Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #6 review

After a rather large diversion due to a magical Mordru globe, Supergirl and space ward Ruthye catch up to Krem, who killed the latter’s father. Krem has another globe, and he sics it on Kara… but it has to catch her first. And Kara has called in the cavalry.

As Maid of Might and Steed of Steel race to stay ahead of the globe long enough to neuter it, there’s a parallel tale. Ruthye shares the story of Kara’s life on Krypton, and its offshoot, Argo City, as told to her en route to this latest world.

And it is rough. I’ve read every version of Supergirl’s origin, from the shiny Silver Age original to the grimy millennial version and on through the New 52 and beyond. While all have their drama, this time Supergirl’s origin is painful to read. Writer Tom King’s fascination with trauma brings us the most detailed telling yet of the last days of Kara’s people. Born on Argo City and rocketed to Earth as her parents die off-panel? Not here. King tells us of the agonising deaths of the people of Krypton, not in an instant, but over time. Says Ruthye: ‘Krypton did not die in a day. The gods are not that kind.’ So Kara saw much of her community perish over a period of weeks, and later, after Argo City was separated from the dying world, she fought to save lives.

Lining the ground with lead to stave off green kryptonite rays was a brutal, bloody business, but Kara persevered.

King shows us many of Supergirl’s great qualities this time, both in the flashback and the present day (well, relatively – the entire series is being narrated by Ruthye some years on, but so far as we know, the main action takes place in 2021). As well as true grit, there’s intelligence, compassion, strength, spirit…

And horsemanship! Artist Bilquis Evely does a terrific job of showing Comet racing to the end of the universe, as Supercowgirl Kara sits astride him. The posture, the speed trails…

…it’s just a shame King doesn’t give Comet’s arrival some context. I get that his on-page appearance is meant as a surprise (ignore the cover, kids!), but a panel of dialogue explaining where he’s come from, why Kara has his help now, would be useful. Kara and Ruthye have been schlepping around the universe for months, who wouldn’t welcome a horsie to help out? Horses are faster than humans, so of course a super-horse is faster than a super-human – but what’s he doing here? What other dei ex machina are available to Kara?

The first time she appears in costume this issue, Kara impresses with her speed, but not her mouth.

I realise that this is King going for a mature take on Supergirl, but does her opening dialogue have to involve effing and blinding? Supergirl is on kids’ TV, these images show up on Google – she can be badass without swearing like a trooper. Interestingly, she’s the calmest and most tender she’s been while with Comet the super emotional support animal.

This issue begs the question: how the heck does Supergirl even get out of bed in the morning, with these kinds of memories? Originally, she never saw Krypton, being born after it exploded. She lived a pretty nice life on Argo City until the rug – or rather, lead carpet – was pulled from under her. She lost her parents, but was in space when their time came; yes, DC presented her history in a sanitised way, but what’s the alternative, play her as a super war baby? How could she ever cement relationships when she’d be rightly terrified of losing people?

The story is beautifully written by King, with Ruthye’s typically Byzantine speech pattern pared down so as not to dilute the immediacy of the narrative. The emotions are well evoked by Evely’s linework, which is nicely coloured by Matheus Lopes, while a spread showing Kara soar into space with the handsome Comet is stunning. I’d prefer Supergirl not to look so oddly dazed on the cover, but overall the visuals are excellent.

But if this series becomes the launchpad for the next stage of Supergirl’s life, it’s going to be a pretty dark period – her past was awful, recent months have been a journey through genocide, where can a character go after that?

The only hope is, well, hope.

Then again…

But King ends the tale on a note of optimism, a metaphor building on an image from earlier in the issue. That’s something. There are two chapters left, Tom King has room to sideline the misery that’s filled the previous six issues, and show Supergirl as a beacon of light and love. Enough with the harshness and despair, it’s time for Supergirl to fly forward as the heroine of ‘hope, help, and compassion for all’ she’s meant to be

5 thoughts on “Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #6 review

  1. There’s quite a bit of foreshadowing here. How the heck would Ruthye know this is the “last time” Supergirl told her story? That’s she sure “you didn’t ever hear it from her”?

    Not only where did Comet come from (though I suggest the answer is that if this horse can move to the edge of the universe and beyond incredibly quickly, all Kara really needed to do was whistle for him and he’d be there in a split second), but since when does he even exist?

    Since when was Argo a city in a bubble of air that split off from Krypton?

    Did King get the origins mixed up?

    Why does Supergirl have this retro hair style, and why didn’t she bring her new solar energy-storing suit with her when she went to space on her birthday?

    I didn’t think of it, but think it must be true – that this is Silver Age Supergirl. I think Ruthye wrote her story after Kara’s sacrifice, and somehow her diary survived Crisis (even if she might or might not have – some things did survive). Or maybe the retelling of the story is simply taking place pre-Crisis.

    Some things I appreciated:

    There was none of that droning speechifying from Ruthye, which made this a much easier read. It made it Supergirl’s story, not Ruthye’s.

    I think the depiction of the nightmare on Argo was realistic, even if it was hard to read. It would have been hell to live through, much worse and prolonged than the other more recent Krypton-based origins we’ve read. It’s like a secondary and then tertiary disaster, like the terrorist bomb that explodes after the first responders arrive. Or, you narrowly survive a car crash, but then standing along the side of the road, you get hit by some other passing car. Argo miraculously survives the initial explosion – relief and hope. But then there’s the radiation! Solved – relief and hope. And then the third blow, the meteor shower. Three times hope, three times dashed.

    It affected me more than prior tellings of this origin. Very sad, but it was not a King invention, like making Wally West a murderer or Adam Strange a war criminal, ultimately killed by his wife, were. King didn’t make up a horror that didn’t happen – he fleshed out a gruesome origin that did.

    I’m reminded of the sad ending to Peter David’s Linda Danvers tale, where Linda ultimately was required to betray and then send a young, naive and trusting Kara Zor-El on to her tragic destiny.

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    1. That whole ending to the PAD title is utterly sullied for me by the decision to have Linda hook up with Superman – Holy Silver Age Nightmare!

      Great work with the pre-Crisis theory, though Anj points out several things that don’t quite fit over at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary.

      I’ve had a lovely thought, perhaps Tom King will homage another film, Sunset Boulevard, and reveal that it’s Ruthye who’s dead, and indulging in a spot of afterlife narration.

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      1. Yeah, I read that and there’s egg on my face. There’s no origin version of a Kara who witnessed 3 catastrophes. I have to agree King seems to be picking and choosing for maximum trauma.

        Linda plus Superman was just plain weird. It wasn’t a Superman she had previously known, but still it’s icky. I try not to think about that part of it.

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  2. In the original original 252 Argo had a ‘bubble of atmosphere’. On reprints, they said it was a dome.

    You bring up a lot of great points here Mart. I suppose you know what you are getting when you read a Tom King. This is the most depressing version of Supergirl’s origin, with the trauma cherrypicked.

    As you say, there is hope in this. There is resliency. There are loving parents (something we haven’t seen in a bit).

    But there is no joy. No inspiration. No ‘let me make sure this won’t happen to others’. Just bleak memories, anguish, and an almost robotic moving forward.

    It’s like I want to shake this series in a strainer and remove the few uplifting beats and throw out the other 98%.

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