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.
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