Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1 review

On a distant world, in a dirty drinking den, a young farm girl, Ruthye, bids to hire a bounty hunter to track down Krem, the killer of her father. He wants the job, but not on her conditions.

A stranger rises to protect the vengeful girl.

The bounty hunter is left to lick his wounds, while Ruthye attends to Supergirl as she recovers from her drunken, self-pitying state.

The kid offers Supergirl the assignment – kill her father’s murderer, gain the sword.

As the two females talk, the bounty hunter sneaks up on them – he has found Krem, but he’s not going to kill him on behalf of Ruthye; he’s been humiliated at the hands of Supergirl, and wants revenge.

Under a red sun, Supergirl is powerless, but not helpless. And while Ruthye isn’t a fighter, Kara has the loyal Krypto at her side.

And here she is, direct from the mind of Tom King, the Supergirl we’ve all been waiting for. Lonely, self-pitying, anaesthetising her pain with drink, vomit in her hair…

And here’s Ruthye, not just the story’s point of view character to introduce Kara, but the book’s star – plucky, smart, willing to swim across a sea of fierce creatures to persuade Supergirl to her cause. King said in a tweet, ‘Meet Ruthye, your newest favourite DC character. She’s got quite a future ahead of her.’

Unlike Krypto, who may be dead as of this issue. He’s certainly dead in the awful Future State Superwoman book of a few months back, and given that more and more DC series seem to be making Future State their destination, I’d not be surprised were King getting his ducks and superdogs in a row to hit that turgid timeline. I could easily see this eight-issue mini-series ending with sad Kara No-Mates living on the moon, paying daily visits to Krypto’s grave…

Maybe I’m wrong. King could be doing the ‘it’s always darkest before the dawn’ bit, placing Kara in a bad place so Supergirl can emerge triumphant at series end, a happy, healthy Krypto at her side.

In which case, this series will have been pretty, but pointless. Kara has worked through her issues so many times, we’ve seen often that she loves her family, and embraces Earth. Why is she out in space, a pathetic, solitary figure? It’s not like King doesn’t get who Kara should be, that speech back there about justice, and never killing, and her refusal to steal, are spot-on for the character. And yet the book begins with Ruthye narrating, from some point in the future, the apparent end of this story, and it’s a dark one for the Maid of Steel.

Just lovely.

I hope King is setting up a feint here, playing with expectations based on the Future State nonsense.

But why bother? Why not give us a story from Kara’s point of view, beginning with her soaring above the Earth in search of happiness, solidifying a personal life to ground her adventures? Let her have a 21st party, but with her cousin Superman and Lois and Jon and foster father Jerome and superheroes toasting her good health. Did anyone ask for Kara the Barbarian? Thinking on, of course Supergirl is getting drunk, she’s been corrupted so many times over the past few years that oblivion likely seems the preferable option.

Omega Men. Mr Miracle. Heroes in Crisis. Strange Adventures. King’s approach to DC characters is proving a very tired one-trick pony. Tear the heroes down, emphasise PTSD, accentuate the negative. There’s not a single moment of joy in this comic. The only humour we get is Ruthye constantly referring to Kara’s super-suit as ‘undergarments’, like naive city gal Katie Brown in Calamity Jane, and a gag about Kara’s cussing. I can appreciate the craft, how King introduces Ruthye and her world, even though it’s a shameless ‘homage’ to True Grit. The way Ruthye’s self-consciously grand speech patterns are forgotten in moments of stress, and she starts to sound like her down-home mother is clever. I like the Seven Brides vibe of the family dinner – oh, for a dance sequence to jolly things up. Sober Kara, counselling mercy, sounds like the heroine I know…

And the delicately etched art of Bilquis Evely, which I’ve admired since her turn on Sugar & Spike, is just lovely, full of elegant storytelling. Her Kara is wonderful, while Krypto looking despairingly at his pathetic mistress is just right, if sad. The facial expressions are beautifully observed and rendered. And the spaceship, which evokes Casey Jones’ Cannonball Express, is excellent. And it’s all appropriately coloured – think dustbowl chic – by Matheus Lopes and brightly lettered by Clayton Cowles.

…but the good writing and excellent visuals are in service to a terribly downbeat tale, one whose main interest seems to be pushing Kara right to the edge. And if that means lots of bloody flesh wounds – because of course a metahuman who loses her powers on a red sun planet would choose such a place to get rat-arsed – all the better. Heck, the first page of the story, some six pages before Supergirl appears, silent in the back of a panel, features a violent killing. Yes, it’s in silhouette, but it certainly sets the tone.

The cover by Evely and Lopes is attractive too, which is great as it’s Kara’s only starring moment in the whole comic. I’m not a fan of the series logo, which looks like it escaped from a cheap carnival.

The last series Tom King started starred one of my favourite DC characters, Adam Strange; I jumped off after two issues because it was too depressing. I’ll give this another go next month to see if it does well by Kara, but if Krypto is dead, that’s a dealbreaker. If the Superdog is gone, I’m dog-gone.

20 thoughts on “Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1 review

  1. I’ll read you and Anj’s but DC has finally broken me of buying any title with Supergirl as the star. Sad part is if this book doesn’t sell, they’ll blame it on the character, not the t errible story choices…

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  2. I like King’s work a lot still… but given that this, like Rorschach, is basically a stand-alone miniseries, I don’t see the harm in waiting another 6 months and reading it on DC Infinite. If I like it enough to own it in print — and I might, because the True Grit pastiche sounds fun to me (even if mismatched with Kara), and Evely’s art is gorgeous — I’ll pick up the hardcover down the line.

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  3. If only Tom King were around in the Bronze Age… We could’ve gotten a Batgirl run in the “Batman Family” anthology that featured Barbara Gordon as a on-and-off the wagon heroin addict, who when not nearly killing criminals with her fists at night, will occasionally venture into her REAL income source, turning tricks in Gotham’s seedier sides of town! (What, you think she earned THAT much being a Congresswoman?!?)

    Snark aside, I feel for you and Dr. Anj for having to read this dreck, The Super-Family as a whole should be treated like a beacon of hope in trying times. But of course… Tom King has to “Tom King”. Is it too harsh to think that 75% of his work is essentially misery porn in comic format? I know he’s one of the the key elements for not caring about modern Batman comics ANYMORE. (Well, that, and sampling the awful “Joker War” event…)

    … And highlight Ruthye as the spotlight character reminds me so much of that last “Brady Bunch” season, where Cousin Oliver was introduced to the family as the new character EVERYONE will love.

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    1. We were lucky in the UK, Mike – the Brady Bunch episodes with Cousin Oliver were never broadcast. I can imagine how bad they are, though, having seen Robbie Rist in Big John, Little John.

      At the moment, I really can’t see me staying with this series if next issue doesn’t see significant improvement. It’s neither a Supergirl book, nor the type of comic I enjoy regardless.

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  4. Tom King wrote Batman as having made a decision to kill, no ifs or buts, Batman wanted to take a life and even took action to achieving the kill.. He didn’t of course, due (I believe) to DC higher-ups intervening… But Tom King went there. So for a character like Kara, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if TK does indeed have her kill someone. Though, of course, I really hope this isn’t the case.
    I find Tom King very hit and miss. And there’s a question in my mind whether this is actually his story, or one DC wants him to tell to steer Kara in a specific direction. I think I did read somewhere that after TK killed off Alfred, he wanted to bring him back, but it was DC that decided to keep the character dead. So who knows what’s going on here with the Supergirl character?
    All I do know is that this isn’t the character I want to read.. or even recognise! It’s all so depressing. 😦

    Great review, Martin. Thank you for the platform for me to voice my two cents’ worth. 🙂

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    1. I wish your speculation didn’t sound so plausible; if DC actually does have Kara kill while in her right mind, we longtime fans who protest every time they darken Kara have lost the battle for a while. Still, John Byrne had Superman kill the three Phantom Zone killers in cold blood, and he clawed his way back. Eventually, the DC higher ups will change, and we’ll get our shiny Kara back.

      And thank you for the kind words, I appreciate you reader and it’s always great to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Any review which bring us Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is a good one. I unashamedly love that movie.

    But as you say, there is no joy here. Why Kara is ‘cynical’ for King remains a mystery. Making a character ‘mature’ through cursing, drinking, and vomiting is stupid.

    Much like Future’s End, this is a Supergirl book where she isn’t the star. I think Titans Starfire would be a better fit for this mold of a DC hero to help Ruthye. And I am sick to death of King’s one-note revivals of characters. Is there a Mister Miracle or Adam Strange blog out there wailing and gnashing their teeth as much as Kara’s fans are?

    As you say, visually gorgeous. The coloring is incredible.

    But this isn’t my Supergirl.

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    1. Mine neither. I want this series to flop badly. It’s time DC committed to a positive, capable Girl of Steel, the one her fans – rather than Tom King boosters – actually like.

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  6. Late to the show! I was iffy on this first issue. I think your darkest take on the book is … not yet proven, though entirely likely. I was willing to accept the idea that Kara decides to celebrate her 21st birthday in that most American of ways: getting pointlessly sloshed under a red sun. I didn’t need to believe there’s anything worse in her mind that that. And if we’re in continuity, maybe she’s got an emotional hangover from the horrible things that happened in her recent book, which I only know about from reading your blog. Basically, I figure that if the second issue gets her feet under her and lets her true colors emerge, that would be fine.

    I also don’t think Krypto is dead. He’s no more injured than Kara, and we know she’ll live. However, I told my comic shop to remove the book from my preorder/pull list now, because if Krypto is dead, yeah, I’m out. Having read your review and learning that he’s dead in the Infinite Frontier future, yeah, that puts a bigger risk on this cliffhanger.

    I love Supergirl, but I’m trying to figure out what my favorite Supergirl period is. I first saw her in the late 70s Superman Family (or anthology period Adventure?) stories, which I doubt are fantastic on revisit. I buy random issues of her early 70s title and Adventure because Artie Saaf’s art was so lovely.

    Anyway, I’m hoping this book pulls out of its skid, but I wouldn’t put more than one issue’s price tag on it.

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    1. Thanks so much for the smart comments. I agree, issue two will be a bit of a make and break affair. I could pack in and go and reread some of those old Supergirl stories, maybe from Zond in Adventure Comics through to the end of Daring New Adventures of Supergirl! Make a list of Linda’s useless boyfriends. Is there enough paper?

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  7. This might be a version of what Gil Kane did with SWORD OF THE ATOM (1983): taking a non-combative hero and putting them in a martial situation. DC does not know what to do with Supergirl: they killed her off during Crisis On Infinite Earths (1986), but her CW series has lasted six seasons. 35 years after DC cut her off at the knees, Supergirl still has legs. If pairing Kara with Ruthye allows King to set her upon a “quest”, then, fine. This series could be an equivalent to Superman’s adventures in the bottled city of Kandor as Nightwing (1963): less grandeur, greater risk. King doesn’t bother to give her a civilian identity – that has never worked for her as a character. Frankly, the idea of Supergirl wandering around the DCU in a spaceship is insulting, but at least it explains why Krypto is around. It’s not enjoyable seeing Kara and Krypto being used as pincushions on an alien planet, but Ruthye is an involving character. This is not yet a good Supergirl book, no, but it is a good book with Supergirl in it, and that does not happen often enough for me to dismiss this project just yet. I’m cautiously optimistic 😀

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    1. Good call on the Atom similarity…would it surprise you to know that’s my least-favourite Atom series ever? What’s the point of putting a hero who can shrink into an environment where everyone is already six inches or whatever? Power of the Atom was a blessed relief.

      I don’t see why you think Supergirl hasn’t had a successful civilian identity – she was Linda
      Lee/Lee Danvers for three decades and it wasn’t all random awful boyfriends? Peter David’s Linda had quite the ride. And Sterling Gates’ Linda Lang has her moments.

      I do love the note of optimism you’ve found!

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  8. How is King ever going to write the JLI?

    Completely agree with all your points, Martin. Had not seen the tweet, but how egotistical is it to say your favorite DC character is the one you created… the hell?! Like, there’s some interesting world-building in here, but it’s not a Supergirl story. It’s some sort of fantasy book they’ve plugged Kara into. I didn’t read it as the death of Krypto – she’s plug-full of arrows too and obviously survives, but yeah, Supergirl going on a bender on a planet with a red sun is a story absolutely no one asked for. King is the most destructive DC writer since Meltzer probably.

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    1. King is going to write the JLI? Please good no… oh hang on, Human Target, yes? He’ll probably write Bialya as Baghdad and have them committing atrocities for America.

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      1. Yeah haha they’re just on the cover. We have a running joke at the network about Shagg having to cover stories where the Bwa-ha-ha league are sitting in a circle in group therapy (like the JLA sitting around a table playing with trading cards). I doubt the JLI are really in that Human Target issue.

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