Friday, February 18, 2022

Review: Supergirl Woman Of Tomorrow #8

Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow #8 came out this week. I have been disappointed with this comic since it started. This ending leaves me just as disappointed. 

Writer Tom King has been on various outlets saying how he did a deep dive into Supergirl's history to come up with this story which he felt would be THE story to show how great Supergirl is. But throughout this mini-series, even though we have occasionally seen some bright spots, this Kara has been tormented, depressed, drunk, and complicit to murder. Moreover, it is quite clear that the character King really liked to write was Ruthye, the True Grit young lass learning about the world while endlessly spouting ponderous speech.

This issue continues that trend. Supergirl is something of an afterthought here. There are pages devoted to Ruthye's internal struggles while Supergirl is a side-plot happening in space. There is a scene where Comet has to save Supergirl. There is a scene where it is Ruthye who 'saves' Kara, not the other way around. And the ending either has Kara complicit again with murder or at the very least the beating of a helpless old man. None of that sounds like a book that is meant to have people love Supergirl.

And then there is a twist at the end which calls into question the entire story of the mini-series, an easy 'delete' button when DC decides to recognize this as an insult to the character rather than a praising. It is such an odd turn that it makes me actually wonder if this book ends the way King intended it too or if DC finally tugged on the reins. 

At least it is over.

I have also been somewhat stunned by the river of praise this book is getting from some critics. Many say it is the best Supergirl story they have ever read. Back when Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 came out, I heard the same thing from many comic readers. When I asked them what other Supergirl stories they have read, the most common answer was 'none'. For those who enjoyed this story, I am happy for you. But this isn't my Supergirl. 

And it is a shame that this isn't a great Supergirl book. Because the art by Bilquis Evely with colors by Mateus Lopes has been stellar throughout. In this issue we see Evely's designs of an alternate costume, a Supergirl who is beaten within an inch of her life, and an homage to the classic Crisis #7. Give Evely another book now. 

In the end though, I think this is something of a death knell for my favorite character. This book has taken away the optimism and inspiration of Supergirl and replaced it with tawdry Tom King trauma. Fans of Supergirl don't want to read that (a fact proven by the dwindling sales every time they have 'darkened' her). And Tom King fans won't read a Supergirl book. In essence, this is a dead end for Kara. Which is a shame, because I think Bendis and then Kennedy Thomas understand what she should be.

On to the book.

You may remember that last issue ended with Supergirl defeated by Krem's brigand army, weakened by their Kryptonite, forcing Comet to fly up to rescue her. This left Ruthye alone with Krem.

Let's start out with this scene. 

Helpless Supergirl is rescued by Comet but suffers mortal wounds and dies. As he dies, he changes into a human form. This enrages Supergirl to the point that we see her rip herself free from her bonds and devastates the troops.

Let's just dissect this. Rather than have Supergirl win this fight against the brigands, or fight smartly incapacitating the ship they are in, King has her lose, almost die. He has Supergirl about to get killed by a gang of ruffians. Then, he has Comet die saving her, another brick in her trauma. King introduced Comet and then kills him. And then and only then does he have her defeat the Brigands. 

It is a shame because the art and the colors are vivid and vicious.

Meanwhile, Ruthye talks about how she won't just kill the trussed up Krem, she will free him to enter a fair battle.

You might remember that Krem is a Kingagent, an extremely skilled fighter who has slaughtered his way through the cosmos. 

King has Ruthye defeat him in physical combat, all while saying a practiced speech about while her father's life was hard he said the toil was worth it because he loved Ruthye. But then, she can't go through with it. She can't kill him.

But take a step back. 

Supergirl loses to the brigands.

Ruthye wins. 

Ruthye beats Krem in a fight. 

Who is the star in this book?

And it is important to note that this scene of her saying a wordy speech to Krem while she beats him into submission, setting him up for the kill, is 6 pages.

6 pages. A quarter of the book is dedicated to Ruthye's catharsis.

Kara shows up with the dead Comet in a one page splash which is a tangential homage to COIE #7. 

She gives a one line history about how she knew Comet was a man cursed to be a horse. 

But much like his spotty history with Argo City and Kara's exposure to trauma, he got this wrong. Comet was a centaur cursed to be a horse (although later he could become a man when exposed to a comet). 

So do you credit King for these homages and nods to Kara's history, things like Comet and Flame Wings. or do you say he still got it wrong?

And then this.

Supergirl picks up the sword and brings her sword back to kill Krem.

She doesn't need him alive to get his poison to save Krypto. Krypto is fine. Kara lied and went on this long journey to teach Ruthye not to carry trauma. But then Kara says she should've realized it was a fool's mission. Because she still carries trauma.

Supergirl is going to kill Krem. This is going to happen ...

Until Ruthye saves the day.

It is Ruthye who seems to stop Supergirl from killing by telling her that she has learned the lesson of not carrying that anger from Supergirl.

But has she?? Could Supergirl have taught her that lesson if she is about to give in herself? If she has admitted to not moving past things??

Credit King though.

He picks the 6 moments in the book where you could see glimpses of an inspirational Supergirl.

Narrow panels on one page.

And I have pointed out those moments in this mini-series as positives.

But the rest of Kara's characterization hasn't been so uplifting. Overwhelemed with her trauma, living a life of emotional agony, watching someone get stoned to death ...

Or the characterization has been absent. How many of these 8 issues has Supergirl been asleep? Silent?

At least we got this one page.

Despite Ruthye's protestations, Supergirl still holds the sword high saying that the whole thing is 'too big'. 

'Too big.'

It reminded me of Commissioner Gordon talking about FDR in Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns. 

He says Batman is like FDR. Maybe FDR knew about Pearl Harbor. If he did and let it happen, innocent people died. But America won the war. In the end the ethics are too big for Gordon to work through.

It is an excuse for 'the ends justify the means'. 

It means Supergirl is justified if she killed Krem because the ethics of good and evil is too big for 'small' beings. 

I think King wanted this book to end with Supergirl killing Krem. I do ...

We leave that scene and suddenly flash forward some years. Ruthye is suddenly elderly on her planet. A still young looking Kara (and Krypto!) come to visit her. Kara is sporting a short haircut and a new costume with pants. It is a solid look. Evely really shines.

But then this nugget. 

Ruthye's narrations were a book she sold. And she describes it as 'fictitious fiddle-faddle'. Now in the end, I think King means that the ending of that scene on the beach with Kara holding the sword to Krem has been changed in Ruthye's book.

Maybe the whole thing is a lie? Maybe this whole narration is like Kaiser Soze's story in The Usual Suspects, with some truth but more lies? 

This could be a 'get out of jail free' card for DC though. Ruthye's narration is fictitious. So maybe all that nonsense about being alive on Krypton and on the displaced Argo, which makes no sense, is a lie? Maybe Supergirl's living a life of pain, cowering and crying in the sun, is a lie? Maybe Kara allowing Ruthye to watch someone being stoned to death is a lie?

Maybe I can pick and choose the moments I like and say those are true and the rest is a lie?

Because it turns out that Krem is alive.

He was thrown into the Phantom Zone for '300 cycles'.  We learn that his time in the Zone has changed him. He is repentant.

He comes out withered, emaciated, weak, and old. And he begs Ruthye and Supergirl to forgive him.

Could there be an inspirational ending to this whole mess?
Could Krem have reformed? 
Could Ruthye forgive?
Could Kara be an inspirational role model?


We get this last page.

The yellow narration boxes are the fictitious passages from Ruthye's journal. In it, Ruthye writes that Supergirl indeed killed Krem, something she said in the earliest lines of her book way back in the first issue. (I still think that is how King wanted the book to end.)

But now we see this ending. 

Krem ... old, frail, and repentant ... is clubbed by Ruthye while Kara watches. Is Krem dead? Or just beaten? I don't know and I don't care. 

Krem is asking for forgiveness. And Kara allows Ruthye to brain him and then walks off.

This is the last page of the book. No hope. No inspiration. 

An old man, repenting his sin, clubbed dead or unconscious on a hill. 

How can this make me love Supergirl? 

As I have said before, if this take on Supergirl ... if this take on life ... suits you, if you enjoyed this, I am happy for you.

The art is stunning. The art has somehow made this more palatable than it should be.

But this isn't Supergirl, at least not how I think of her.

And now I fear we won't be seeing Supergirl for a bit.

Overall grade: C- (raised a whole letter by the impeccable art)


Martin Gray said...

Great review. It’s so sad that the best a massive Supergirl fan can say is ‘At least it is over’.

I think we will see her in the upcoming JL Death story, not just on the cover, as we’ll have to see Lois and Kara’s reaction (does this happen pre-Action Comics)? And remember, Phillip KJ said he had plans for Kara.

Apparently S:WoT was going to have a hardback collection, but now is getting only a trade. If true, that may say something. I saw people asking King on Twitter, he didn’t reply.

Anonymous said...

If Krem was in the Zone all this time, why did he age?
In the 60's, I think probably an Action issue, Kal has to
free a reformed criminal from the Zone, but he has to go to Kandor.
When he does, he looks up friends, but they are all much older.
This implies that he did not age (I think it was actually stated
as so by a woman). So why did Krem age? And is a cycle an Earth
year or what? If so, 300 years? Unlikely...

Martin Gray said...

I wondered that too, I just decided that as what’s her name was lying, Krem might have been older than we had been led to believe.

Gerry Beritela said...

Yes that last page is a shocker but it looks to me that Krem isn't even unconscious. If you look closely in the middle two panels he raises his arm and puts his hand to his head. Also I think you're wrong about how King wanted this to end. He did something very similar in Superman: Up in the Sky where he made us think that Superman had killed, only to show that he hadn't killed at the end.

Anj said...

Thanks for early comments.

I wondered about the older looking Krem. But King has played loose with continuity this whole series so I figured in his Zone, you age.

As for the last page, even if Krem isn't dead, he was begging for forgiveness having repented and reformed, and he is still clubbed in the head with a cane. And Supergirl just watches. That isn't right either.

Anonymous said...

Purely out of curiosity when is the last time you've read "your Supergirl"? For me it feels like over a decade.

Aaron said...

I don’t think Krem died at the end, but that’s me being optimistic. There was arm movement after the beating, but his arm did then fall limp… so who knows? Even if he did live, this still doesn’t salvage the book for me. Supergirl still stood by whilst an old and broken man was bludgeoned.
I’m glad this book is over.

As for the praise this book is getting from some critics, I would love to know what book they’ve been reading, because for the life of me I can’t believe I’ve been reading the same one.
It could’ve been worse though I guess… Kara could’ve had a side job as a veterinarian specialising in putting animals to sleep. Maybe DC is saving that for Supergirl’s next adventure?

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

Anj said...

To anon - I'd say the Steve Orlando run, particularly the end of the run when the title seemed to come into focus, was the last time I felt like it was the idea of Supergirl I love. That was 2018.

As always, in bits and pieces Andreyko and King show her.

Anonymous said...

Great review, and I agree with almost everything.

The "twist" was probably always in King's plan. He always has some kind of twist.

The fictitious ending (and opening) of the memoir - that Supergirl murdered Krem - was requested by Supergirl, and she extracted a promise from Ruthye to write that fiction and to stand by it. That does cast Supergirl in a heroic light, that she insisted on taking the heat off Ruthye and have it directed to herself should the Brigands seek revenge.

But to justify that murder sensibly, it then makes sense that the memoir would have had to show how someone of Supergirl's calibre and moral fiber might have finally reached a breaking point where she'd commit murder, and maybe that's why Ruthye discounts the whole thing as fictitious fiddle-faddle.

Maybe it is MOSTLY fiction. Maybe Comet isn't even dead. After all, a death like that would have been emotionally devastating.

If this is in continuity, then what of Supergirl's current reputation? Is she known throughout the galaxies as a murderer? Are the Brigands going to be after her for 300 years? Has DC thought that through? But I don't want to give them any ideas.

The only tweets I'm aware of from King are his "I'm not ready" tweet, and his retweets of positive reviews or reader comments, which themselves got universally positive replies. (I wouldn't expect him to retweet criticism. Besides, tweet anything negative to a writer and they've all made it clear that they will instantly block you. If you get blocked on Instagram, you can no longer see their posts. I guess these are very sensitive creatives.) If he's spoken more about it since the series ended, I'd like to read what he has had to say.


Anonymous said...

Y’know just remember it took eight long interminable issues for Supergirl to be turned into a complete moral bankrupt. Someone condones both a barbaric stoning and murder via inaction. Basically Ruthye that Malevolent Mary Sue, has reduced Supergirl to a zombie, the dream of Lex Luthor, all enacted by an obtuse and maladorous Little Girl/Old Woman.
BTW IF you are gonna throw Comet under the bus, get it right willya? Comet’s powers were magic based and thus he should’ve tossed off the Brigandage weapons like they were nothing and if he couldn’t then Supergirl should’ve been dead for sure.
This was like watching a loved one expire in The Hospital, all your concern ends in numbness, you just want the suffering to end peacefully.
So at least the squalor & stupidity have ended thats a good thing. I doubt we’ll see much of Supergirl going forward for a while, Superman himself is about to croak, but other than the fact that she clearly survives him, there don’t seem to be any plans for Supergirl.
Maybe it’s better that way, the critical reaction to all this mishaugas has been unmercifully positive, even if sales lagged, other creatives might be tempt to push her down the road to darkness and despair.


KET said...

Clinging to worn out nostalgia is so predictable.

"I have also been somewhat stunned by the river of praise this book is getting from some critics. Many say it is the best Supergirl story they have ever read. Back when Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 came out, I heard the same thing from many comic readers. When I asked them what other Supergirl stories they have read, the most common answer was 'none'."

That's because before COIE, Supergirl was always a spin-off character in search of a real direction. That's a major reason why her solo series until that point never worked out and sold poorly....and the overwhelming factor in how she became cannon fodder for Wolfman and Perez' major event series which rewrote the entire DCU up to that point. The 1984 SG movie flop merely exacerbated the situation, and confirmed for the publisher that there was little to nothing left to do with the character. But Crisis essentially changed that status for the character, over time.

It's a totally different situation now, what with a new DCEU iteration of SG about to appear in cineplexes this year (within The Flash).

"And it is a shame that this isn't a great Supergirl book."

Actually, it's a phenomenal Supergirl book; because after all the half-hearted reboots and short-term restarts over the past couple of decades, DC Comics finally allows the character of Supergirl to move forward into being a "Woman Of Tomorrow", and not as a lingering symbol of remembrance of Krypton's past. She's finally free of all that useless nostalgic detritus that has been holding her back. Her revised costume and shortened-locks hairstyle (reminiscent of Al Plastino's rendering in Action 252) are symbolic of 'starting over' with a new beginning of life. That's what hope always is, because it's NOT a tangible thing.

"Supergirl is going to kill Krem. This is going to happen ...

Until Ruthye saves the day."

Not any different than when Buzz stopped Supergirl from killing Linda's demon-possessed boyfriend Richard during the Peter David run (issue 9). She eventually stood down then, too.

You keep distracting yourself with throwaway semantics instead of following what has really mattered throughout this story. It's not about tangible and material things.

"This book has taken away the optimism and inspiration of Supergirl and replaced it with tawdry Tom King trauma. Fans of Supergirl don't want to read that (a fact proven by the dwindling sales every time they have 'darkened' her)."

You didn't 'prove' a thing.

You just can't help yourself with those ridiculous ad hominem attacks on the author, just because he didn't give you enough fan service in place of an actual story that resonates beyond your self-imposed limitations for the character. This is where keeping a fanboy archive merely defeats your sense of purpose, because it's become transformed into fan entitlement now. It makes your overall 'points' no different than those of the online Zack Snyder troll zombies.

"In essence, this is a dead end for Kara."

Actually, Supergirl NEVER goes by the name of "Kara" anywhere in this series. That's because in this story, Supergirl has appeared as a DISTILLATION of the character throughout her entire published history.

"I think Bendis and then Kennedy Thomas understand what she should be.", they merely provide yet more recycled revisionism in their current story-telling. Even Bendis'v Naomi is a essentially a Supergirl knock-off (which The CW TV series name-dropped in its second episode, giving it one up on Superman And Lois).

BTW, Krem's ultimate fate seems pretty open-ended this issue, as SG merely steps back from her (sort of) guardian angel role for Ruthye to make decisions for herself towards the end. And since Comet is a magical beast and NOT Kryptonian...

...hope springs eternal.


Anj said...

Thanks for comments. Always glad to hear some differing opinions when stately politely.

As I have said many places, if you loved this series I am happy for you.

But no praise will change my mind about this. And no derision or mocking thrown at me will change my mind either.

Martin Gray said...

“DC Comics finally allows the character of Supergirl to move forward into being a "Woman Of Tomorrow"

There were very occasional moments of hope, help and compassion in this series but overall, Kara was drunk, asleep, foul-mouthed, cynical, defeated, useless, a liar and a believer in Biblical justice.

If that’s the Woman of Tomorrow, give me Yesterday’s Girl, any time.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes fan entitlement is a justifiable response to amok unaccountable creatives. :). After All at the End of the Day, Tom King moves on to ruin or revise to death someone else’s favorite (I am desperate for him to go over to Marvel and turn Captain Marvel into a Man with a gold lightning bolt on his chest...the twitter praise will be hilarious) we are still here with Supergirl fighting the good fight. Given the disgraceful way DC treats the character the feeling I have, is hardly one of entitlement.
I’d read and appreciate certain counter arguments more, but alas the attack they host of the party and that’s just bad manners in my neck of the woods.
At least Marshal Cogburn shot Tom Chaney dead between the eyes in an armed showdown, Supergirl waited four hundred years & then stood there like a passive aggressive zombie for a little old lady to beat to death an unarmed man sans trial. If thats change, give me stagnation.


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

I think i was even ruder than that supergirl when reading the last page. I don't know if the message of the book was the destination or the journey but in both cases it didn't wok for me.

I think i prefer watching DC super heros girls, i'm going to review the whole serie sto forget thi soulless story.

Anonymous said...

I asked my comic guy to set this series in for me and I didn't cancel it after the first issue because I did ask for it and it was only 8 issues.

The writing and the entire story was a mess. I can only think that the writer doesn't actually like Supergirl. It must be awful to write a character for which you have no respect or interest.

Maybe this series will become reference material for Women In Refrigerators.

William Ashley Vaughan said...

Below is a review I wrote about Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1 back when it first came out and posted on the Tony Isabella Message Board. I quit reading this series after the first issue, but from Anj's reviews, it looks as though most of what I wrote applies to the series as a whole. I join most of the posters on this comment thread in wanting one thing from DC-NO MORE DARK SUPERGIRL. Hopefully the link will work.

William Ashley Vaughan said...

William Ashley Vaughan said...

Sorry, this comment section will not allow me to post a link as a link, just as text. If anyone has a solution to this problem, I will be very grateful. Thanks.

Anj said...

No worries.
People can cut and paste!
Thanks for the link.

Metal Mikey said...

Seeing yours and Martin Gray's coverage of this mini-series was exhausting. Not because either of you was laborious in your writing! But it just felt so draining to see the joy sucked out of both of you, because Tom King just feels like a writer that just cannot fathom putting joy into his writing. I'm sure Supergirl will recover, because thanks to DC Super Hero Girls, and the CW series, Kara is not going anywhere, and the demand will be there for further comic adventures of hers. But, if I were an editor at DC... maybe after this exercise, I'd recommend that writers that seemingly want to just break toys time and time again might want to avoid optimistic characters.

Robert Ingrao said...

I just finished this series and I really liked it. 70% for the art, 30% for the story. I don't see the point in all the judging of whether or not it's the correct moral compass for Supergirl's behavior. She let a victim smack a guy in the head after she ran him thru the justice system. Big deal. She did the right thing first and then the villain got a little abuse. acting like either super character never does these types of questionable acts is ridiculous. Sometimes they get angry, they seek revenge, they have emotions. Like regular people do. And don't forget superman DID kill, in the pocket universe. I side w Zack Snyder, to act like super beings fighting super battles wouldn't result in deaths is preposterous. Some intentional some accidental.
This story was different than a typical comic story, and that's why I like it.

Aaron said...

How low does the standard for gourmet cooking have to drop before a pot noodle is considered gourmet?