Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: The Man of Steel #122

Superman: The Man of Steel #122

Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 23, 2002

Cover date: March 2002

Writer: Mark Shultz
Penciller: Darryl Banks
Inker: Kevin Conrad

"Superman v Steel"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

Natasha narrates:

Superman watches in mid-air as Steel, remotely operating the Aegis, annihilates an automated Steel suit. Superman indicates that he doesn't like that much power flying around. He wishes that John Henry would destroy the machine, or bury it. Steel gets angry, indicating that Superman had his chance to take care of the Aegis and skipped out.

Superman visits Lois in a far off, presumably Indian palace. He kisses her, and they greet one another. She says she feels like she's sneaking around, like she's young again, because her mother is right around the corner. They take off for a flight, and Lois' mother watches, startled, from behind a curtain. Arriving back, she confronts Lois with the issue.

At a building somewhere in Metropolis, a hand pulls down a lever and releases Earthquake. Steel wakes up with the tremors. Earthquake attacks Steelworks, breaching defenses easily. He is attempting to take the Aegis. Steel arrives and bashes him about. Earthquake promises a quick defeat. The battle knocks a train off of its rails, and a building collapses.

Earthquake, still taunting, knocks Steel back into the Steelworks, where he gets the clue and jumps into the Aegis. Earthquake taunts him, and the Aegis takes control of Steel, making him blast Earthquake much harder than he wanted to, nearly killing him. Rage takes over, and Steel moves in for the kill.

A larger blast tears into the sky, and a Superman blur intercepts the explosion at the last moment. Steel attacks Superman, obviously not in control of the armor. Superman, realizing that he's neglected Earthquake, flies off and apparently catches him, still in the air. He lowers Earthquake to the street.

Superman pleads with John Henry to come to his senses, and John Henry collapses, exhausted.

Back at Steelworks, Emil talks to his new hand, which has developed an eye, the eye of the Overmind. Emil puts something over Natasha's mouth, knocking her out. The intention is to make her the new queen of the Cybermoths.

3Story - 3: This had the potential to be good. It was interesting, to be sure, but the whole thing, while well written from the dialogue and plot hole sense, has a feeling of having been done before. I'm not positive, but I do believe that Steel's armor has taken him over before, and Superman has had to run in to save the day. And we've definitely seen a villain with few utilized powers step into the fray only to be quickly knocked out and forgotten again. That happens all the time in comics. Doesn't mean I like it. We've seen Earthquake once before, recently, at the inauguration. His powers were magnetically based, as I recall. Why the heck didn't he just pull the suit underground, or use his powers to disengage Steel from the armor? Why didn't he just halt Steel where he stood? The villain was underused, and cliche in this issue. Superman made obvious moves, acted Superman-y and all, but he just lacked any kind of original action in this issue. How many times in the last few months have we seen Superman A) Go visit Lois on location. B) Arrive at the last minute to stop senseless destruction. C) Lament something to himself, mostly with regards to Our Worlds At War. Some moping is in order, but the war was six months ago. It's getting a little old. I also don't buy that Emil just spent a year down under ground, came up without explanation, and Superman just bought it. It was a big setup for what's going on here.

However, there were still some good points. Lex has figured out Clark's secret. Lois' mother has. This is a good direction. I like constant fighting for the secret identity. It makes things more interesting. And the Emil twist, while seemingly a little contrived, is pretty neat, when it comes down to it. It has enormous potential.


There's a downside to all mentioned two paragraphs up. And it's pretty big, it's pretty blatant, and it's been bothering me for a while now. The new teams have gotten rid of the number triangles, changed the logos, blackened the S, and made Lois a foreign correspondent. They've killed the Parasite, launched a million new villains, given us a new Toyman. They've allowed a new CRISIS for this generation, made Superman darker, more brooding, and they've destroyed/not used characters previously established in continuity, like Bibbo, the first Krypto, Ceritak, the first Krypton, and Perry's adopted son. This is all fine well and good. Creator's choice. It's all up to debate, but I submit that these changes have improved the titles. However, there is a consequence, which we feel here, now, to a great extent. Gratification suffers. I am gratified to see nice, one shot Superman stories. But I was more gratified to have larger, more continuing storylines. Last week, Lex Luthor found out Clark Kent was Superman. This week? He's just fine, and fighting a low-blow villain and jabbing with Steel. NO! One week after Lex Luthor finds out Superman is Clark Kent, Lois is dead. Perry is dead. Olsen is dead. Anyone within ten yards of Superman's real life is dead... or Superman's working his butt off trying to stop them all from getting killed. Or at least, he's confronting Luthor. Now we must wait four weeks for any real development, for the most part, on all books. That's one of the reasons I stopped reading Batman consistently. I have to wait a month to see a one shot fight with a villain I hardly even know/recognize the powers of? How cool is that? It's not just Lex. It's also this issue. Emil is evil, we find out, and now we wait a month for further elaboration. Lois' mother knows the secret. Will she next week? Will it even be mentioned? Natasha is now kidnapped. Will Steel appear at some point in the next three weeks and not know? Possibly. Very possibly. This discourages me and other readers I've spoken to, and it's an issue that Eddie and company needs to address. There is a new, stronger, better Superman on the market today. The writing is better, the storylines dig deeper and spread farther. But we must wait YEARS for fruition. I am more than willing, but I want some instant gratification along the way, guys! I don't want to wait a month from one part to the next, even two months given the occasional requisite crossovers and crud I don't want any part of, like Last Laugh. It's nice for each book to have its unique flavor. I agree. But what good is flavor in four different areas if they don't add up to a good, gelling, cohesive whole?

4Art - 4: A bit dark, but well drawn, fitting the mood, and interestingly color based. I liked the way that some of the backgrounds were one color, given the mood, and others another, given the situation. One problem. It's night in India and night in the United States at the same time. Oops. Good purples for the Aegis, red for Steelworks at the end, orange for Earthquake, Blue for Superman/Lois. It was interesting. I miss color though. I want some next week. :)

4Cover Art - 4: Intersting, with a nice format, and the new logo. I wasn't fond of the idea at first, but now I'm kind of grooving on them. I like this one best of all. The new Superman logo is a bit too excremental, and the logo for Adventures is just wrong. The S doesn't go at the end! What kind of monkey doodles is that? SupermanS. Sure. It just looks wrong. But this one will leave room for more cover, and it's nicely metallic, and the lettering is nice and Metropolis. I like. I think they could have done more with the background, though.

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

January 2002

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