Friday, August 20, 2021

Review: Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow #3

Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow #3
came out this week. I can say without pause it was the best issue of this mini-series so far.

Now knowing how I felt about the first two issues that isn't exactly the highest praise. I believed then, and still believe, that this really isn't a Supergirl story. 

But at least here, there are places that I see a Supergirl a recognize. A defender of justice who sometimes gets fierce. Someone inspired by Superman but maybe not as polished. Someone who cares. I see that here. Yes, she still curses way too much for me (that just doesn't ring true for the Kara I know). And I don't like how she seems to be denying her history as Kara Zor-El and embracing only the Supergirl identity. But there are some good things here.

It is the plot of the issue that seems a bit off. There is the tiniest bit of progression for the main plot of this mini-series. But this really feels like a side mission or a 'done in one' issue in an ongoing. This is a story about prejudice and genocide, about violence and horror. That is Tom King's sandbox. But I don't know if this is needed for this mini-series. The only thing that 'happens' is Ruthye starts to see how terrible the universe might be. My guess is in the end you can skip this issue in the trade and the story will read fine. 

One thing that has been consistent in this mini-series is the artwork. Bilquis Evely's line work is breathtaking. I am just gobsmacked each issue with just how gorgeous the art is. From the action to scenes like diner eating, everything is just sumptuous. And the colors by Matheus Lopes really give this a pastel, Western movie feel. The variant cover by David Mack is equally striking. Just unreal. 

On to the details.

Supergirl and Ruthye have made their way to Coronn to try and find Krem. They have been on this planet for weeks without many leads. 

They end up in the town of Maypole, the last place Krem was known to be. It is also unbelievably idyllic, a small town where everyone knows each other, is polite, and seem to love in  peaceful, affluent bliss. 

However, the more Kara continues to question this place about Krem the more that polite exterior dissolves into defensiveness. And when she keeps asking about the 'Purple' beings who lived on Coronn but no longer seem to be around, she gets even more roadblocks. 

I talk about that fierce side of Kara that flares when she is faced with beings who don't seem to stand for justice. So I thought this scene of her using her super-breath to blow down the house of cards a town official is building while she is asking him questions seemed like Kara. Even Ruthye's word that there is an idea that Kara is always polite is true. People who don't read a lot of Supergirl (maybe King himself) probably think she is the saccharine girl from the 50s and not the more complicated character I know her to be.

And the whole 'house of cards' symbolism isn't lost here. Kara knows this "#$%&*@" is lying. She is going to find the truth. You know the paradise of Maypole is going to collapse under its lies and the power of Supergirl. 

Okay. Nice opening scene.

As Supergirl and Ruthye walk around the town, they keep seeing remnants of signs which seem to imply that the Purples were segregated here. But the blue townsfolk don't answer any questions and even seem to deny the existence of the Purples. 

And no word about Krem either.

Nice use of the 9 panel grid on this page showing the lengths Supergirl goes in her investigation. It reminded me of the Mister Miracle book King did recently.

Eventually Supergirl must become too much of a nuisance because one night she and Ruthye are attacked, their hotel room shot up. 

Again, seeing this Supergirl, in the hail of gunfire throwing herself on top of Ruthye to protect the young girl felt right. You can tell that Ruthye is terrified here, her collegiate vocabulary letting us know that, her tightly closed eyes saying it even more clearly. And Supergirl here seems to be hugging her as much as shielding her. 

This read like Supergirl.

I still find Ruthye's prose to be a bit grating and over the top. But I suppose that serves its purpose, putting us in that True Grit mode King is going for.

When she brings the shooters to the local authorities, the mayor begins to let his annoyance with Supergirl be known. He won't let her get a word in edgewise. He even wonders if she could be charged with crimes.

She did her best to discuss this. But finally she has had it and destroys his desk to let him know she means business. She storms off, cursing. 

What I like here is that we see three panels of her trying to talk to this official before she demolishes the furniture. That sounds like the Supergirl I know. Fierce when she needs to be.

I just think that this is the sort of 'oooh, she curses and storms off' is like the least common denominator of 'badass'. 

But most importantly, I don't think I like this idea that she feels her name is Supergirl, as if she is denying the Kara Zor-El part of her or even the Kara Danvers part of herself. One of the things which I think completely didn't work about the earliest issues in the Loeb run is that Kara was Supergirl 24/7. She had no other life. And that made her unrelatable, less grounded. She has been through so much as Kara of the house of El, daughter of Alura, cousin of Kal. This seems like a big step backwards for her.

Now Supergirl knows she needs to investigate the disappearance of the Purples. The best way is to fly. She can't leave Ruthye, so she finally gives in and picks up Ruthye and takes off. 

Supergirl hasn't flown on Coronn before this because she knew Ruthye would be scared. She worried about Ruthye. 

This again is more like the Supergirl I know. 
And again, gorgeous art. I love the shocked look on what little we see of Ruthye.

The investigation leads her to find 'Purpletown', a place where the marginalized Purple folk, a race felt to be inferior by the Blues and kept in their place through economic and legal barriers. This ghetto has been razed, the people slaughtered.


This is a story about prejudice and genocide, Kristallnacht on Coronn.

Supergirl confronts the local constables who give us exposition.

'Brigands' from space landed. These outlaws like to collect protection money or kill or both. The Blues couldn't pay them off entirely. Krem, being held in the Blues prison, gave them the idea to meet this mob halfway. So they paid them off a little and gave the killers Purpletown to purge their violent tendencies. The Brigands found a kindred spirit with Krem and so allowed him to join their gang.

And the Blues maintained their idyllic life while having to live with their sin.

It is hard to know what Supergirl does with this information. Arrest the leaders who agreed to this plan? Call in the UP? Or just leave them?

Yes, she has uncovered the truth. 

This has clearly rattled Ruthye. She recognizes how small her problem is in the grand picture. She sees how terrible people are, how terrible the universe is.

I like how Supergirl seems to be there to comfort her. After all Supergirl has been through some stuff as well. And I hope in the end Supergirl helps Ruthye realize there is good in this world.

But my guess is next issue starts with them on the next planet. This whole thing will be behind them. And it is hard to know if Supergirl actually meted out justice. 

Remember, this whole thing is a flashback told by a much older Ruthye (this is True Grit after all). We learn on the first page that Maypole is vilified in history for this act. At least we know Supergirl's uncovering the truth meant something.

Sorry for the long review. I feel I really need to dive into this book since everyone seems to tell me it is going to define Supergirl for the future.

I feel this felt like a chapter that wasn't needed in this mini-series. Was it that King wanted to tell a story about prejudice and genocide and squeezed it in here. Did anything of consequence happen in this book in regards to the main plot? Or is this an agenda with a story? I still wish this important Supergirl story was told from her perspective.
But I shouldn't dwell on those things. I liked some of the Supergirl I saw here. That fierce hero who detests injustice and won't rest. Someone who carers. That was here. I have to hang on to that. I hope I see more of that moving forward. 

The grades here will always be lifted up by the art, probably a full letter grade.

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

Great review, I agree, best issue yet. It’s too soon for me to say whether this issue is skippable; like you, I suspect it’s going to be ‘Planet of the Month’ for a while, and we can’t skip half the book or more. Besides, ignore this and we wouldn’t have seen a recognisable Kara at all.

What did you think of Ruthye without her cap? Bless.

I would have liked some mention or thought of Kara, I hope it’s not because the Dog of Steel is dead and Kara can’t face the pain… let him be in the Phantom Zone.

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting choice that with only a few exceptions, Maypole looks like small-town America. The inhabitants are blue, but wear Earth clothes (specifically, western European/American dress), and while the mattress in the hotel looks a bit unusual to my eye (but it might actually be a typical design in Brazil where Evely lives), the only only other alien depictions are the Brigands and their pirate spaceship.

And we get to see so many things you don't usually get in comics, like a sanitation truck. Diners, sofas, fire engines and poles in a fire station, buildings, all are just Americana.

The green car we see on a street makes me think we are looking at 1940s or 1950s America.

I guess you can get a bit more American than peach pie, if you go with apple.

It's an interesting way to tell the story. Usually this kind of parable is told in a more completely alien setting, like the old Star Trek episode where the prejudice was between the beings with black & white faces vs. those with white & black faces.

It's as if King said that's what's always done, so let's just do it differently - let's directly show America in the early 1950s, but with blue people.


Gear said...

I'll agree this doesn't feel like a Supergirl story, and in part that's because in spite of her being in the title the entire story is told from the point of view of Ruthye. For my traditional brain the POV character, particularly when they're the narrator and told in first person, is who the story is about. Thus this doesn't feel like a Supergirl story, even when she's recognizably characterized. It feels like a Ruthye story, where Supergirl is the Special Guest Star or even a Featured Player.

But this was a major improvement. Given this is a Ruthye story a fairly major thing that made this chapter needed was that it was a revelation and growth for the POV protagonist. If carried forward this will have changed her perspective on her mission, as you say Anj she recognizes how small and even petty her problem actually is in the bigger scheme of things.

Again, I get thrown by the book's title. If this was titled "Ruthye's Quest, co-starring Supergirl" I'd stop feeling like I was missing something.

Anj said...

Great comments so far.

I suppose, given the recognizable 'small town' feel this could simply be an allegory for the Tulsa massacre, just getting some broad knowledge and attention now.

Totally agree that the POV is a problem for me. But Supergirl was center stage here at least, not asleep in the train.

And yes, hopefully Ruthye grows a bit just as Maddie did in True Grit.

Anonymous said...

Tulsa is an excellent suggestion. It is surprising how such a massacre was not widely known about, though I'm sure the African-American community was well aware of it.

I don't think I'd ever heard of it before HBO's Watchmen, but read up on it after seeing that. And since then, I've seen documentaries and heard lots of discussion about it.


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

I went to read the comic after reading your review. The scene where the bullet crashes on the supergir's eye who pull it out like it was a speck of dust is wonderful.

I don't know if the comic has an agenda or if it's to make Krem even nastier.He almost killed Krypto, a dog and now, he is helping to make a genocide.

Regarding the Tulsa massacre, I also learned about it while watching Watchmen. Personally, this episode did not shock me in the same way as you Americans. I understood the extent of racism in America, before I thought the stories were a bit too surreal. But no, wiping out and razing a city that doesn't have the "right" skin color isn't a problem for part of the American population. Unfortunately, this is not just happening in the USA but all over the world.

Back to supergirl,talking about genocide is a good thing. But, it is the consequence and not the cause. To avoid this, you have to understand thats foreigners are like us, we are not different. The alien theme is the best thme to talk about this.

So instead of this spacial western, i would have preferred to see supergirl and krypto going on a space trip with the refugees from Warworld. Without spoiling the end of the ongoing action comic story, say they need a safe haven of the kryptonians. The solution is to join the planet where the Zod's family has settled.

Dru Zod, an army general who make a coup d'etat to restore the "real" kryptonian values who finally accept and protect a group of kryptonian refuges (who were not born on krypton and have a diffreent story). The symbol would habe been much stronger than the discovery of another genocide. Especially if ti's supergirl, the symbol of the compassion wich shows another vision t Zod, he was made to kill anything that is not "purely" kryptonian.

Yhis is the first time that i have made such a long comment.But dc comic really spoils a lot with supergirl.

Anonymous said...

So Supergirl & Ruthye's plan was to randomly knock on doors until they picked up Krem's Trail...hardly "CSI Offworld" is it? And if Supergirl is being used to tell Ruthye's story then Krem is just being randomly built up as a monster in order to justify his death, I guess at Kara's hands. So get this, the trigger for SuperGIRL to become SuperWOMAN is gonna be extrajudicial execution (which is as bad a crime as genocide in my books).
DC doesn't miss a trick, they are the masters of making good characters with loyal followings into hateful brutes. And all on behalf of a dense obtuse and verbose little vengeance moppet...when does Ruthye get her own book? She seems right up DC's Alley.
Onward and upward, the worst is yet to come, face it with a grin sez I.


Anj said...

Thanks for continued comments.

I think this series is at a crossroads …

Interested is seeing next issue.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I look at the complete history of Supergirl. I look at it and think, there's a character I love, and love to read about. Then I look at the stories a bit more closely. I start to wonder, are there more stories with characterizations of Supergirl I don't really care for now, than ones I do? I still love her as a character, but I think there just might be. I haven't punched the numbers to see for sure, but can you still call yourself a fan of a character in that situation? Where there's probably more you dislike out there than you actually like? I bring that up because I'm honestly kind of apathetic on this series. I don't get the glowing praise it's receiving and I don't get the doubt and disdain either. I wonder, do I just not care anymore? Sorry for the soapbox post here. I guess I'm just curious if anyone else feels the same way.