Thursday, December 23, 2021

Review: Supergirl Woman Of Tomorrow #6

With the Christmas Holiday looming, I decided to get this review out quickly. So welcome to the review of Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow #6 by writer Tom King, artist Bilquis Evely, and colorist Mateus Lopes. 

To be frank, I have not liked the story in this series. While the art is spectacular, the crass, drunken, utterly despondent Kara is not the sort of Supergirl I want to read. The overly verbose Ruthye has dominated the page and much of the plot making this a 'sort of' Supergirl book. This relentless misery isn't what I traditionally look for in a Supergirl book.

But credit where credit is due. This issue is the best of the series so far. It showcases a strong and resilient Kara who has lived through such trauma it is incredible she is even walking. And yet, here she is. 

That doesn't mean that I don't have some serious issues with it. 

King has clearly read Supergirl back issues. In this issue he brings Comet back. But while the super-horse serves a purpose in the plot, King doesn't give us much to work with here. It feels like prolonged fan service, like him putting flame wings in a prior issue.

Moreover, King has read the Supergirl origin stories in the past. He gives us her origin here. The problem is this is King's version of Kara's origin. King thrives on having his characters have PTSD, having witnessed trauma and having them suffer. For Supergirl, King picks and chooses the worst parts of her history and forces her into the middle of the events. But this is the first time any of this happens the way King says it does. That means he changed her origin to make it more traumatic for no other reason than to amp up the violence and death she has seen. I'll explain more in the issue review itself. But having King reconfigure the origin to serve his purpose of darkening Kara's story seems self-serving. Her origin was traumatic enough. 

As always, I have little bad to say about the work Evely and Lopes bring here. The issue is a cosmic horse race intermixed with flashbacks of the dying Krypton. Evely and Lopes make it all just powerful to witness.

On to the book.

Ruthye again is our narrator. But here, she is retelling Kara's origin. It seems Kara feared she might die when she faced Krem again and felt Ruthye should know the truth.

The two do finally square off, albeit briefly. Krem has another Mordru Globe, the magic device that ever-seeks its target and sends them far away. With the globe unleashed, Kara has no choice but to run.

I have spoken enough about how King makes Kara curse like a sailor. It is ever-present in this issue. I don't mind the occasional curse word for emphasis. But *every* page in the present, nearly every panel she speaks in, she curses. It doesn't make her mature or gritty.

In between scenes of Kara's race, we cut to Argo City. We see how Kara's life went from being a brainy kid in advanced math classes to living in the rubble of the ruined city. 

We see her again unable to sleep peacefully as she remembers it all

We know from last issue that Kara couldn't outrun the Mordru Globe on her own. So this time she calls upon her friend, Comet the Super-Horse.

Okay, for long time Supergirl fans, we know all about the Super-Horse from the Silver Age. But outside of Landry Walker and Eric Jones Cosmic Adventures, we haven't seen Comet in about 50 years.

King gives us no explanation or exposition or introduction to Comet. We just see Kara hop on and tell him to fly. 

Now I have to say I love this moment, a high-riding Kara in what is essentially True Grit in space. I love Comet. But what about the new fans.

Also, remember that Kara started this quest to catch up to Krem to get a sample of his poison to save Krypto. If she had a ultra-fast space-faring horse, why would she ever go on a slow moving ship? Why not, once powered, call on Comet to catch up to Krem sooner. 

But that wouldn't fit the story that King is telling. So instead we get this prolonged cameo.

A quick history lesson. 

In the Silver Age, the events go as follows. Krypton explodes. Argo is blasted away. The ground turns to Kryptonite. Lead shields are placed on the ground. A year later Kara is born. A storm pierces the dome and lead shielding. Kara is rocketed away.

In the Jeph Loeb post-Crisis reintroduction, Kara is 15 and is sent to Earth when Krypton explodes to care for Superman. There is no Argo City until Geoff Johns Brainiac story. Brainiac destroys it. Zor-El and Alura remain alive.

In the New 52, Kara is again around 15 and rocketed to Earth when Krypton explodes. There is an Argo City but it is a tomb orbiting a blue sun. Rebirth basically plays out the same.

So the events we are about to learn in this issue, Tom King is making up his own version.

We start with Kara witnessing death and destruction as Krypton explodes. She sees her neighbors disemboweled and dead babies and people crushed and burned. Being this old when Krypton explodes is only true in the post-2000 DCU.

She then is alive on Argo City when it is blown free but the ground turns to Kryptonite. People begin dying, including her mother Alura. Kara is holding her mother's hand when she dies. Kara on Argo is only true in the 1950's origin.

At the very least, this Alura gives an almost Pa Kent death bed request, telling Kara to be good. 

The ground turns to Kryptonite so Zor-El has the idea to lay down lead shielding. 

Everyone has to pitch in, including Kara. We see her swinging a sledge hammer to pound the lead plates down. Even when some of the adults give in to despair and give up the work, Kara continues on.

This sort of unwillingness to give up is going to be a key part of this origin story and I like it. But I would hope that all that resiliency would make Kara have moved past this grief instead of be consumed by it. Yes, she can remember and feel it. But I would rather her be steadfast instead of crying in a sun, living a life of pain. 

But a reminder, in no version of Supergirl's history from 1959 to now was she present when the lead plates were laid down. So King has her seeing another wave of people die because it suits his story. This is his version of her story, the most depressing it could be.

As in the original origin from Action #252, a meteor shower bursts Argo's dome and destroys the lead shielding. People again begin to die. This is the end of Krypton, finally.

But Zor-El remembers enough of Jor-El's plans to try and make a rocket for Kara to escape in. (Why King has to have Zor call Jor 'frivolous' is beyond me. Just another layer of friction in this story of anguish.)

Much like Alura's 'do good' speech, I very much like that Zor says that as long as Kara is alive there is hope.

At least we are moving away from the Alura who was bitter and angry and a Zor who was brainwashing his daughter, drugging his daughter, or becoming the Cyborg Superman.

You can see that this terrible life that Kara has witnessed has hardened her. She tells Zor-El that she is no longer a little girl.

But I love how Zor-El says she will always be his little girl. As a dad, I understand this sentiment.

Still, can you see how King cherry-picked the most depressing parts of all of Kara's history and just shoved her into them. He has to break his characters down so why not shuffle the Supergirl origin deck to suit his purpose.

Because now, because of King's manipulations, for the first time since 1959, Kara has witnessed an apocalyptic event on Krypton three times. She has buried a chunk of the population three times. She has witnessed death and destruction three times 

I suppose for a man who made Adam Strange a killer, Mister Miracle suicidal, and Wally West a psychopath, this is mild.

I haven't mentioned Evely and Lopes much so far. I apologize. Their work speaks for itself. But I love how the render Comet and the streaking horse race. In particular, I loved this page where Comet goes so fast he breaks through some barrier and lands he and Kara into a ethereal land of black and white. This page with its swirling colors and black inky strands shows that piercing of the veil nicely. 

We don't get any explanation of where this place is or what happens. We are told that wherever this is has rendered the Mordru Globe powerless. A little too easy. But is this place heaven? Is King making a backdoor homage to DCCP #29?

Zor-El puts her in the rocket and reminds her of Alura's dying words to be good.

King reminds us how the weight of Krypton remains on Kara's shoulders every day. 

I don't know what to say anymore. 

I have a vision of Supergirl as someone who has witnessed tragedy (although not this much) and has overcome. A person bright and optimistic and willing to lay it all down to make sure no one else suffers like she has. 

King's is someone who has witnessed more than her share of trauma and seems to be numb, walking through life out of habit not joy. 

That isn't my Supergirl. But maybe my Supergirl no longer exists. Maybe this is the Kara the world wants now.

With the Mordru Globe destroyed, a fully powered Supergirl returns to face the rather ordinary Krem. 

At least here, King gives me maybe a seed of hope. Kara isn't doing what she is doing because she feels obligated to because of her parents' words. She is still looking for a reason. 

I just think, if we are saying that this Kara is 21 that she should have found it by now. I want my heroes to be able to rise above so I can be inspired. Indeed, Supergirl is my favorite character because she has always inspired me. I don't know if I can say that right now. I know I don't want to live her life.

Okay, this was as much a review of past comics as it was this one. I do admire the resilience of this Supergirl, her unwillingness to just give up. I like the way her parents are portrayed. This is Kara's issue not Ruthye's. And I love Comet. And for these reasons, I stand by the earlier statement that this is the best issue of this series so far.

But King changing the origin and the overall funereal tone of the whole thing still remains almost unbearable.

Overall grade: C


Anonymous said...

I think there's a divide between Supergirl fans who have been reading her before 2010s and those who started after with new52. New fans love the trauma aspect of Kara.

It makes her seem more human and fallible. She is resilient but also suffering from ptsd and other mental issues which makes sense considering her backstory.

But still she chooses hope and chooses to rise up. So more the trauma, the more she is beaten down, the more amazing it is to see her rise up.

Older fans seem to love a more hopeful version of Kara and that's fine. But newer fans think that being too hopeful makes her seem similar to Clark. After all, she has suffered immense tragedy, from where will her hope come?

Also, newer fans understand that she is the true bridge between two worlds. She is bicultural and a refugee in the true meaning of the word. And as a newer fan, I am loving tom king's version.

She seems more human, fallible, and yet immensely powerful. This is the Supergirl that I actually want to see and I wish the cw show showed this instead of making her a female Clark Kent.

For me, Kara is a multi dimensional character and I feel like Tom King is finally giving her what she has been owed.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for early review, Anj. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t notice the possible nod to DCCP until I was reading your recap, and then you stated it. Duh!

Anyway, you likely know I’m in agreement on this issue - it’s very well done for what Tom King chooses to do, but why do it? If he wants trauma-ridden heroes in the DC universe he should try making up his own characters rather than ruin existing ones.

You’re right, this is a mash-up and enlarging of all the saddest aspects of the various versions of Supergirl. With luck, when it’s collected it’ll have the DC Black Label on it and we can confine this to the Depressoverse. Ah well, at least Comet didn’t end up in some space abattoir, as I’d feared when I heard he was showing up.

That said, thanks to the newer reader above, for explaining why they enjoy the series.

Anj said...

Thanks for your comment. I always worry that people think I want a super-saccharine happy-go-lucky Supergirl. Which just isn't true. I love Kara because she is fallible. Because she isn't as polished as Superman. But also because she does what she does out of passion to fight injustice based on her history.

And your last statement unfortunately implies that you think I don't want a multidimensional Supergirl. Which is also wrong.

I started reading her in the late 70s and 80s and saw a bit of me in her as she struggled to figure out what she wanted to be, living in the shadow of her older cousin, and learning on the job.

I have always said she is different from Superman because of her background. But she has moved through her trauma. It impacts her but she uses it to drive her. This might have been best seen in the Gates/Igle run where she dealt with survivor's guilt while she struggled to be a hero for Earth.

And even in the New 52, stories like Red Daughter showed how she could move past the trauma.

This Kara has all that but is depressed. She is sad. It is just too much for me.

I am glad you are enjoying the book and the take.

Jim said...

I became a fan with the New 52, but quickly realized that it wasn't close to being the "best" Kara. The New 52 had the edict of making all the characters angry and edgy and less hopeful, whether it fit them or not. It was a mandate, not a natural exploration of the character.

I would agree more with your assessment of Tom King if he didn't focus on the pain, suffering and PTSD in every single book he writes. The pain is the main focus in his books with the character being used as the delivery system.

SG Fan said...

Anj, thanks for reading this so I don't have too.

I kind of get a little of what King is doing but, I think like you, this obsession with focusing on trauma and what not he does with characters is just not to my liking. I'm not opposed to Kara having seen Krypton's destruction (agree once is enough) and her being complex, with having to balance her life growing up there, vs adjusting to Earth. In fact, I think she could really be one of those characters who is reflection/commentary on humanity like ones they've used on Star Trek. Kara being of two worlds, could have a unique view of humanity and stuff, compared to Clark.

I agree though that I think the core of SG should be, overcoming her loss, and replacing that with to quote Gates, 'hope, help, and compassion for all.' A comment was she shouldn't be just female Clark Kent, and I agree, but also think so trying to shape her focus her on trauma/loss as King does (and seems to do with all the characters he works with) is a mistake.

Jim said...

Also wanted to mention, pre New 52 Kara struggled at times too. There seems to be a misconception that this is all new. I think that Anj's frustration comes from seeing this "new take" as more of a regression of the character who used her past to inspire her's and others futures.

In his stories, Tom King isn't the first person to realize these characters have pain and suffering, it's the way he has them deal with it that is different and divides fans. It may be a more realistic take, but some people read comics for that bit of unrealistic, hopeful and heroic take.

I was a fan of Tom King until Mister Miracle started with Scott trying to committ suicide. That's not for me.

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

A story is to go from point a to point b. A good story is to make all the characters evolve during this journey. And supergirls doesn't change in this story.

My favorite supergirl is cosmic adventure in the 8th grade and the first season of tv serie. Why only the 1st ?this is probably the only stories where kara realizes that krypton (from her teenager perspective) was not as rosy as she thought. The srory with her aunt Astra is very good. And in this comic, the version where her father is also the author of the worlds killer is also a bit rushed.

Yes,the people we love and admire are not perfect and i think supergirl is the best one to talk about it.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

So all of a sudden, Supergirl has a Super-Horse? Where has he been all this time? Was Kara keeping him in a secret pocket in her cape? Or maybe she had a packet of "instant Super-Horse with her. Just add water.

About Supergirl's origin, I think it would have been better to read Kara telling it to Ruthye, rather than Ruthye's remembrance of it years later. But I guess this is Ruthye's story, so she gets to tell it.

I have to disagree slightly with your brief telling of Supergirl's Silver Age origin. It had to be more than a year after Krypton exploded that Kara was born. The original story by Otto Binder and Al Plastino gives the time as "some years later". We know that Kara was 15 years old when she came to Earth, because in Action Comics # 270, she celebrated her sweet 16th birthday. Superman had come to Earth as either a baby or a toddler, and though his age isn't given, he would seem to have been about 30 when Kara arrived on Earth. I would say Kara had to have been born anywhere from 10 to 15 years after Krypton exploded.

In the modern day, Supergirl's origin has been messed with so much, it's impossible to know what's considered true anymore.

I think the anonymous fan above is correct about a divide between Supergirl fans, but I would date it back further, to the Loeb/Turner revival in the early 2000s.

As for Tom King, maybe all of his stories should be assigned to a parallel universe-"The King-verse" where he can write about trauma and PTSD all he wants to.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Prof, didn't mean to be so hard lined about the time. I meant 'at least a year' in my mind. I had just read 252 before the review to make sure I had the timeline correct.

And thanks to all the comments about how trauma has always been part of her story. Like Jim, I look to these books for inspiration and escapism, not hard reality. I want my heroes to strive and succeed.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Did someone pistol whip Tom King at an impressionable age? I'm only asking for a friend...
"That isn't my Supergirl. But maybe my Supergirl no longer exists. Maybe this is the Kara the world wants now."
No this is the Kara DC Wants, Foul Mouthed, Violent, Prone to Enabling The Wrong Persons, Pain Wracked & Forgotten...remember this is DC Comics, who treat their aud like hostages, foisting this sad embittered young woman on us is just more of DC seeking the profit margin in "Stockholm Syndrome".
The only thing about this book that was good was, Supergirl didn't kill anyone yet...but as an eyewitness to three extinction level events with the attendant PTSD, it's a wonder she doesn't have a body count as high as a cornstalk...I guess thats what constitutes a sympathetic heroine these days.
Just think, in just two more months, and Ruthye is out of my life, I'll likely lose Kara Zor El as Supergirl in the bargain though, that hardly makes it worthwhile IMHO. On the other hand the way DC is going these days Ruthye will end up Thao-La's live in ward & sidekick or some damn thing.
I mean my one pay off in this whole meshugginah series is a utterly inexplicable featured Cameo from Comet the SuperHorse? THATS MY PAYOFF?? You see why I regard DC Comics as aspirational hostage takers, only a publisher who thought their audience had been reduced to a brainwashed state of dependence would impose something that ridiculous and outrageous.
Ah well two months to go, then we can gather at the wake and say farewell (for now) to Supergirl.
She did pretty well for a character held in complete contempt by her corporate ownership.

Ever Smiling Amidst the Shadows