Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #8 review

And here it is, the final issue of a mini-series that’s been dark. depressing, rambling and frustrating. So how is the conclusion? All of these, with an extra order of dark.

The word I can’t get out of my mind is ‘vile’. Because while the final pages indicate that writer Tom King has been playing a trick on the reader, to teach us who Supergirl is, how she’s all about hope and forgiveness and redemption, the very last page utterly undermines that. Usually in reviews I avoid a final page spoiler, but here? Forget it, you’re going to see the note King ends on, his final word on the kind of person Supergirl is.

But we need some context to get there.

Supergirl’s pal, Ruthye, finally has Krem, her father’s killer, at her mercy. Tied to a tree, he’s an easy victim for her sword. So of course, she unties him, because a fair fight is what the murdering psycho deserves.

Meanwhile, up, up in the sky, Comet the Super Horse swoops in to rescue Supergirl from Krem’s space brigand chums.

Ruthye, in her boring, meandering prose, notes that’s Krem is bigger than her, yet she manages to land kick after kick to his face.

Finally, she’s ready to bring down the blade on Krem’s head.

But she can’t do it.

Kara, though, having left the pirates, is willing to lend a hand. But first she explains that the quest to save Krypto was a ruse. The Dog of Steel is fine, Kara lied to Ruthye.

Supergirl wanted to teach Ruthye about the meaningless of hanging on to the past, but realises it’s a lesson she herself hasn’t learnt. So yeah, let’s execute Krem.

Ruthye, though, isn’t having it. She has changed! Kara has helped her find a better self during their months-long hunt for justice.

And yet still Kara has the blade raised above the cowering Krem.

Ruthye speaks of Supergirl as the embodiment of hope, yet Kara is in the dregs of despair.

Scene change. Some unspecified future date.

It was all a dream!

Well, a book, anyway. The interminable, self-conscious prose was Old Woman Ruthye’s written retelling of her adventure with Supergirl. There was an encounter with Krem, but details have been changed. Apparently what actually happened was even worse.

Whatever went on, Krem’s ‘sentence’ was commuted to Phantom Zone exile for 300 years, and during that period a change has come.

Isn’t that wonderful? Given hundreds of years in a horror dimension of lost souls, a man can grow. Now it’s time for Krem’s release, and he’s very, very grateful, and even sorrier.

Cue Ruthye, having known Kara for 300 years or more, forgiving Krem.

Or not.

The End. Ruthye murders an old man who’s served his time, acknowledged what a scumbag he was, and craves forgiveness. Supergirl and Krypto stand by. Meanwhile, the book narration returns, claiming Supergirl executed Krem on that beach.

Had Ruthye killed Krem after Kara had left, fine. She’s a crazy soul who really hadn’t learnt the lessons of the Els, or perhaps she’d cracked. But no, Kara is here, and the only conclusion that can be made is that the two have planned this ending for Krem for a long while.

This is Tom King’s Supergirl. This is the ‘heroine’ who stood by, in Ruthye’s tale, as a brigand was stoned. Every insistence that Supergirl is the best of us all, reiterated in this very issue, is undermined by a final page that shows Supergirl – Superwoman at this point, I suppose – as anything but good.

Last month, I wrote: ‘And when I got to the story title, I was quietly thrilled – ‘Hope, help and compassion’, Kara’s motto as dreamt up by classic Supergirl writer Sterling Gates, which made it into the TV show. Suddenly I’m optimistic King will leave Supergirl in a good place as the series wraps next time. Then again, a couple of words are missing – the full slogan is ‘Hope, help and compassion for all’. Those last words are important.’

Well, now we know – Krem doesn’t get compassion. He gets murdered.

Taken on the comic’s own terms, I don’t even understand what the point of the reveal that we’ve been reading a fictionalised version of events is. Everything happened, but details are changed? Fudged? Omitted? Added? How does it fit with how Ruthye described Krem’s end in the first issue?

Why am I even trying to make sense of this? Tom King may have wanted to tell us a story about how great Supergirl is at some point, but more and more it was Ruthye’s legend. And it’s not like she didn’t get a lot of page time in the beginning. Everything was from her point of view, and while that makes sense given the reveal, is this really what Supergirl fans would want? Here, Kara speaks on just 10 of 24 pages. Her part of the story is overwhelmed by Ruthye’s narration – what goes on with Kara and Comet and the pirates is entirely unclear, glossed over, lost in a sea of wittering. What hurt Super Horse? No idea.

Kara doesn’t do anything heroic here, she needs Comet to sacrifice himself to save her, then needs Ruthye to stop her murdering Krem. And then she facilitate a cold-blooded killing.

Why does Kara lie to Ruthye for months? What’s the logic here?

Supergirl is telling Ruthye she can solve anything… yet couldn’t find out what Krem looks like?

The positives! Krypto is alive and well after all, in Ruthye’s fictionalised retelling. The things she recollects about her journey and the lessons imparted by Supergirl are true (even if they don’t seem to stick with the ‘real’ Ruthye). The art by illustrator Bilquis Evely and colourist Matheus Lopes is again extremely impressive – the emotions are spot on, the action tracks, Krypto is super-cute and the final page mirroring the first issue’s opening makes for a good visual bookend.

The artists’ cover visual is a a bit of an odd one, with a bloodied Kara apparently having skewered a pod of space dolphins and piled ‘em high (don’t tell Lobo!). Still, it’s grisly and Kara is miserable, so I can’t say it’s not representative of the comic.

Clayton Cowles somehow made it to the end of the series, I was sure Ruthye’s turgid language would have sent the letterer to sleep months ago? Good job!

So, that’s Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. An eight-issue series Tom King promised would be fun, but decidedly wasn’t. As a lifelong Supergirl fan I’ve bought every issue, as a lifelong Supergirl fan I’ve hated most of it. Where I found things to praise, moments of optimism, I’ve gone all out on it, but the undercutting King does here makes me think he’s been taking the piss all along.

The most depressing thing is that DC Comics, keepers of the Superman Legend, are happy to present Supergirl in this way. If I were the Jerry Siegel Family I’d take one look at this and withdraw permission to use the character until DC remembered what it is Supergirl’s fans love about Kara.

With luck, other DC comics will never mention any of the events in this series, which is easy given it turns out to be an unreliable memory from a nutty old lady in a future which may or may not happen.

I’ll certainly never come back to it. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow is a waste of craft, an insult to the character and her fans.

18 thoughts on “Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #8 review

  1. She hits him with a walking stick, I don’t see that as her murdering him. He even holds his face afterwards indicating he’s crying which suggests he’s very much alive in my opinion. I fail to see how you though he was killed.

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    1. Many thanks for the comment, Mo. I read this as him being killed, his arm moves as he falls. Compare it to the first page of the series I show… there could be an argument that because the sun is rising in the second page, the final one of the series, as opposed to setting as previously, it’s light trumping darkness. If so, why the silhouettes. Why the blood? Hopefully other folk will chime in! King leaves it ambiguous, at best.

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  2. I’ll say this for the death of Comet moment; it was exquisitely drawn.
    But while I was recoiling viscerally from the writer’s ‘Ha ha you were worried about the dog so I killed the horse!’ two fingers up, there was nothing new in the rest of the story that hasn’t been told better elsewhere.

    I did have the same thought as you that Ruthye murdered Krem, but it could also be taken as him just being knocked out. If King wanted that to have an open interpretation then he totally undermined everything in the story. If not then he shouldn’t have asked for the final panel art to be so stark. Even swapping Krem’s position in the last two panels would have fixed it.

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    1. Great point, Ric. I have to say, go back a few pages and that walking stick – is that a carving of Comet? – looks blooming sharp. And even if Ruthye isn’t striking a killing blow, she’s certainly going for a little bit of revenge, I doubt his eyes survived the experience.

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  3. Great review, Martin. I have to say, even if Krem was knocked out, it did nothing to salvage this book. For even if Krem was just knocked out, the lack of action from Supergirl to prevent the old and broken man from being bludgeoned, and to then simply walk away afterwards, indicates clearly Supergirl’s stance of no compassion and zero forgiveness towards him (what an amazing role model (sarcasm)). It also doesn’t forgive that Kara was going to execute Krem.
    Tom King also had Batman willing to kill… It seems that Tom King thinks everyone wants to kill somebody… That’s a very limited outlook for a writer. (Yep, I said it)

    I can only hope going forward we can return to a Supergirl who believes in hope, help and compassion FOR ALL. Then again, we had that Supergirl in the beginning of Rebirth, and that book was cancelled. I speak only for myself of course, but a book about the actions of a “superhero” should not cause a reader to feel miserable and anxious. I’m glad this book is over.

    Again, great review, Martin, and thank you for the platform. 🙂

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  4. We don’t know how hard Ruthye actually struck Krem. Supergirl seems compassionate when addressing Krem here. She says he served his time, worked on his soul, is home and free, and she extends her hand. If she knew Ruthye was going to smash him, and especially if she was going to actually kill him, then she’s quite a sadist to offer hope while actually being complicit. But I think she knew it wouldn’t be a fatal blow. And it probably wasn’t.

    What confused me at first read was the narration at the end – that text was the end of her misleading book, ending with the events on the beach, being read over the actual end of the story 300 years later. I guess that’s obvious to everyone though.

    Was Supergirl really going to kill Krem back on the beach? If so, then stopping her makes Ruthye the hero. Or was Supergirl still trying to teach Ruthye, putting on a show for her, and finally succeeded in getting through to her?

    This book had me in a state of very high anxiety throughout, reading with bated breath, which most books don’t, so that’s an achievement in suspense. And the book looks amazing.

    I’ll probably have more thoughts later in the week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More thoughts alway welcome, TN! As for this bunch, thank you. And no, it’s not just you, it took me a couple of reads to work out that final narration bit. And again, if that’s just Ruthye giving Krem a love tap, show us! Maybe even play it as a grim black comedy beat. As is, it’s a grim tableau recalling the gloomy start to the series.

      And given how King has Kara endorsing biblical justice with the stoning a few issues back, it’s pretty easy for me to believe she’s become this warped over time.

      If our writer had been interested enough in Kara to tell at least some of the story from her point of view, we’d have the answer to that question about the beach. I’m reckon she was going to kill him becaue it’s a Tom King book so… PTSD.

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      1. The editor should have insisted on making the scene clearer. Unfortunately for the past three decades it seems that at both DC and Marvel the editors literally just rubber-stamp whatever gets turned in by the super-popular creators of the moment. See also Kevin Smith an Batman, Todd McFarlane on Spider-Man, and Brian Bendis on, well, everything.

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      2. Maybe he should be edited like whomever edited the Vision series did. It was a more cohesive story than most of King’s DC work for one thing. Then there’s the fact that it’s become a vital stepping stone to stories involving Vision’s daughter as well as a status quo from then on for the main character. Has there been any DC project that hasn’t either been ignored afterwards or retconned out of existence?

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  5. My review is up tomorrow but you bring out many of the thoughts I have.

    Comet shows up to be killed.
    Why lie about Krypto?
    Why say you did this whole thing to teach her life lessons only to turn your back on the lessons themselves?

    For me, it pains me the Ruthye fight gets 5 pages. It pains me that it is Ruthye who stops Kara from killing and not the other way around. And it pains me they do whatever they do to Krem at the end. I initially thought kill him, then I thought just brain him, then I thought kill again. Regardless, he is a repentant elderly man … he deserves neither and Kara should know that.

    The ‘fictitious’ word applies just to the beach scene ending I think but could be used as a magic eraser by DC if they decide none of this actually happened. Can I erase that scene where Kara watches someone get stoned to death?

    Lastly, great pick up on the first page last page of the series similarity, something I would never have remembered.

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    1. Thanks for the comments, I’ve completely missed out on the limits of ‘fictitious’ in this comic, I thought Ruthye had made the whole story up, or at least the whole story was not the whole story… I’m making no sense, but neither does this comic. I’ve no idea what I am meant to be taking from it. And the sooner it is ignored the better. I think DC will disavow themselves of this the way they have done with Heroes in Crisis. I wonder if the higher-ups at DC really knew what was going down in this series. We should do a list of the Top Ten ways in which this book didn’t get Supergirl at all.

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      1. Back in the ancient days, way before Elsewhere-worlds stories, there were Imaginary Tales about Superman & his cast of characters. Also, Alfred, being a frustrated comic-book/science fiction author, would write imaginary stories about Batman & Robin. Perhaps, this whole “Supergirl and the Pirates of The Red Sun Planet” is one of those stories. Mind you, in the current DC Omniverse Reality every story, even the Imaginary ones happened somewhere out there over the rainbow in Metatexual Hypertime. 😀

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