while protesting his mission before it had begun.
J’Onn J’Onzz continues to ail as the League appears to do its best to fend off their attackers before finally surrendering. They are taken before General Zod and Superman, the former demanding their recall devices. Green Lantern gives the order for the Atom to grow to normal size, the large chunk or Kryptonite on his person also expanding. Green Lantern projects its radiation throughout the camp, as the soldiers collapse under its effects. The Leaguers are recalled to the Satellite, as Superman demands the source of the rifts from the Phantom Zone show himself. Mr. Mxyzptlk was the cause of the disturbances, continuing his history of pranks against our third dimensional reality. Blue Beetle shoots him with the Phantom Zone Projector, sending him into the angry clutches of Zod and his forces.
Later, Superman stands with the Martian Manhunter on the satellite’s observation deck.
“I was a fool.”
“Everyone has an Achilles Heel. Yours just happens to be anything Kryptonian.”
“Perhaps. But ignoring you like I did, I deserved to be left in the Phantom Zone.”
J’Onn J’Onzz leads the Man of Steel into a darkened room.
“You’re too hard on yourself, Kal-El. Its our enemies who try to hurt us when we stumble. But its our friends—who catch us when we fall.”
The lights come up, and a swell of Justice Leaguers shout surprise as a banner heralds their “Welcome Back” party.