Friday, November 19, 2021

Review: Supergirl Woman Of Tomorrow #5

Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow #5 came out this week and it fits right in with the tone of this mini-series so far. This is an oppressive book. Even though Tom King keeps promoting the book as one where everyone will finally realize how kick-ass Supergirl is, we don't see much of it in this title and certainly not in this issue.

No, as usual, Ruthye is the star here. It is her point of view, as it always is. And in this issue were Supergirl is suffering and sick, it is Ruthye who carries the narrative. And boy does she carry the narrative, continuing the overly verbose style that I think would even make Mattie from True Grit say 'speed it up'!

I shouldn't be surprised with any of it, given what we saw in Vision, Mister Miracle, Strange Adventures, and Heroes in Crisis that Tom King must equate heroism with suffering. After last issue where Kara cowers in a sun from emotional torment, where we learn she 'lives a life of pain', we get this issue where she is thrown in an environment that is physically giving her pain.

As a reader, you can take a step back perhaps and see some things which are admirable. Supergirl guts out a whole day of suffering when we learn that Superman could barely last 45 minutes. So that shows grim determination. We see how she actually inspires Ruthye to think of others rather than herself.

But surely that must be better ways to show how great and heroic Supergirl as a character is than that. And when you instead look at the detail, you get a book where Kara is wracked in pain for the bulk of the issue. An issue were King gets to show how 'mature' she is by showing how crass she is, constantly cursing, taking a shot at her cousin, and even being proud for teaching Ruthye the right time to curse. Is this a Supergirl book aimed at promoting her? Or an Adam Sandler 90s movie?

Nothing to complain about when it comes to the art as Bilquis Evely and Mateus Lopes again bring the fire here. They make this place look horrific and monstrous. They convey how ill Supergirl is brilliantly. If only the material they had was one where Supergirl is elevated.

Perhaps the saddest thing is nothing about this issue shocked me. I know what I am getting in a Tom King Supergirl book. I just don't know if I needed a Tom King Supergirl book, especially if this is how DC is going to view her moving forward.

On to the particulars.

Supergirl and Ruthye have finally caught up with Krem on a remote planet. He is wading in a field of fire and corpses. 

He unleashes a 'Mordru Globe' on them, a magical weapon which teleports our heroes far away from their target.

King does a good job playing up just how despicable Krem is. The opening page of him rooting around the dead is pretty chilling. We learn that to power a Mordru Globe the wielder has to have killed thousands just for the joy of killing. What first seemed like the town ruffian and horse thief is now a genocidal maniac. 

And Evely and Lopes do a great job showing the power of the sphere. That first panel you feel the tug of it on Kara. And the stark whiteness of the spell stands out against the conflagration. The art is so beautiful.

Krem uses the globe to send Kara and Ruthye to Barenton, a green sun planet inhabited by dinosaurs. I don't know if what she says means the sun is Kryptonite but it certainly seems to effect Kara like Green K, with her being in constant pain, weakened, and delirious. 

She knows the planet because it was a trap against Superman. As we have learned in an earlier issue, no one approaches Kara because they remember the good she did. No one approaches her because they remember the good Superman did. The only people who approach her are those with a grudge against Kal.

No wonder she seems to have negative feelings for her cousin. At least in Tom King's world, Superman is only associated with pain in Kara's life. (Compare that to loving, familial feel the two have in the main books recently, specifically Brian Michael Bendis and Phillip Kennedy Johnson.)

When Superman was trapped there, he lasted 45 minutes before the Justice League rescued him. He said he was as close to death as he ever has been. Kara need to survive 10 hours of this. At that time, the sun will set and her powers will return.

Now I get how having Supergirl survive 1233.33% longer than Superman did shows how she is 'stronger' or 'grittier' or 'more determined' than him. She is going to gut out this pain. But I wonder if maybe we could see those aspects in her in action. Suffering more makes her kick-ass?

I also don't know if I understand the power premise. I suppose if the sun is Green K, that it setting would remove the pain. 

And then this 'mature' moment when Kara praises the young Ruthye for using a swear word in the right context. She even throws in that she understands the hate people have for Superman. 

This moment sums up the book nicely. The weakened, crass, Supergirl, wracked with pain, says she hates Superman and teaches a young girl to curse. 

The two head to an elevated plateau and try to wait out the day. Supergirl is said to be convulsing in pain at time, unconscious at others. 

It is up to the hero of the book Ruthye to defend her friend.

Using her father's sword, she is able to somehow kill this monster who approaches them.

Whether it is in narrative boxes or dialogue though, Ruthye says her piece. 

Ruthye saves Supergirl.

Maybe this should have been Ruthye Woman of Tomorrow? Guest starring Supergirl?

When pterodactyl like creatures come to feast on the carcass, they decide that maybe Ruthye and Kara will also be tasty treats.

In a somewhat forced joke, the feverish Kara awakens and scares them off with a blast of heat vision. 

Kara gets a 'look .. it's a bird' joke out.

With the sun nearly down, Supergirl thinks she is dying. She needs water. 

Ruthye and Kara have been avoiding the nearby lake knowing the monsters will congregate there.

Initially Ruthye tries to stop Kara from going, even to the point of raising her sword at Supergirl. But then she decides that the better plan is to help her friend get what she needs. They will go together. Even if that means death and her never getting her revenge, Ruthye helps.

Perhaps you can say that this is Supergirl's good influence on Ruthye. No longer driven just by revenge, Ruthye helps her friend in need. 

Of course, we need one last threat. 

And it doesn't look good. 

But the sun sets just in time and Supergirl's powers come back.

I really like this panel. The dino being rocked, the colors of dusk but also the reds for a feel of power, even the big BAM, all reflect what is happening here wonderfully in art. 

With the green sun set, the two fly off.

How will they pick up the trail again? What if the globe put them light years away? We know that 'many months' have passed since this started. Does anyone care that Kara has been missing this long? Has Superman tried to seek her out? We know the League rescued Superman after 45 minutes of being here. Kara has been gone for months! She spent a day on this world. Does this show how little the other heroes care about her?

As I said, this whole thing didn't surprise me. Kara was basically passive for the bulk of this issue. Other issues Kara has slept the majority of the issue. Ruthye telling me about Supergirl's heroism is ... well ... telling me. How about showing me? But Kara guts out a tough situation and inspires.

Maybe I should concentrate on the positive.

Overall grade: C+ (art as always is an A)


Anonymous said...

Tom King will move on, but the deeper long-lasting problem is that this is how Brittany Holzherr, who has been editor on Supergirl for a long time now, and her senior editors - first Jamie Rich, now Mike Cotton - want writers to portray Supergirl.

(Jessica Chen was in charge at the start of The Infected arc, but she moved over to the Bat office, and Holzherr took over that final arc of Supergirl.)

Writers don't just get to do what they want. DC exercises strict control over what characters can be used, and in what ways.

Maybe Tom King gets some extra latitude? I don't know - he was, after all, fired from Batman.

Do we blame him for this, and for what he did to Adam Strange? Or is it that when DC wants character assassination, they turn to Tom King?

He wanted to do 12 issues, and they told him no way, it wouldn't sell. So, if it doesn't sell, why put out a series at all?! I guess to tie things up. They have to move characters aside somehow to make room for their 5G replacements (likely Thao-La in this case). The story has to be told. They probably wanted to do it in a 5 or 6 part story, and compromised and gave King 8.


Martin Gray said...

Thank you. I read all the online reviews for this series and it’s being praised to the heavens. Tellingly, though. It doesn’t seem to be longtime Supergirl fans who are enjoying it… you, me, Mild-Mannered Reviews, we’re not keen. If DC want Supergirl to be a hit they need to be pleasing existing fans, and finding new ones, with a sustainable set-up. Instead, they’re upsetting longtime Kara fans, and pleasing fans of Tom King, who will likely never go anywhere near Supergirl again (he’s barely gone near here here).

Lord, I wish I had a Supergirl signal watch that went ‘GATESIGLEGATESIGLEGATES…

Professor Feetlebaum said...

"Well, Ruthye, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!"

This latest adventure of Ruthye and her sidekick Kara (I'm only sleeping) Zor-El has "filler" written all over it, although it did give Bilquis Evely the opportunity to draw some really cool dinosaurs.

I don't get the bit about the green sun either. How can a sun be Kryptonite, if that's what Supergirl (and Tom King) is saying? Supergirl should lose her powers on a green sun planet, but otherwise be able to function. See Action Comics # 337. And by the way, whatever happened to that costume that Kara came up with at the start of Andreyko's run? The one that collected yellow sunlight? You would think that Kara would have brought it along. Maybe she did, and it's on the spaceship that Krem stole. In the real world, King probably didn't know about it, or chose to ignore it.

When Ruthye was confronting that dinosaur, I half expected her to come out with the Daffy Duck line from Duck Amuck: "you shall sample my blade"! I will say that Ruthye's killing the dinosaur gives me some small hope that she does indeed kill Krem in the end, and Supergirl either takes the responsibility, or Ruthye herself, in her own mind, transfers the deed onto Supergirl.

Tom King and DC editorial both deserve blame for Supergirl's current situation, but it's true that DC was pushing an edgy, angry Supergirl long before King made the scene.

Finally, I should slightly change the first line of this comment to fit more with Tom King's view of Supergirl: "Well, Ruthye, here's another #@*!#*@ mess you've gotten me into!"

Anonymous said...

Well now you just knew, before this dismal miniseries was over, Tom (AKA "Supergirl's Undertaker") King was gonna serve up a whole issue of "Kryptonite Torture Porn".
Good thing Supergirl has the maladorous & obtuse Ruthye guarding over her, or Kara would be a gone gosling eh?
Gee I mean I hate to say it, but Kara is fast becoming a barnacle on Ruthye's hulk, I mean if the child champion can wield a sword what's she need Supergirl for a sidekick eh?
But I digress.
I'm Calling It.
Supergirl is Finished, This is the Last We Will See of Kara Zor El for Some Time to Come.
Maybe For Good.
I have two theses in play here.
1.) Look at the way Supergirl enables Ruthye...much the way Kara Danvers had to Enable her Tyrannical Sister Alex. She knows Ruthye is doing something stupid and dangerous and never once can she summon up the courage to upbraid Ruthye and tell her to stop. This isn't about Ruthye's quest for vengeance, it's about Supergirl's cowardly inability to take control of a tragic but potentially also catastrophic situation.
This mirrors nicely "Moon Supergirl, the High Commissioner of Space Refugees" who passionlessly enables her surly resentful charges all while living "A Life of Pain" per Tom King, Undertaker to the Kryptonians. This is the curtain raiser to "Future State Superwoman" in every way right down to the tragic Amish Bridesmaid Skirt.
(BTW whassup with that life of pain #$*&@*&%!!?? I thought being invulnerable exempted Kara from pain? Maybe her next writer (if she ever has one that is) could actually take time to read the GD'd Comics for a change).
2)This one is, unrelated to this miniseries, it occurred to me only this morning..."Of COURSE they are gonna bring in A New Supergirl, after all How Many Robin's Have Been Affixed to the Batman Franchise at this point?" Six? Eight? Boy Wonders, Girl Wonders, etc etc....If Dick Grayson is expendable then so is Kara Zor El. But this is DC, eternally intent on "Fixing things that aren't broken, with stuff that doesn't work".
So anyway it's the end folks, brace yourselves.
Kara might survive it, but she'll be separated from the Supergirl trademark and sent off somewhere to maunder as a super spinster social worker or some damn thing.
That being said, this issue did feel like filler (although every time Ruthye starting monologuing IT ALL feels like filler quite frankly) with Supergirl doing little more that whimpering moaning hallucinating and zetzing stuff with her heat vision...that's a pretty marginal character in her own mini.
And that Kryptonite sun stuff made zero sense, okay maybe the sunset buys Kara some time (if the planet's crust is composed primarily of lead) but flying off the planet just exposes her again in the vacuum of space? This is the sort of plot hole I'd expect from Greg Berlanti's writing room not the famous august fan favorite Tom King.

In All and Excruciating Read from Start to Finish...and Worse is yet to Come.


Anonymous said...

Wonder if there are more Supergirl stories I dislike than those I like at this point. If that's the case can I really say I'm a fan?

Anonymous said...

There's nothing super about cursing, drinking or taking children to executions.

You can still be a fan of Supergirl and not be a fan of this. This is not Supergirl.

For fans grinding their teeth. Go to another property until next iteration of a Super Supergirl. This is what DC is offering for now.

Anonymous said...

I've pointed this out on twitter, but ah guess it's worth repeating here, the whole #!@$%&*!! meme as a stand in for cursing was pioneered by Mad Magazine back in the 1960's as an ironic comment on self censorship & the hypocritical mores of publishing in general. Using it in "Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow" is inane and frankly stupid. That having been said I do ardently wish that Tom King will move over to Marvel after this miniseries has done it's worst to Supergirl, because there is a bunch of characters there I think he could ruin beyond hope of recovery...(expl. "Wolverine").


Be of Good Cheer Everyone, Smile and Joke in the Face of Disaster, It Drive's Them Crazy!


Professor Feetlebaum said...

Using symbols to indicate cursing in comic strips goes back at least as far as the late 19th and early 20th century. Early examples can be found in The Katzenjammer Kids by Rudolph Dirks. I think it's been a fairly common practice in comic strips since then. E.C. Segar used the symbols in his Thimble Theatre (Popeye) strips in the 1930s. When Popeye found his long lost father one of the first things Poopdeck Pappy said to Popeye was "Well, what the @x*! do ye want me to do, KISS YE?"

In his book, "The Lexicon of Comicana", Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey ) dubbed these symbols "Grawlixes".

As far as I can tell, these symbols were mostly (maybe exclusively) used in humor strips. I could be wrong, but I don't believe that adventure strip artists like Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates) or Roy Crane (Buz Sawyer) used them. This is one reason I don't like them in Supergirl. Because aside from the fact that constant cursing is something that Kara has never done before, the symbols just look silly in a "serious" adventure story.

Anonymous said...

If you're waiting for that next "better" incarnation of Supergirl, you might not want to hold your breath. The solicit for issue 8 reads "You won't want to miss thrilling conclusion of the acclaimed miniseries that has changed Kara Zor-El for good!"

Again "changed Kara Zor-El for good!". That doesn't bode well. Also as it says it's been pretty critically acclaimed by both reviewers and readers alike. I don't see them going back to happy Kara anytime soon.

Martin Gray said...

“…critically acclaimed by both reviewers and readers alike.’

Well, we knows that’s tripe.

Anonymous said...

"changed Kara Zor-El for good!" I guess they can carve that on her tombstone. Or put it over the gates of "Camp Angst" on the Moon when she becomes SuperSpinster the Cosmic Social Worker.
At the very least it indicates she is really gonna kill Krem and own it and thus join in with all the other dismal joyless beasts out there in comics.
More and more though, I find myself thoroughly enjoying Supergirl on DCSHG, she is off character by all means but is a sympathetic scream all the same.
Be of good cheer no matter what is all I can advise.

"I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing." Herman Melville


Anonymous said...

Good point - it's not just that she didn't intervene in that public stoning, but why was she even there watching it, and with Ruthye there?!

The solicit about her being changed forever is probably hyperbole, like so many solicits, many of which don't even have anything to do with the contents. But just ponder it - she's already been kind of ruined/changed. So, it's going to be worse?! Yeah, if she kills it will be worse.

We all know who the acclaiming reviewers are - DC cites their quotes pretty often in their advertising. They're the same ones aggregated weekly at comicbookroundup. It's surprising that a professional publisher would take hobbyist reviews that seriously.

Who are the acclaiming readers? Where does DC even look to gauge the temperature? The only online discussion I ever see is about the TV show, mostly about Lena+Kara stuff.


John (somewhere in England) said...

"For fans grinding their teeth. Go to another property until next iteration of a Super Supergirl. This is what DC is offering for now."

May I recommend trying out the new Batgirls series? It looks as if it will be a fun read with leading characters you can actually like.

And it's always possible that a super Supergirl will pop up in Action Comics again.

Anonymous said...

Twitter is swarming with either Tom King apologists or else praiseful fans who think this new tough gritty Supergirl is gonna be the ongoing template.
The former are utterly deluded I am afraid, once the hammer drops in issue eight they will never see this version of Supergirl again, she'll morph into Superwoman and go off to live a sad pain wracked life as an enabler of intergalactic refugees. The "Supergirl" trademark will be handed off to some incidental character and the cycle will repeat mindlessly and stupidly. But ya know, these are all people much younger than me, they are gonna have to learn by painful experience DC's consistent willful malevolence when it comes to Supergirl.


Aaron said...

I haven't read this issue yet, and it's unlikely I will. If she kills, then I can only look forward to the next "reboot" in DC where this timeline is no longer the focus.

A Supergirl book should not be making me feel this way.

And, I think, the worst part for me is reading the heaps of praise this book is receiving.

This is DC at its lowest. Just my opinion of course.

Thanks for the platform, Anj. Great review. :)

Anonymous said...

"Hate, Hurt & Enablement" are her new watchwords, look out DCU here comes Superwoman and there she goes into exile & obscurity.