Comic Book Review – Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (2022)
Reprints Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1-8
Written by Tom King
Art by Bilquis Evely

On November 1, 2022, filmmaker James Gunn and producer David Zaslav were made the co-heads of DC Films. In March, they announced the opening slate of projects, a mix of animated series, live-action series, and movies that would be a heavy reboot of the previous DC Extended Universe pictures. Many comic arcs were cited as the inspiration for these projects; one was Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, which will be made into a feature film. This is part of a ten-year plan, so don’t expect to watch this movie anytime soon; it has a tentative release date of sometime in 2027. Quite ambitious, given the forecast for the climate’s ongoing collapse. If you are a regular reader of PopCult, then you know I am not a fan of Tom King. I find his neoliberal perspective one of the worst I’ve encountered in the funny books, making much of his work unenjoyable for me. However, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt as I sat down to tackle this book.

This is True Grit but in space with a superhero instead of a cowboy. That’s not a terrible idea on paper. Ruthie Knoll is a young girl living in a distant alien world. Her family was devastated recently by the murder of her father at the hands of Krem of the Yellow Hills. Ruthie takes a sword and searches for a mercenary to hire to kill Krem. This search leads her to Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl, celebrating her 21st birthday far from the yellow sun that imbues her with power. She’s brought along Krypto, the Superdog, and they are having a good time. However, when Krem escapes via Kara’s ship and wounds Krypto with a poison arrow, she decides to help Ruthye track down the killer. She’s just not sure what they will do when they find him.

The artwork by Bilquis Evely is a perfect blend of spacey and magical that fits this science fiction fairy tale to a tee. Additionally, I think this characterization of Supergirl is one of the most interesting takes I’ve seen on her in a long time. In most Supergirl comics, she comes across as pretty bland, just a female Superman. We don’t often see a personality that clashes with her cousin or positions her in any way as someone who exists outside of his shadow. So, this story does an excellent job distinguishing her voice and attitude. I could easily see an ongoing series with this version of Supergirl in it doing quite well. Now we get to Tom King…

Brian Michael Bendis is a comics writer whose big break came with Image Comics’ Powers, leading to a critically acclaimed tenure on Marvel’s Daredevil. There was a point at Marvel where Bendis was the chief architect of the whole company’s universe. There came a moment, though, where there was so much Bendis-saturation that people soured on him. And for good reason. One thing people noticed about his work is that it had become far too verbose. Pages were cramped with text boxes and a litany of speech bubbles, characters yammering on and on. He transitioned to DC Comics around 2018, being handed the Superman books, and promptly wore out his welcome in record time. After concluding a dismal run on Justice League in 2022 (they literally pushed his last arc out into a stand-alone mini-series), Bendis is gone from DC Comics. That inability to tell a story without hundreds of words per page plagues this book from start to finish.

The story is narrated by Ruthye, once again very similar to True Grit, from an old age looking back on this formative experience in her life. And she talks, and she talks, and she talks, you get the idea. It wouldn’t be so bad, except that King insists on writing her in a speech pattern resembling Appalachian dialect and weird alien grammar. I don’t have a problem with a character being written differently to achieve a unique voice, but the end result was a chore to read. It also felt a little like someone who hasn’t spent much time in the American South trying to write in the manner people talk. Very inauthentic. 

The core story is a generic revenge narrative, so I was interested in how King stretched it out across eight issues. Maybe there was some sort of twist in the middle that revealed a different story going on? That could be fun, right? Nope. Instead, we get different alien worlds with problems standing in for social issues on Earth. In some moments, it feels like that episode of Star Trek where they go to the planet modeled after prohibition-era America, complete with gangsters having Tommy guns. It just doesn’t feel quite alien. There’s a racist planet where the moral is so heavy-handed it made me roll my eyes multiple times. I think it’s even more unbearable because I know King’s middling conservative light politics from reading his other works and interviews. Yes, we need white men writing stories about racism where one group of aliens won’t let another group eat at a lunch counter. Groundbreaking. 

We lose track of Krem for a few issues as King extends the series with filler stories. Everything is so overwritten that each issue feels like a challenge to read. The things Ruthie says are so on the nose and obvious; they do nothing to add to the visuals on the page. I know this is a wildly better example, but in Watchmen, you see Alan Moore’s words saying things the art doesn’t, so the two together create a multi-layered narrative. That’s why people love that book from when it came out to today. It is a piece of literature. Clearly, King sees himself as writing comics that are in a slightly upper echelon than your average monthly. And while he may see himself of that caliber, it is not consistently present on the page. 

If you want to read a comic in this vein: strange science fiction, alien worlds, characters traveling from place to place, with writing that won’t make you roll your eyes until they pop out of your head while still commenting on relevant issues to our world, might I suggest Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples. This is everything I feel King was attempting to mimic in Supergirl but actually pulled off competently. The issues are rich with character and story but read very quickly. No mock-hill person-styled text boxes are filling up page after page. Once again, King disappoints, but that won’t keep me from reading and critiquing his work. You’re next, The Human Target!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: