‘The theme of this book is Supergirl is awesome and she saves the day.’
That’s Tom King talking on a recent episode of iFanboy’s Talksplode podcast.
So when, exactly, will Supergirl be certified 100% awesome? This is the fifth of eight chapters and while I’ve praised the highs, there are far more lows for Supergirl. She gets drunk, she gets angry, she fails to save Krypto from being fatally wounded… I was pretty much done with this comic after last month’s issue, but we’re near the end, I enjoyed this month’s Human Target debut from King… truth be told, I was weak.
Kara’s weak in this issue. She’s not going to save the day, because she’s going to sleep through most of it.
OK, that’s a little unfair, she’s not lazy, she’s sick and exhausted. And she does manage a super-feat at the beginning of the issue, as Krem – killer of the father of Supergirl’s pal, Ruthye – teleports the pair across the galaxy via magical means.
Escaping the alien beast, Supergirl gets her bearings.
Kara reveals that Superman nearly died in the scant 45 minutes before the Justice League rescued him. There’s no hope of a friendly super-team dropping by for Kara – Supergirl has been out of contact with Earth for months – but once the sun goes down, strength will return and the young women have a chance of survival. And when will sunset come? According to Ruthye’s best guess, ten hours.
Can they survive for ten hours, in searing heat, where monsters dwell? Hell yeah, there’s a courageous, capable heroine on the case!
Before this series started, Tom King said Ruthye would be our new favourite character. Which says a lot about who he really enjoys writing – Ruthye, with her urge for vengeance and florid speech. And while she’s nowhere near being a favourite, she does acquit herself well here. OK, she’s apparently too dumb to protect Supergirl from the sun by positioning Kara under a rock outcrop, or wrapping that massive red cape around her, but she’s brave when monsters come calling.
But whose comic is this, anyway? Kara spends almost the whole issue being a victim, on a world where the sun will likely kill her; it’s not clear if the sun is artificial and blasting out green kryptonite rays, but Superman did lose his powers under a green sun in the Silver Age (Superman #155) so there is precedent. Mind, there’s another precedent – Action Comics #300 saw Superman in the far future of Earth, when the sun has turned red. He was weak, but he used his wits to cross a desert and find a way home.
King, though, makes Supergirl’s situation so much more intense that she becomes the person in need of protection, sidelined so he can show the growth of Ruthye. It’s true that the young lass is inspired by having got to know Kara, but couldn’t she and Supergirl fight side by side?
Instead, we have Ruthye swinging her sword as she drones on and on in the narrative boxes. In Bilquis Evely, King has an artistic partner who can draw spiffy monsters, and dynamic movement. But are we allowed to let the art do some heavy lifting?
Nope. Ruthye gotta Ruthye. This really is a writer who’s in love with his star. And sadly, that star isn’t Supergirl. Heck, he makes Kara unlikeable at times.
That’s Supergirl. Praising a kid for learning to swear, and slagging off her only surviving family member. Yes, Kara is under pressure, but she might show some grace. Instead, it’s Ruthye who keeps a cool head.
How is this book going to make writers want to tell Supergirl stories? How will it prompt readers to demand more tales of Kara?
It won’t. It will increase the fan base for Evely, whose work I’ve enjoyed since first seeing it on DC’s Sugar & Spike update. It will make colourist Matheus Lopes a few more fans. Letterer Clayton Cowles certainly deserves eyes on him. And King’s biggest boosters will surely appreciate yet another story showing a hero with feet of clay.
But actual existing Supergirl fans? I very much doubt more than a handful actually recognise this as a story starring the Girl of Steel.