Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: The Man of Steel #120

Superman: The Man of Steel #120

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 21, 2001

Cover date: January 2002

2002 Shield No. 3

Writer: Mark Schultz
Penciller: Yvel Guichet
Inker: Dexter Vines

"What Lies Beneath"

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

Superman tears apart a Lexcorp facility somewhere under Central Asia. He realizes that he is having far too much fun in doing this, but enjoys the process anyway, fed up with Lexcorp and its premises, and especially Lex Luthor.


At the Daily Planet, Clark really, really can't help but overhear ladies talking about potentially hitting on Clark, now that Lois has taken a leave of absence. They cite a probable marriage dissolution.

Calvin Carson interrupts his listening and insists upon seeing him. He explains his past with the Forgotten heroes, a subterranean group that worked against Vandal Savage's conspiracy of world domination. He tells Clark that the group ran out of money, and he ran from creditors towards the center of the Earth. One day he encountered Talia Head, who set him into position as an oil professional. Calvin pointed her to a large oil reserve, one larger than any previously discovered. After the oil was harnessed in the name of Lexcorp, he found sulfate respiring fungi inside of it, fungi that could control the oil.

Calvin urges Clark not to involve superheroes, and to write an article so that the public can deal with Lexcorp, protesting and using legal channels to stop the situation.

At Steelworks, Natalie and John Henry note that Steelworks is now profitable again. Professor Hamilton asks to speak with Steel. He explains to John that his inability to cope with frustrations that Steel is taking his place in Superman's life has lead him to many wrong decisions, like not realizing the full danger of the Lexcorp tower. He apologizes. Hamilton notes that Steel can go out there, in his suit, and he cannot. Hamilton also suggests that this makes him feel inferior. He asks John about his time on the high frontier. John states that he doesn't remember what happened out there, save that he died. John also says that he never had any great desire to be a superhero. Nat listens in.

Clark writes a letter of frustration to Lois with regard to the Calvin situation. He tells her he misses her. He fears he will fail as Clark with taking Lexcorp down, and takes off as Superman to take care of the threat.

So here we are again, with Superman tearing up the facility.

He destroys the facility, then examines the oil microscopically.

Next scene, he is flying in front of the window, staring at Talia, who makes her aides leave and opens the security window.

He accuses Talia of controlling the oil, and she points out that he has destroyed his evidence. He leaves.

Talia, frustrated, laments that her ploy to take down Lexcorp, using the oil and Carson, has failed.

Clark laments that he wasn't good enough to solve this problem as a reporter.

2Story - 2: Fairly average, with a lot of decent things, but nothing that shone. And far, far too much characterization. Clark spends a total of ten pages in monologue to himself, trying to decide what to do, or lamenting what he did do. Talia does the same for two more pages. Clark deals with Calvin and his back story with Talia for five long pages, detailing things that we don't need to know about his time in the subterranean world, or that if we did want to know, we would have sought out in another, non-Superman arena. So we have five plus ten plus two, leaving us... five pages. Five pages not concerned with characterization. Normally, that would be a plus, but it's characterizing that's already been done. We know what it's like when Clark meets Lois. We know that Hamilton's been missing/inadequate/dwarfed by John Henry. We also know that Superman is mad at Luthor for being a bum and the President. Sorry. I repeat myself. The only new piece of information here is that Talia wants to destroy Lexcorp, and even that makes no sense.

This is the first of many plot holes, aside from the characterization. First... she controls the oil. So? What can she possibly do, save make the oil not work? It's not like the oil could form into some kind of unstoppable oil beast. And even if it did... hey! Light a match! We don't have to deal with Aquaman whining about the environment any more... joking. I guess oil not working would make the world slow down, especially as big a reserve as she had... but isn't the world taken with B13? Doesn't the B13 tech allow for flying cars, and alternate fuel? Isn't oil dead?

Also, I am very upset at Talia and Clark's characters taking turns from their normal courses without any long term ramifications. If Superman, with no proof in the end, goes to the largest oil reserve in the world and just destroys it, he is going to jail. Call the JLA and have Batman put on the big suit from the end of The Dark Knight Returns. He's in deep, deep, SERIOUS trouble. Judicial respects aside, he doesn't just wantonly destroy things without completely looking at all aspects of the situation, no matter how much he hates Lex.

And Talia! Sure, she goes both ways, good and bad, so this turn wasn't bad... I like it. However... if she wants to destroy Lexcorp, why ruin it? Why not take the money and start using it well, and towards a good end, like the Wayne foundation? She can't look as far as her pseudo-boyfriend's example? Come on. Tell me if she had really wanted to bring down Lexcorp, she wouldn't have told Superman and had him help. Given him a vial of oil with the fungi in it. It doesn't add up.

But it was absolutely wonderful to see Superman tapping at the window again. And to actually acknowledge that Emil exists. I gave a point for that.

2Art - 2: It's technologically interesting, but it's dark, and moody, and not really Superman. There are no backgrounds, some of the time, 5, 20, and the rest of the time, there is a lot of background that we can't really know what it is in relation to everything else, save that it's technological.

I do like the Superman on page 19, at the bottom left, however, just for comic value. I erased the word balloons in my head and put in my own words.


That about summed it up for me. Very blocky, very gawky, and prone to action when we're mostly about dialogue. See plot review.

To the art's detriment, what is that THING on page 14? It looks like Satanus put on a Superman suit. Again, character is off in this ish, even with the art.

3Cover Art - 3: Well drawn and captivating, sure. And it fits in with last week. But dang!

When are you guys going to realize that it doesn't matter how intriguing the cover is, if it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue, it's going to upset us! And put a background on that female dog! It deserves more than what it has! It's a Superman cover! Tell me you could not come up with something more interesting and relevant!

For instance: Would you buy an issue with Superman coming out of a phone booth, something we've seen more than our own reflections in the mirror, or an issue that has a silhouette of some shadowy figure in the Lexcorp tower watching with hands folded as Superman looks angrily inside? That image made the issue for me, and would have made a GREAT cover. Instead, we have this. Well drawn, but irrelevant.

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Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2002

February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002

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