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.
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.