Friday, June 18, 2021

Review: Supergirl Woman Of Tomorrow #1

Where to begin this review of a book which is visually gorgeous, a super-hero rendition of True Grit to the point at times it feels like plagiarism, and a slap in the face to long time Supergirl fans?

Where to begin?

Well, first I'll ask you to settle in as this might ramble a bit.

Second, I'll say that this is an extremely well drawn and well colored book. I think Bilquis Evely is a revelation and Matheus Lopes coloring makes this feel like a pastel western movie come to life. I have no objection to the art in this book which is frankly stunning.

I advise everyone who hasn't read the novel True Grit or seen the movie to do so (both film versions are fantastic). But this seems like an absolute lift of that story. The extremely well spoken young girl (Mattie Ross in Grit/Ruthye here) seeks revenge for her father's death at the hands of a bandit (Tom Chaney/Krem). She heads into a town on her own and full of gumption. She tries to convince a bounty hunter to help her because she needs a man of certain skills (true grit/ruthless). The initial hunter tries to steal the bounty she is offering. The person she wants to help her (Rooster Cogburn/Supergirl), ornery and drunk, initially tell her to move on.  But to show her own grit, our main character (Mattie/Ruthye) braves an expanse of water to finally make their point. I mean, if I taped a picture of Hailie Steinfeld over Ruthye and Jeff Bridges over Supergirl, this could read as True Grit.

But let's move beyond that because maybe this is just an homage.

The real opening point here is that this isn't a Supergirl story in any way.

This is a Ruthye story. Just like Mattie is the protagonist of True Grit, this is Ruthye's tale to tell. She does the narration. She drives the story. Supergirl is a part of Ruthye's story. She doesn't appear in the book until page 7. She is once again a guest star, a plot point, in someone else's story. And that is sad when you consider that King said this is THE Supergirl story to define her moving forward.

It also is not a Supergirl story because this isn't really a Supergirl that I recognize. Yes, in places, she mentions things that show that at some level she understands what it means to be a hero. But this is a self-destructive Supergirl going to a red sun planet solely to get drunk. She is violent. Her only reason for getting to this planet is to wallow in her own sadness. Yes, Kara has witnessed trauma. But she has always used that to fuel her desire to help others. Not drown in it. Also, this Supergirl (if we say this is still the New 52/Rebirth one) has already left the planet angrily to realize she needs to return, become a Red Lantern and learned from her rage, gone to Crucible to recognize her worth, dealt with her father's trauma, etc. She chose rage and went into space to hunt Rogol Zaar only to once again 'choose Earth'. From a history point of view, she has dealt with this before ad nauseum! If we chuck in the Omniverse, she has gone 'dark' innumerable times in the last 20 years, always realizing it isn't right. Why tread this again?

And I am not saying (nor have I ever said on this site) that I want a squeaky clean, saccharine Supergirl. I like that Supergirl is complex, relatable, fallible. But I also like that she is bright, optimistic, and has risen above.

But this isn't a Supergirl story because it doesn't need to be. If you removed Supergirl and put Titan's Starfire here, it reads the same. Put in Jessica Cruz and it reads the same. Put in Stalker or Renee Montoya or almost anyone else and it reads fine. Put in a brand new Red Sonja character and it reads the same.

Lastly, a lot of this reads like King trying to hard to make this book seem 'mature'. Having Kara curse 6 times and vomit in her post-binge hangover is an attempt to show how gritty this book is. But these are superficial ways of making this seem adult.

Sigh.

On to the specifics.


We start with Ruthye retelling the story of her unarmed father being killed by Krem. Krem leaves his sword, a weapon of high quality and value which will be used as the purse of her bounty.

On page two we get the first mention of Supergirl. Ruthye reflects how Supergirl will ultimately kill Krem at the end of the story.

I want you to think about that. 

If this plays out, King's influential and character re-setting story has Supergirl murdering someone.

That isn't Supergirl.

Sorry. That isn't my idea of Supergirl. That shouldn't be Supergirl.

We then get 4 more pages about Ruthye's home life. How her brothers talk a mean fight but don't act. How her mother is surprised that Ruthye would strike out on her own. Ruthye takes her father's unruly but swift steed into town. (Reminds me of Mattie Ross's use of  Little Blackie, an unruly and swift horse.)

 The bar fight scene was previewed a while back but worth briefly revisiting. 

First off, she is here because it is her birthday. Wouldn't Superman be throwing her a party? Wouldn't Jon want to hang with his cousin? Wouldn't she want to hang out with Ben Rubel and Belinda Zee (remember them)? Her foster father? She shouldn't feel this alone.

In the bar, the cursing, drunk Kara intervenes when the first bounty hunter Ruthye approaches tries to steal her sword. Supergirl comes to the rescue to regain the sword and dispatch this ruffian.

But she first asks him to wait so she won't spill any of the drink she has bought. She chugs the remainder of the bottle.

This is our opening moment for Supergirl. Self-pitying, cursing, violent, drunk.

Supergirl wakes up. Apparently in the interval, Ruthye has stripped Kara and put her in her costume. We can talk about consent issues here. Or how that is creepy. If Ruthye was male, I don't know if this would simply be forgotten.

Next, Supergirl says that no one was supposed to see her in costume. I would presume because she doesn't want to besmirch the family crest with this alcoholic bender. But if that was true, why have the S-shield so visible in the prior scene.

But we finally get to the pitch. Will Supergirl track down Krem?

Oooohh ...

Look at how real and gritty!

Supergirl hung over and vomiting!

At least briefly we see a glimpse of Supergirl in the midst of the tawdry.

Yes, she sought out a red sun planet because without her powers she can actually get drunk. Self-destructive way to deal with your feelings, isn't it? But I shouldn't be surprised with King. I might remind you in Heroes In Crisis, Lagoon Boy's therapy was to be persistently shot so he could feel pain.

At least she acknowledges she has responsibilities on Earth. She needs to return. And she also tells Ruthye not to kill people because that is wrong. 

Whew, two statements I can get behind.

But then again, we have heard on page two even the 'no killing' rule is mutable.

And it seems odd in a way that she would up and leave Ruthye this quickly given everything that happened before. Does she really want to leave Ruthye to her own devices, walking into bars again and dealing with murderers?

Once more we get a few pages showing the true grit of Ruthye. We hear how strong and brave she is as she swims the river to get to Supergirl. After all, this is Ruthye's story.

And, once again, she asks Supergirl's help with finding Krem. 

I will give King some respect here as he has this Kara say that Ruthye should want justice not vengeance. Life is compassion, not fury.

That is a sentiment I can get behind. It echoes a little of 'help, hope, and compassion for all'.

Before Supergirl can get too into her own backstory of losing her family, Krem shows up with the bar bounty hunter.

Krem buries an arrow in Kara's chest. Remember we are on a red sun world. How this doesn't kill her, I have no idea.

But then King mines one of the most tired plot tropes there can be. He has Krem shoot Krypto. 

Really? We are in 'Does the Dog Die' territory?

Or is this just to fast forward to Future's End?

Incensed that Krypto is shot, this Supergirl decides that maybe it is time for vengeance.

Even though she is vulnerable she charges. She takes two more arrows to the chest! How is she alive? 

She collapses and Krem jumps into her ship which has been auto-started to leave.(Why he would run into that thing since it is clear no one on this planet has seen anything like this before is a question best not asked. Also, why not wait and see if he can finish off the person he has perforated with arrows? But I guess that is another question best not asked. The plot demanded she chase him to other worlds, so here we are.)

But this is how this first issue of the new defining story of Supergirl closes. After hearing she will kill someone, after seeing her angsty, drunk, hung over, and sad, we see her shot with three arrows in the chest and left for dead.

So what can I say?
Succintly this is:

A rip off of True Grit?

Makes no sense for this Supergirl to be this sad and alone?

Isn't a Supergirl story; is instead a Ruthye story?

Is an immature way to make a 'mature' comic?

Isn't at all true to Supergirl's history?

All of the above.

Now I know I talked about the art in the prologue. But seriously, Evely and Lopes just sing here. Just look at the panels I have posted and drink it in. From panel progression to expressive work to action sequences to sunset skies, this is all beautiful.

But the story?

Overall grade: C-




19 comments:

  1. A 'C', eh? OK, I do see a glimmer of our Kara here...

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  2. C-

    And probably a whole letter grade higher because of the incredible art.

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  3. The C us a proper grade, gorgeous art but the narrator point of view of the story is at odds with the book title and the title character is mostly either missing or could be anyone else. Supergirl appears to be used for no good reason I can discern other than “Super” in the title would get additional pre-orders to go along with the ones generated by the names of the creators. I’m one of those pre-orders, my comic store knows I buy Supergirl and automatically signed me up. At this point the story is a generic vengeance fantasy done in a swords & sorcery milieu with very nice visual story telling, but that isn’t a category I read.

    Hopefully the book will bring more to the table than this first issue seems to promise, I’m not particularly interested in another 7 months of mopey Supergirl. Or an angry, depressed, edgy, vengeful, murderous one for that matter. I bought this because it’s Supergirl, and will give it another issue to show me why I should buy more, but I told my LCS today to take it off my pull list.

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  4. Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

    For the clothes, I understood that she had removed those that were damaged. Ruthye believes the costume is the kara's underwear. She says it when she sees Kara come out of the machine, "she's still in undergarnement".

    The joke is no more funny as a "mature" adult who swears and drinks.

    Meme dc superhero girl was more mature and dark with the destruction of krypton, the Gordon family moving for a better life or Karen getting harassed by Giganta.

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  5. Thanks for clarifying the 'damaged clothes' bit! That makes much more sense!

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  6. All of the above indeed. Thanks tor an excellent review of a piteous excuse for a Supergirl comic. As you say, there’s nothing Supergirl-specific here. Not powers, nor personality. I could appreciate the craft, but not the context. King should leave Kara fans out of it and let Ruthye stand on her own merits. Or rather, Charlie Portia’ merits.

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  7. I agree that Supergirl is, so far, not the main character. But some stories start this way, via a slow introduction.


    The solicit text is awful, which long ago set very poor expectations for the story, but half of what it reads does NOT appear in the issue or even between the lines. Supergirl does NOT "think she has enough." Not one tiny bit!!!! What were the editors or the writer of the solicitation thinking when they wrote that?

    What is on the page is that she is ready to go back to earth and continue as a hero who is needed! THE OPPOSITE.

    I disliked the stilted narration/dialog, the fussy use of English, and I fear it will get increasingly tiresome. It's slow reading and a bore. Once in a while King throws in some less ornate English, and I don't know why. Bad choices, or trying to inject some incongruity in what he hoped would be comic effect? (That can come across - in TV/film. It isn't easy to make it work in print, and maybe never does.)

    I'm not a fan of the color pallete and hope it gets more vibrant in other settings.

    Anyone notice Krypto has a secret identity in the earlier scenes? His super-collar is covered by a blue bandana. I think that's funny.

    The rest of my thoughts are contrarian. This is long, but a lot of people had a lot of negative thoughts about this, so this is a bit of a rebuttal.

    
People may choose to spend their birthday alone for different reasons. Not everyone likes a party. Given that, she gets drunk and gets sick. That's what happens if you drink excessively, so I don't mind the throwing up part, a natural consequence of overindulgence. King tried to employ some comedy in the timing of it, actually. And to humanize her.

 She's not a miserable drunk. She says she doesn't want to fight because it's her birthday.

    I think Melissa Benoist has played drunk on the show, and at other times has said she wishes alcohol had more effect - no?

    Why did Supergirl come here to get drunk? She says it was to get a break from thinking about her lost family . It's not that she's all alone, friendless, rejected and bitter and forced to spend her birthday alone. It' was her choice. She's just not yet able to compartmentalize and avoid thinking about who isn't there to enjoy it with her.

 Except for the drunkenness, and if she's never been 21 before I can allow it, everything else Supergirl said and did was in line with her best ideals. She did heroic things. She spoke of virtuous things, and tried to give Ruthye good counsel.She wants to get back to Earth where she feels she has purpose and a job to do. She says people need her.

    DC gave this release the full premium Tom King treatment - heavily promoted, 24 pages (2 extra), glossy paper and only card stock covers. (Which unfortunately does raise the price for digital readers, but still, it's the DC primo treatment. Maybe someday they will figure out how to not penalize digital buyers in this way.) They put a top tier artist on it, and a top tier artist to draw the variant cover.

    

I suspect (or at least hope) that Supergirl is not going to kill Krem. The climax of the story will surely not be to make Supergirl a hypocrite. Does anyone else expect a twist? This is a story being told by a young narrator, and we don't know how reliable a narrator she is. Who is she telling this story too? People don't tell stories like this in a vacuum. She has an audience, and she may be embellishing, or lying.

    We can't forget what King did to Wally West, but he has said it wasn't his idea - he planned something else, but DC made him do it. And I'm still hoping for a twist in Strange Adventures that redeems Adam Strange.

    So, I'm ready to see where this goes. Maybe King will surprise us.

    T.N.

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  8. There is something fortifying and even heady about something that turns out to be every bit as bad as one had anticipated. And this was actually worse, somehow despite being skull drunk on a red sun planet, Supergirl still forgets she has no powers and gets gratuitously cut up in a sword fight before of course stopping three arrows in her chest, "Blonde Sonja" is off to a rough start indeed.
    This is the very definition of "cheap heat" to fuel short term sales...but it'll have long term consequences, mark my words.
    I could snark on and on about this issue, but we've got eight months to go before Supergirl apparently finally kills someone (which seems to be DC's sick desire for the character since 2005) and becomes "Superwoman" and thus sent off to The Moon for a Time Out...so we've plenty of time for sarcasm I think.
    No, I'm just gonna reiterate that the estate of Charles "True Grit" Portis clearly has grounds for a lawsuit, because other than the SF setting and swords the movie is being recapitulated perfectly, right down to Kara "Rooster" Zor El being a bit of a supporting player in someone else's narrative...I wonder if like Cogburn she ends up dying alone and drunk somewhere off stage?
    Ah there goes that snark again, I cannot escape it, apologies.
    I agree with the above posters that this isn't "Supergirl" indeed she could easily be almost any DCU character up to and including Lois Lane in this plotline. Nonetheless, just because they are turning her into "Blonde Sonja" for eight months, doesn't mean they can't transform the Supergirl and abolish her from continuity, or at the very least convolute & darken her back story beyond redemption.
    This is the big picture to me, DC has desperately wanted to foist a darker meaner Supergirl on us for roughly sixteen years now, the graft has never ever taken but mostly because of sheer luck, creator reticence, scheduling issues and occasionally she has been written by someone who God Help Us, Cares About the Character. Those days are over now, We are being told to "like" this darker meaner Supergirl or get out, just like we were once told to go read Power Girl or get out post COIE #7. Just remember one thing, DC Comics turned Sterling Gates down when he pitched a "kick ass" year long story arc for Supergirl, just as they ignored signals from Gail Simone that she'd love to write Supergirl...waved them all off and approved this sh*t in a heartbeat. There is one thing I wanna say to all Supergirl Fans Out There, and I am saying it with Peace and Love, Marvel Panders to it's audience, and it Prospers of it, DC Comics treats it's audience like Hostages and Depends on Stockholm Syndrome to get sales. So please, all you Kara fans out there, DON'T wait around for "things to get better" because they won't, believe me, this isn't my first rodeo. Just remember all the good pitches they turned down before the pounced on this plagiarized fandango.
    I would love it, if someone could find out IF DC Comics is quietly hearing pitches on a "New Supergirl" character? Someone "reimagined completely" not Kara Zor El and disconnected from her "Hope Help & Compassion" tagline, a New Girl of Steel more in line with the"Severity, Cynicism & Self Pity" herein depicted. Because, this Supergirl is gonna become "Superwoman" and get shipped off to the Moon where we will never hear from her again, count on it.


    As always, I am grateful to our host, for his hard work, and the opportunities he gives us all..

    JF

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  9. Is this Kara Zor-El?

    Now that depends on how much Supergirl you have read.

    If you have read Kara Zor-Els whole history, the answer is easy. It is most definitely not. It's almost the opposite.

    But if you have read less or maybe nothing. Then the answer isn't as simple. If you have only read New52... or maybe only the last runs by Houser and Marguerite you might maybe think that this version could be plausible. Even held against those issues the depiction is jarring and especially looking at how the Houser run ended. But still you might believe it.

    There is a large influx of fans from the show that knows nothing. Those are easily influenced by people who know little. Take for instance the YouTube video that has been making the rounds claiming that the TV series has nothing to do with comic Supergirl. It was made by someone who had lacking knowledge and insight about the influence of Sterling Gates run and the original version of Kara on the show. The misinformation propagates like wildfire until it becomes a truth that the TV show has nothing to do with comic book Kara.

    Now what do I want to say with this. In parts truth is the shared perception of the world. It is a bad definition of the truth but it is one that matters.

    When the opinion of the many outweighs the knowledge of the few, truth no longer matters as much.

    If 30000 misinformed people thinks that this is Kara, and 20 people who actually read her comics says it isn't, face off, the latter will lose.

    DC failed time and time again to refurbish Kara into this lesser version of her. But I think that this is the point where they succeeded to redefine the truth. A combination of Tom King fans coupled with the misinformation of the famous video and support in parts by some of the of the Supergirl fandom collective has created the perfect storm for their vision.

    This is no longer the Kara of old. Equal to and better than Kal. This is the flawed angry version. The version that will ensure that the mantle is handed to another boy when Kal's copyright comes to an end while Kara who never became worthy becomes a paranthesis tombstone on the moon.

    There will be custodians of Kara's history who doesn't forget. We still celebrate the work of Binder despite DCs erasure of him. We will still celebrate the notion of the better Kara.

    But I think this is it for her for the foreseeable future in comics, movies, animation and TV.

    DC will keep delivering this take of her from now on. And that sort of answers my opening question.

    Yes this Kara Zor-El.

    From now on.

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  10. Thank you all for the great comments, insights, and passion for the character. It’s your enthusiasm that keeps me here doing this!

    I do tro to balance my lengthy history with those who have on,y read her since the early 2000s. I read a review of this story which said ‘this certain,y isn’t your typicalSuoergirl story and I wondered what the reviewer was basing that in. I’m nobgate keeper. But I need to know that not everyone reveres the Bronze Age stuff like I do.

    Anyways. 7 more issues of this.I’m sure the book will sell very well and as a result the dollars will dictate the destiny.

    Shame.

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  11. I however refuse to despair, insolent personalities feed off of it, and that lot can starve a little I say. Things look bad for Supergirl in the comics (she is still a presence on TV and in cartoons so there is that...) but remember this is DC, and DC can screw up a two car funeral. And this whole sorry mishaugas has been a long time coming too, the chickens will come home to roost someday. Unil then, I intend to be free and fair with my opinions I advise all my friends to do the same.

    JF

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  12. John (somewhere in England)June 20, 2021 at 8:20 AM

    It's possible that Ultragirl from Crime Syndicate may turn out to be a significantly more appealing character than the 'real' Supergirl from Woman of Tomorrow.

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  13. Professor FeetlebaumJune 20, 2021 at 8:13 PM

    "But this isn't a Supergirl story because it doesn't need to be. If you removed Supergirl and put Titan's Starfire here, it reads the same. Put in Jessica Cruz and it reads the same. Put in Stalker or Renee Montoya or almost anyone else and it reads fine. Put in a brand new Red Sonja character and it reads the same."

    There just may be something to that observation. Here's a quote I came across from an interview Tom King did with Russ Burlingame for Comicbook.com on May 23, 2019. The subject then was Heroes in Crisis. King said: "As I've said many times before, I don't pick the characters for my story; I give my plot to the editors and then the editors pick the characters for me."

    "Nuff said?

    It's a mystery why DC insists on pushing this dark vision of Supergirl when it has never sold. I had hoped we would be done with this nonsense when Dan Didio left. I should have known better. It's especially galling to learn that Sterling Gates pitched an idea and was turned down. Gates' Supergirl run is legendary, and you would think having him back would be a major selling point, equivalent to Jack Kirby returning to Fantastic Four or Chris Claremont writing X-Men again. But Gates has committed the unpardonable sin of liking Supergirl, and we can't have that.

    (I've always been perplexed by the idea that Gates was let go because he "wrote Supergirl like a 40 year old woman". What was his plan? To have Kara move to the suburbs and join a bowling league? Next issue! Supergirl battles the menace of... CRABGRASS!!! Don't miss it!!!)

    In some of the interviews, Tom King says that he read the early Otto Binder stories and even spoke with Steve Orlando about Supergirl. But he gets Kara's original origin wrong, saying that she was 14 when Krypton exploded. He also said that his approach to Super-people is to "let them be themselves." But Supergirl certainly wasn't herself at all in this first issue. I will not be at all surprised if Supergirl heads to the moon after this series. Maybe she'll run across Alice Kramden.

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  14. Agreed Prof, but just remember "Moon Superwoman" is a bloodless version of "COIE #7", she'll be "kicked upstairs in Pentagon Parlance and completely forgotten while DC Debuts some new cheap heat hackwork "New Supergirl". As I've said before, I am convinced they are listening to those pitches even now. The joke is on us though, soon enough DC will HATE their New Supergirl and impose the same disgraceful treatment on her, count on it.
    Y'know, this whole "Ruthye" story, could just as easily feature "Madame .44" (DC's sadly forgotten "Distaff Frontier Vigilante") or even Lady Blackhawk, since she has been established as a hard drinking type character per Gail Simone.
    But, I chose the most implacable radical option...Hope.

    :)

    JF

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  15. "The first mention of Supergirl. Ruthye reflects how Supergirl will ultimately kill Krem at the end of the story."

    I wouldn't count on it. It could get to that point in the story and go (This is when Supergirl finishes him off once and for all. At least, that was supposed to happen. Supergirl was better than that in the end. She rose above petty vengeance etc. etc. etc.)

    I could totally see King making that move. Having Supergirl out of character, taking her down peg by peg, only to throw in at the end how she is the greatest Superhero of all.

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  16. Professor FeetlebaumJune 21, 2021 at 2:28 AM

    What's also maddening about all this, is that Supergirl could have been on this planet for all kinds of humanitarian reasons, and been approached by Ruthye for help. The drunkenness, the cursing, the vomiting, Krypto getting shot-all unnecessary sensationalism, done to shock and nothing more.

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  17. I am starting to think that this is going to happen.

    That Kara will become 'Superwoman' so a new person can start using the name 'Supergirl'. Then Kara disappears.

    Such dread.

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  18. Okay, so I caved and bought the issue. To say it was a tough read is an understatement. I think it's a bit obvious saying that Kara will kill someone so early on... so, I hope there's a twist to come where she won't choose to take a life. That being said... who knows? I'm very torn now if I want to read the rest of this series. I want to know if there will indeed be a twist, but my experience of reading Tom King's work in the past says there won't, and do I really want to read several more issues with Kara becoming more and more angry, leading to her killing someone? If there's no twist, I will be so gutted, but it'll be my own fault for continuing to buy the books and reading them.

    I remember (I think) it was Batman & Robin Eternal.. an early issue where Batman is standing with a smoking gun having (seemingly, obviously) just shot someone. Of course, this wasn't the case at all. But that was clever writing and I don't think Tom King is that great, but I hope he does surprise us with Kara.

    Even if Supergirl doesn't kill... the story leading up to that final revelation (if there is one) will still mean some tough reading ahead.

    I think C- was generous, Anj!

    Thanks for the platform, Anj; great review! All opinions in this comment are strictly my own. :)

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  19. Tom King said (paraphrasing) that one of his goals is for the book to lead to more for Supergirl. Would he seriously mean some other Supergirl, and not Kara Zor-El?

    He's already written in #1 (as I wrote above) that she feels needed back on earth. (And, how many DC heroes would even put it that way, in those words? Besides Superman, who talks like that?) That she has a job - a responsible job, in her words.

    I wonder if King would even be willing to write yet another story where he destroyed a character? After what he was forced by DC to do to Wally West, and the abuse he suffered over it on social media, he's really going to sign up to destroy another character with a huge fan base?

    I think even he would have his limits, and pass on the assignment.

    I really do see this issue in a better light than everyone else. Everyone is viewing this in the worst possible way. Understandable - it's PTSD.

    The Infected story was a total disaster, so bad that DC is actually treating it as if it simply didn't happen. (Otherwise, Supergirl would not be flying about on earth, making appearances in Superman stories. She'd be hunted by the military, and not feel "needed." Not yet, anyway.)

    On the other hand, the Red Lantern storyline started out troubling but turned out okay in the end.

    The 2004/2005 - 2011 Supergirl run started out badly, but even then had some good stories, and some intriguing stories, and then after a few years had the long Gates/Igle long run, and then the book did end up well. What I would call ups and downs.

    The Infected storyline was one of the worst in Supergirl history, for sure. Just about anything will be an improvement, which is actually good news.

    T.N.

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