Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: The Man of Steel #121

Superman: The Man of Steel #121

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 19, 2001

Cover date: February 2002

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Todd Nauck
Inker: Lary Stucker

"Diamonds And Steel"

Reviewed by: Nick Newman (

Three police cars and a transport tear through the streets of Suicide Slum. A semi swerves ahead of them, blocking the road, but a hand extends from the lead vehicle and shoots a flying Ace of Diamonds at the truck. The semi detonates in a huge explosion and all four crash straight through the burning wreckage. The King, Queen, and Jack turn off the road and begin to talk of their victory. Suddenly, the Ten of Diamonds in the transport looks in her side view mirror only to see a gust of icy cold wind extinguish the fire. She radios ahead, warning the rest of the Royal Flush Gang of their impending trouble. The warning comes too late as Superman disables all three of the police cars with subsequent blasts of his heat vision. As the three vehicles come to a halt, Ten swerves her's into a wall to avoid hitting them. Superman arrives on the scene and quickly subdues Queen and Jack. He begins to question King, as his heat vision slowly travels down the gang leader's crown when Ten rushes around to the back of the transport and breaks off the lock, releasing the new Ace.

Superman turns from King and, after wrapping King in a steel prison, heads toward the new Android. The robot stands its ground and with a carefully calculated blow deflects the Man of Steel's charge skyward, sending him crashing through the highway above. Not missing a beat, Kal proceeds to weld metal shards together into a giant throwing star and, returning to the battle scene, sends the blade flying through Ace's midsection. Grabbing the severed top half of the robot, he hurls it skyward mere moments before the android explodes, lighting up Suicide Slum with its brilliance.

Turning from the scene, Ten runs down an alley, waiting for Superman to come swooping behind her, apprehending her like the other three. But no sound comes. Ten is left with only a question, repeating itself over and over in her mind: "How do you wound a Man of Steel?"

Back at the Hob's Bay precinct, STRIPE stares at the remains of his suit. As the Star Spangled Kid arrives on the scene, she begins to scold Pat that he should have brought her along to pick up the Ace robot and bring it back to the Steelworks for dismantling. Pat tells her to be quiet and just fly him back to the Steelworks. Clark Kent, moves up behind one of the officers on the scene and begins to ask him questions. Clark questions why gang crime has been decreasing while crime is suddenly increasing drastically. Officer Cobbins is silent, but Clark presses on with his own theory. The gangs have been consolidating. Cobbins then proceeds about the Royal Flush Gang. They have been moving across the country, forcing their way into the big cities and assimilating all of the major gangs in each of the cities, by force if necessary. They don't want to hurt the city's morale by telling them that a major crime wave is coming soon. The gangs have stopped warring on each other, but soon they will come for the city.

Ten hurdles a guard rail and crosses the last street before the Gang hangout when suddenly Superman drops from the sky. She is shocked, until he tells her that she was making enough distinct sounds to draw him right to her. He let her go; he needed someone to take him to their hideout. He tells her that he can get her out of the gang. She refuses, as a garage door opens behind them. The Man of Steel turns to find dozens and dozens of Royal Flush gangs members bearing down on him. A combined assault of three Ace robots sends him flying back into the harbor. Unshaken, Superman tears back into the fray, sending dozens of members flying into the harbor. As the police arrive on the scene Superman stops near Ten, and tells her that he won't tolerate gangs in his city. As the police begin to take Ten away, they thank Superman for stopping the problem before it got too big. As she is taken away, Ten yells back at him that he hasn't solved anything. They can lock them all up, but there are hundreds waiting to take their places in the gang. He can't rescue everybody, because not everyone wants to be rescued. As Superman turns and flys away, Ten realizes that she has done it; she hurt the Man of Steel.

In prison, Ten is confronted by her fellow gang members. King scolds her for leading Superman right to them. She understands what must be done. King pulls a dagger from his hair as Ten rolls up her sleeve, revealing a row of ten red diamonds, tattooed onto her arm. She grits her teeth as King brings the knife to her skin beside the topmost diamond. She may have lost a diamond, but she is a member of the Royal Flush Gang forever. The Nine of Diamonds.

As Superman returns to his home, he sees the newest Daily Planet laying there. On the front page the headline reads: "Drive-By Shooting Leaves Four Dead". Donning his cape again, Superman speeds out into the night.

4Story - 4: This was a thoroughly enjoyable story. I've always enjoyed the Royal Flush Gang, even if we got to see very few of their playing card antics in this story. I normally don't like the "you can't save us from gangs" storylines because they are normally very cliche, but the addition of the RFG into this one made it different. Plus, it seams like we will be seeing more of Nine in the future, which couldn't be a bad thing, if the gang is properly developed. It's also nice to see Clark actually report every now and then. He does have a full time job after all. My biggest problem with this issue, is that these "Full-coverage" issues are supposed to be jump on points for new readers. Why would you put an entire guest team on an issue designed to introduce the book to new readers? Anyway, it was a nice, solid, self-contained story that I enjoyed.

4Art - 4: I'm a fan of Nauck's work. It's very clean with just a hint of his own style in it. However, I'm a much bigger fan of his work in Young Justice. His Superman, while decent, looks too young and skinny for my likes. But still, he drew a nice issue with bold, clean art, and his Royal Flush members came off looking very good. He beats the normal art team on this issue. I'd really like to see Mahnke come back, but at least we still get to see him in JLA.

2Cover Art - 2: I really don't like this cover. One, the art is horrible. Superman's face is horribly rendered. Covers should be bold and recognizable, not sketchy like this. Two, it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue. I realize these covers are an exception, slightly, but the last two both dealt with the contents of the issue. This one doesn't at all. Third, why is there a girl standing in the middle of the street with her dress being blown up? What is the point of this? I really didn't get that. And fourth, and just a minor point, but where is the inker's name? Unless Lary Stucker specifically asked not to be put on the cover, his name should be there. Not a good cover.

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January 2002

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