Friday, September 24, 2021

Review: Supergirl Woman Of Tomorrow #4


Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow #4 came out this week and was the best issue of the series and also the worst issue of the series. 

I have talked in the past about my issues with this series. The overly dramatic prose of the narrator. Ruthye as the point of view character in a book which is supposed to star Supergirl. The overly dark and depressed Supergirl, cursing and drinking her way through the book en route to a destiny where she apparently kills someone. 

Writer Tom King likes nothing more than emotionally broken, despondent characters and his Kara fits that same demographic as Mister Miracle, The Vision, and Adam Strange. Heck, even his Wally West was a traumatized murderer until wiser minds retconned things. 

The crazy thing about this issue is that the first half reads much more like the classic Supergirl that I am looking for. You know the Supergirl who wants to help people as much as she can so that they don't suffer as much as she has. Yes, there is trauma in her past but she has moved through it. She isn't wallowing in it. She fiercely wants to stop it from happening again. And for a while, King gives us that Kara.

But about halfway through the issue we take a hard turn into that darker material, And this back half I see a Supergirl I simply don't recognize. And I have been reading her for more than 40 years. I have been a fan of hers for that long. And I have celebrated her her for 13 years. I don't know who this Supergirl is. That saddens me. Because as this is a Tom King book, the (as he put it) 'the little trade that shows you how great she is', I don't know if we will move away from this. I mean when will we see Scott Free Mister Miracle again?

One thing I have never complained about is  the art. Artist Bilquis Evely has serenely powerful strokes,  a sort of  ornate penciling that just sings. Her Kara is angelic. The expressive work is powerful. The alien worlds are unique and odd and well, alien. Add to that Matheus Lopes wonderful color palate, a mix of peaceful oil paintings when needed and garish neon when necessary, makes this book one of the more beautiful books on the racks.

If only I could get behind this story. But I simply can't. 

Remember, we start the issue with that Supergirl who is helping and heroic.

She and Ruthye are planet hopping, always one step behind Krem and Barbond's Brigands. Always arriving after that group has wreaked havoc on the landscapes and populace. And there is Supergirl trying to help whoever is left. 

Here on planet Parnatt, Ruthye tells us that she never felt motherly or nurturing on her world like other kinswomen. So when the book opens with a crying baby sitting in a field of corpses, Ruthye doesn't know what to do.

But there is Kara, consoling the baby and saying everything will be okay. 

As this is all being told in a flashback from Ruthye, we also learn that these two will walk together for 'months'. As Krypto was near dead supposedly weeks ago, I worry.

On Escalm, we see Supergirl volunteering in a hospital, feeding a victim of Krem. It is clear Krem is a vicious and sadistic killer, slashing and stabbing his way through innocents with glee. 

This man was severely injured by Krem. The devastation by the Brigands is so profound that the facility is overcrowded. This man probably wouldn't be fed for hours if Supergirl wasn't there. 

We learn a lot of backstory about this man and his friend who was killed. We learn a lot about Krem. But Supergirl is silent, spooning in the meal. At the very least, this is a Supergirl who is kind and helpful. 
Then they are off to planet Tilluis where they encounter a man trying to dig individual graves for those mowed down by the Brigands. He seems old, his back aching. The leaders have said if the dead aren't buried in individual graves by sundown they will be moved into a mass grave. And somewhere in the pile is this man's daughter.

Again we see that helpful Kara, sympathizing and helping. She asks if she can help, saying as a neighbor she has to do what she can to help others. 

In a blink, she digs all the graves, even locating the man's child. 

Evely does such wonderful work here, showing the earnestness in Kara's face throughout the scene, a faint smile on her face when the man accepts her help.

But then we turn a little bit ...
Then to Urrralann, a land of Kirby-esque giant warriors, dripping in Krackle and colored in neons. 

We veer a little into Heroes in Crisis territory here. We meet a warrior named Irasaan who was offworld when the Brigands and Krem wiped everyone out. To help her with this trauma, Kara curses at the giant telling Irasaan to @#$%-ing hit her. After smashing on Kara for a bit, the Urrralann warrior breaks down and cries. 

Now you can say that this is Kara again helping someone. But this struck me like some of the odd therapies being done in Sanctuary. Remember when Lagoon Boy kept shooting himself with lasers to feel pain as part of his 'healing'? Is Kara screaming at this warrior that if she was actually a fierce giant she would have saved her family helping? What type of therapy is that?
Then off to Tyrrcoomn, another planet overrun by the Brigands. But these aliens keep detailed media records of all that happened. Supergirl will not allow Ruthye to watch the carnage. 

Now this panel is a great Supergirl panel. She won't let Ruthye be exposed to those images. That is heroic enough. And yes she says she wants to save her dog. But she also says she is trying to save 'someone'. I think that 'someone' is Ruthye. Kara is trying to teach this young girl that vengeance isn't the only path. Maybe that killing is wrong.

Of course, it could be that 'someone' is Krypto.
She emerges from the newsroom changed. She took it all in. The coloring here is wonderful, subtle shade around the eyes showing Kara has been crying.

The art here is just gorgeous. The door leading into the record room an overly ornate  entryway which seems to scream mausoleum. 

Evely needs to win something for her art here.
You know at this point I was thinking 'maybe King gets it'.

But then that sharp turn.

On the planet Yahllahh, Kara stands by while an angry mob stones a captured Brigand to death.

Someone wearing an S-shield sat there and watched this painful execution. Of course, King's script calls for a page with 4 panels showing the stones hitting the Brigand surrounded by 'crack' sound effects. Even Ruthye is surprised Kara didn't step in.

Please just dwell on this. Supergirl bore witness to this.

That is horrifying. 
That is not what someone from the super-family should do.
But more importantly, that is not something this Supergirl would do. 

And most importantly, it is not the things I want to read Supergirl doing.

Then off to Ecvick, a planet of peace. 

When Supergirl sees the abattoir left by the Brigands in a monastery, she finally breaks.

Perhaps overcome by her own PTSD, perhaps finally sick of seeing all the horrors she has borne witness to, she says she needs to scream. But a super-scream here will destroy everything.

She flies into the nearby sun to scream.

King lays out his philosophy about Supergirl over these pages. She is constantly having to rein in her abilities. 

This effort made her live 'a life in pain'. She 'moved through strife and sorrow'. And yet, despite that, she would always ask someone if they needed help.

That's right, King believes Supergirl lived a life in pain. 

Not bright and optimistic. Not fierce and determined. A life of strife and sorrow and pain. 

Someone so traumatized that she fled her adopted world and family to drink alone on her birthday. So traumatized that she needs to collapse into a fetal position in the sun and cry.

No joy. No hope. No love.

Strife and sorrow and pain. 

Is that really Supergirl? Not for me.

Finally on Nycilan they see things so terrible that Ruthye doesn't even describe it.

Supergirl realizes they are close to finally catching up with Krem. There is no need to Ruthye to continue. Kara will come back and get her.

Of course, Ruthye objects. She can handle it. After all, when did Supergirl first see terror.

Head bowed, Supergirl says it was when she was a girl. You can see the weight of it on her face, so well done by Evely. And that is when you know she wants to spare Ruthye from that sort of trauma.

But then Supergirl acquiesces and takes Ruthye along.

So this is exactly what I expected we would get in a Tom King Supergirl book. She is  shredded emotionally from trauma. She sat back and watched someone be stoned to death. She is suffering, in pain, walking the line between sadness and strife. There is no happiness, no growth, no joy, no love. That doesn't jibe with the last couple of years of Supergirl in Bendis' super-books. That doesn't work with the Steve Orlando Rebirth take. And frankly, it doesn't work with the 60+ years the character has been around.

The art and the colors are so fantastic. It is a shame that they are giving us this.

Perhaps the worst thing about this is that I feel a bit complicit. I was there cheering with King's Mister Miracle, never thinking about what long term fans of that character thought of the suicidal rendition there. And now I am reaping what I sowed, a Tom King Supergirl.

Overall grade: C (raised a full grade because the art is so unbelievably good)

24 comments:

Martin Gray said...

It’s not your fault for praising Mr Miracle, Anj. And it’s not mine for praising it, along with Omega Men and Vision… King doesn’t have to keep going to the same themes, dripping misery all over our favourite comic universes.

Like you, I was cheered by the Kara-cterisation at the start of this issue. Heck, I was very pleased by last time. But then the heel turn… It’s like King deliberately gives us hope, only to take it away again.

Darkseid is… Tom King

Do we keep buying this? I’m terrified as to how issue six’s promised appearance of Comet will turn out.

And read that panel again, she out and out says Krypto is still with us, somehow. It HAS to be the Phantom/Survival Zone.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to make a decision of whether those creature stoning the brigand was right or wrong from their view. We know little of their culture and how far their society has come. They might not know better. Be incapable of empathy or otherwise.

We do however know a lot about Kara. She knows this is wrong. She knows capital punishment is questionable at best and stoning should never be done. This would most likely be considered a war crime in her culture given that the enemy combatant at this point has already lost.

Your responsibilities do not end when you leave your country, or in this case planet. If I were to travel to another country and commit horrible actions that are legal there I would still be held accountable in my home country for those actions. Yet Kara is casually watching someone being stoned to death, and with a child nonetheless.

It's disgusting.

This isn't hard to comprehend. If someone I called friend was attending stonings while abroad, they would not only be dead to me, but I would find out whether their actions constituted a crime and leave the information to the police.

This Kara would be a monster on Earth and she is a monster in space. Emotional trauma is an explanation but never an excuse.

The fandom that accepts this Kara as Supergirl is not a fandom I want to be a part of. People are giving way to much leeway for this books transgressions because of the fabulous art. But that's art that comes from the same artist that was willing to draw Supergirl shrugging at a stoning with a child at her side. Even beautiful art can be ugly.

Aaron said...

I'd rather watch the TV show than read this garbage. Or would I? Hmm. It amazes me really, TK is very capable of pulling on the heart strings in his books when he wants to; he can do it... so I thought he would be well suited to write for Kara (I still don't know if this story is DC's idea or directly from the mind of TK). It seems to me DC are taking a general turn for the worse (just my personal opinion), I haven't read anything great from them for awhile now. But what with Future State etc. it seems things will get worse before they get better, if they even do.
My anxiety about the ending of this title, you know, Kara actually killing someone, is getting worse by the issue. I seriously don't want to see that. Still, maybe some small hope exists.

I'm approaching my mid-forties now... so maybe I'm just out of touch. But if that's the case, I'm quite happy to be a relic.

Great review, Anj. And thank you for the platform. :)

Martin Gray said...

As I understand it, from hearing him talk, Tom King comes up with the story and then asks DC which character he should use… says it all.

Aaron said...

Yes I get that impression too from listening/reading TK interviews. Unfortunately. And it does indeed say quite a lot.

Anj said...

It is crazy.

He is the wrong writer for this character.

I stand by my claim that Starfire would make more sense.

Anonymous said...

What's really crazy is how much praise I see for this book outside of this blog. A lot of people are loving it.

Aaron said...

Anonymous, you’re right... It’s not so much the fact that this Supergirl book is disappointing, but how much positive support it has that also alarms me. Now, don’t get me wrong, people that love this book aren’t wrong at all; I simply wish that DC had more respect for a character that though not as brutal as Batman still nonetheless chooses to see the best in people and has a strict moral code. Well, I thought Kara has a moral code. Having a moral code is what made Superman (and Bruce Wayne) awesome to me, but especially Supergirl; her compassion and morality is what cemented me as a fan; she inspires, she motivates and encourages positively. She makes errors sure; but she learns and goes forward with enthusiasm and optimism, that’s what’s relatable, that’s the role model.
What the heck are DC thinking?

Anonymous said...

Why is Supergirl constantly being drawn with a Jughead needle-nose that is slightly purple in color? Is she hitting the sauce again? I'd drink if I were her, and Tom King was my writer....
As for "thought-provoking mental tussles", there is nothing particularly complicated about stoning a someone to death, it's bronze age barbarism no matter who the convicted may be... the fact that it's a spectator sport, that Supergirl quietly indulges speaks volumes about the plunge poor Kara is about to take. As for as this comic is concerned, its a perfect example of what they call in professional wrestling "cheap heat", easy-@ss taunts and teasing to get a audience riled up over the short term.
Say what you like about the "Woke" Supergirl on the CW, she'd a stopped that stoning in an Argo City Minute.
If Supergirl is somehow in physical/psychic pain from her own damn powers, what kind of crucifixion is Kal El undergoing, he who lived under our yellow sun from infancy? You'd think he'd be crazy by now from it all...but I digress, that was more cheap heat designed to make it easier to exile SuperGirl/Woman/Whatevs off panel while DC Corporate debuts it's new improved Supergirl. I don't even think we are a year away from it quite frankly.
My Ghod, Ruthye is a ghastly little prig, obtuse, verbose and unsympathetic, I wish Supergirl would hand her over to the DCF sans remorse, but the vengeful moppet must in on the kill, "True Grit" hath decreed it.

Alas this is DC, they tried to kill Supergirl off in 1985 and they succeeded for 19 years, now they are doing something far more insidious, they are making her tainted and hateful, if they cannot exterminate her, they'll just make her unpleasant and easy to ignore.

"You nerds still reflectively attacking the author of this mini-series because he isn't giving you feel-good pablum to swallow"...no I'm attacking this author because he's ripping off Charles Portis' estate with a cheap heat evisceration of my favorite, if that makes me a nerd, so be it *shrug*
I'm starting to get awfully nostalgic for Don Heck's scratchy lifeless pencils and Leo Dorfman's phoned-in scriptwriting.
But as my old philosophy prof in college used to say "Don't Sweat It, Salvation is Right Around the Corner".

JF

Anonymous said...

KET why do you keep coming here if you are going to start with name-calling the other fans the first thing you do? You know it will only lead to Anj having to moderate your posts. If you love the writing that's a perfectly valid opinion. You can just say so without trolling Anj and his readers.

Anj said...

Thanks folks.
But I just remove his comments now.
Hope you don’t mind.

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

The comic of supergirl is turning into a cute picture book. English is not my mother tongue, i have a hard time with all this gibberish.

Thank you Anj for the review, i can better understand what is happening thanks to you.

I don't want to give my opinion on this adventure, i saw an upcoming cover with Comet the super horse / centaur / boyfriend telephate thing. I dare not imagine what will happen.My only consolation is the new eslword in sof game of throne / mediaval version, i hope Kara will be there.

Aaron said...

My apologies to all.. Anj, could you please delete my response to KET? I don't know how to do it myself. (up to you, of course) I responded harshly and without thinking and I wasn't in a good place after reading his comment. I don't like feeling like that. Again, my apologies for my being harsh. I should've thought first, I should've been more rational. I'm sorry.

Anj said...

Removed Aaron. No need to apologize.

It's okay All is well.

Anonymous said...

"My only consolation is the new eslword in sof game of throne / mediaval version, i hope Kara will be there."

If you are talking about Dark Knights of Steel, Supergirl appears in the cover of third issue:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/E_gaxpGVgAE8phI?format=jpg&name=large

Anonymous said...

I won't ever complain again about Mort Weisinger's text dense silver age version of Supergirl/Superman, that stuff is terse and Hemingway-esque compared to Ruthye's feckless interminable blather.
:)
Oh "The Dark Knights of Steel" how is Supergirl getting killed this time? Stabbed to death with a kryptonite sword that was meant for Kal El? Anyone wanna give me action on that?

"Salvation is right around the corner"
:)

JF

Aaron said...

Thank you.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

If she had wanted to, Supergirl could have stopped that stoning without lifting a finger. Her heat vision could have made those rocks too hot to handle.

I suppose all this carnage and misery left by Krem is to somehow justify Kara killing him in the end. He probably does deserve to die, but I don't want Supergirl to be the one to do it. I'm still hoping for some kind of surprise ending. Would King telegraph the ending like that?

"As I understand it, from hearing him talk, Tom King comes up with the story and then asks DC which characters he can use. Says it all."

Yes, it does. Martin, maybe you read King's interview with Comicbook.com where he said "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."

So I guess that characters are basically interchangable. It didn't have to be Supergirl chasing around with Ruthye. It could just as well have been Starfire or Metamorpho or Peter Porkchops.

If Tom King wants to write about damaged heroes, I wish he would just create his own characters and leave the rest of the DC Universe alone. We've come a long way since Alan Moore was forbidden to use the Charlton characters in Watchmen, and had to come up with a new lineup.

Anonymous said...

"I suppose all this carnage and misery left by Krem is to somehow justify Kara killing him in the end." Oh it's definitely all that, no question, but what's worse, click on over to twitter, people are falling for it!
Well, the joke is on then, they won't have that version of Supergirl much longer, once she transitions to being "The Miserable Super-Spinster of the Moon" (AKA "Future State Superwoman") she won't be heard from again. This is all about getting rid of Kara Zor El and "rebooting Supergirl", I guarantee you DC is listening to pitches even as I write this...

Mind you, I hope I am wrong, but given DC's past performance re Supergirl I don't think I am..

JF

Anonymous said...

It's quite clear that current DC aren't interested in classic Supergirl and that they are looking for a change that brings more dollars. Whether this is it remains to be seen. They gained a lot of readers bringing in Tom King with this version, but it cost them among the regular fans including me.

The question is if the King readers are here for the long run. There's not much sales data to go on, but looking at the number of comixology reviews we can see a sharp drop with each issue and the review count are now at infected numbers when it got cancelled.

Critic and user reviews have also dropped by more than half during the same period.

Whether these observations correlate with in store sales remains to be seen, but chances are that the loyalty of the new fans is shortlived.

If this fails what does that mean for Kara? A new dark age? I hope not, but I'd rather keep a good memory of what was than see the character twisted for sales. DC has better characters to tell these kind of stories.

Anonymous said...

"What's So Funny About Hope, Help & Compassion?"


:)

JF

Professor Feetlebaum said...

I can think of one possible "out" to the problem of Supergirl killing Krem.
King seemingly gave away the ending when he had Ruthye narrate back in issue 1 that "Supergirl delivered the fatal blow".

Now this story is being told by Ruthye several decades after it happened. These are Ruthye's memories, and as others have pointed out, they may not be 100 percent accurate.

What if things didn't happen as she remembered? Wnat if Ruthye killed Krem, and what if she was so traumatized by what she had done (even though she wanted Krem dead) that in her mind, she put the killing onto Supergirl?

Yes, it's a lot of "what iffin".

As for Comet, I hope he comes through this better than Krypto. We'll have to wait and see. I'd rather not have him as the horse/ centaur/ boyfriend/ telepath. Just your typical, average, run of the mill everyday horse with super powers.

Anonymous said...

"the horse/ centaur/ boyfriend/ telepath" - also comedian and jockey I think!

"There's not much sales data to go on" - there's this info at least from Comichron:

#1 - 38,000
#2 - 31,000

No numbers for August yet.

They come up with the DC sales figures by extrapolating from the order numbers they get from a sampling of retail stores - which they say is a good-sized sample. As it's always been, the count is the sales to retailers, not the sales through to readers.

Anyway, that's better than the last series which hovered around 20,000 by the end, and is better than many current DC series, though these are not earth-shattering numbers.

But in terms of profits, it's better than it appears, because even the main covers are card stock. DC benefits from the higher price everyone is forced to pay. Perhaps It's equivalent to selling 50,000 of a regular cover, something like that.

T.N.

Aaron said...

Professor Feetlebaum... Great points. My only concern is that if there is such a "twist" coming, I feel it needs to be soon, otherwise the pacing of this arc could be a bit off. Here's hoping you're right though. :)