“You Have My Sword…” — Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1 Review
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Colors: Matheus Lopes
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Bilquis Evely & Matheus Lopes
Variant Cover Artist: Gary Frank & Alex Sinclair
What You Need to Know: The road to get here felt like a long one. For fans of DC’s “Maiden of Might” it has been almost exactly one year since the cancellation of her last run; a run that had just seen Kara recover from the control and influence of the nefarious Batman-Who-Laughs. After her series ended, Kara would wind-up being lost in the white noise that was most of Death Metal, leaving her in a fairly awkward state of limbo until the end of 2020. Although Kara would get some love in the new year, playing an almost antagonistic role in the Future State Superman of Metropolis series, and even getting a new costume and title of her own in her own two-issue series, Kara Zor-El: Superwoman. Her mini showed her acting as a matriarch for a group of alien refugees on the moon at some point in the distant future and beyond.
Since then, little has changed or progressed within the life of Kara Zor-El…at least, we have to assume, because we didn’t see it. Kara vanished from comics until just last month where she turned up for a brief cameo role in Action Comics…and that’s…about it, actually. As far as what Kara’s been up to during Infinite Frontier…anyone’s guess is as good as mine. This issue, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1, is the first time we’ve truly seen Supergirl since this new era of DC comics started and that really simplifies things from a narrative standpoint. In fact, if there was ever a Supergirl comic that required NO prior reading experience, I would have to say that this is it.
This book will tell you exactly what you need to know.
The Breakdown: So, there is quite a bit to talk about in this issue, and in this review I will keep everything entirely Spoiler-Free. However, for a much larger conversation about the implications and intricacies of this issue as a whole, both on and off the page, please check back for the SPOILER-FILLED discussion that will also be presented here on OCG.
One of the more interesting aspects of this issue is that, for a good portion of it, you’d be forgiven for not knowing it was a Supergirl comic at all. It is clear that this will be not just Kara’s story, but the story of a new character as well: a young alien girl by the name of Ruthye Marye Knoll.
Taking place far away from Earth, the story sees this young woman start on a mission of vengeance and anger. Her whole world has been taken, and she is in need of someone ruthless, someone fierce, someone who has the guts to do what needs to be done and to take the life of the man named Krem who had wronged her.
Yet, call it faith, or simply blind luck, her path crosses with that of Kara Zor-El. Yet, the Kara she finds isn’t here on superhero business. No, it’s her 21st-birthday, and she needs a red sun to truly…appreciate it (if one were to catch my drift). Needless to say, however, even though she’s hardly at her finest, Kara leaves quite the impression on young Ruthye. In fact, it is Kara Zor-El that Ruthye decides to employ in service of her quest. Will Kara take her up on her offer? Or will she leave for home, and never look back?
There’s a lot that happens in this book that the solicits make obvious, yet, there’s a surprising bit more that will take many a reader by surprise. The solicit is worded in some really clever ways that tell you all you need to know, but this issue is basically about how these characters all get to that point, and one of the best things I can say about that is that it is very, very unpredictable. There are moments that will make readers gasp.
Moments are what I feel a great deal of Kara Zor-El fans are going to be talking about here. Moments of surprise, moments of shock, and moments of just pure fun and awe. In particular, there’s the moment that comes in just the last few pages of this book with Kara that really and truthfully gave me the hope that we could see a story here just as powerful as Superman: Up in the Sky, and, seeing as how that was in my personally ranked top 5 books of last year, I think that’s a pretty big deal. The last five pages of this book are absolutely insane. Kara might not be on every page in this book, and for some (after such a long absence) that may make this story a hard sell, but I feel the moments when she is are actually quite endearing and quite worth it.
It’s always hard to judge the works of Tom King just off one chapter. Look at any of his runs from Mister Miracle to Vision, they tell one, complete story over a set number of issues, and there’s a lot there that we won’t get to judge until the entire story is signed, sealed, and delivered. There are certainly hints here at what’s to come, and some of those are very literal and sure to get fans talking and, perhaps, even get them a little nervous. There are going to be risks that this series has been primed to take that will certainly take Kara to new places as a character, and I’m, for the moment, cautious but excited.
There are concerns that I had, and concerns that I still have that I will talk about more in my sister opinion piece, but for now…I think the most and best I can say is that the issue gave me enough hope to come back, and it gave me enough reason to care. It does a great job relating this new character to Kara’s own struggles, and it is a relationship that, I feel, can really push Kara in a direction she hasn’t been allowed to go before. I think there is opportunity here for true growth.
Something worth note, though, if the works of Tom King haven’t worked for a reader before, especially if his voice isn’t something that clicks well with someone, I don’t think there’ll be a lot here to get them invested. This book doesn’t just play to King’s strengths, they amplify it. The planet the issue takes place on feels like it’s just crawled out of the middle ages. It’s a place where everybody talks with an air of pompous nobility and where it would feel like an insult to utter any word lesser than two syllables in polite conversation. In other words: Tom King made a planet where everyone talks like Tom King. There’s that to consider.
Yet, this is certainly the most straightforward and easy to understand Tom King story that I’ve seen in recent publication. The narrative is straight forward and easy to follow, and for a swash-buckling space adventure it feels surprisingly grounded for the moment. So, if someone often avoids King’s works for the reason of saving themselves a narrative headache…they might be pleasantly surprised by what they find here.
The characterization here is also rather unique, and whereas I sometimes feel it’s easy for Tom King to change the characters and their mannerisms to fit a narrative, I think it’s safe to say that everyone here feels surprisingly natural and balanced. That’s very refreshing to see, and the way Kara behaves especially gives me these really fun Doctor Who vibes of a young, eccentric traveler who is far wiser than their young face would suggest. There’s a level of fun here that I haven’t felt in a Tom King story since perhaps the “Double Date” issues of Batman, or the final journey home in Up in the Sky.
I feel like I always kind of just gush on artists here, but there’s a difference I feel between good art and iconic art, and what Bilquis Evely and Matheus Lopes accomplish here is ICONIC art. Magnetic colors, flowing action, dynamic faces, they manage to make a world that feels as delicate as it is young, and characters that feel much the same. There’s a new daintiness to Kara’s face and her frame, but there’s a pain in her eyes and a strength in her stance that is so evident in these moments where the story needs that to shine and it does. (And there’s these fun little details like how, on the first few pages, I’m pretty sure you can see Kara’s ship arriving in the distance and I just think that’s neat).
The Bottom Line:
As I’ll discuss in the opinion piece that will soon accompany this publication, I’ve never been more conflicted on a single issue in recent memory. There was a lot this issue had riding against it when I picked it up, and at the same time…so much hope, and for now, just with this product, I have to confess that I am greatly satisfied. I do believe that a lot of these good feelings will depend entirely on how well this quality holds up and what the overall lasting ramifications for Kara are as a character past this story’s conclusion, but I want to take a moment and live in the now.
I full-heartedly believe this was a good issue. It was a stellar start to what I hope is an equally stellar run. After how long we’ve had to wait, and after all the personal mumbling and grumbling I’ve done over the past three months I feel we are earned at least that much, and my fingers will be crossed going forward that it continues to deliver.
If future issues have half the heart as the last five pages, and if they carry forth that respect and dedication, and if this series truly brings Kara to the new level that I think it can—then a lot of it will be worth it. At the very least, I can safely say that this is the most beautiful and majestic book in DC’s current library, and against the likes of Marquez’s Justice League, Sampere’s Action Comics, and Jones’ Wonder Girl that’s a pretty high compliment.
I think that everyone on the fence should give it a go, and I think if we’re all patient enough to let it play out we might have one hell of a run on our hands.
Summary Although I remain cautious of the series as a whole, for a first issue this one hits all the right notes and gives me the bit of hope I have been longing for, and I hope it resonates with others just as strongly. I hope the rest of the series continues to make this worth it.