Review by Ian Keogh
How much you’ll like Woman of Tomorrow could depend on how much leeway you’re willing to give when it comes to alternative treatments of long-running characters. For instance, although she’s not seen until well into the first chapter, mention is made of Supergirl killing a murderer, and when she does first appear she’s drunk and swearing away in a bar, although via the comics tradition of a string of symbols. This is on a planet well away from Earth where her full array of powers is diminished.
The odds are, though, if you give it a chance, Tom King and Bilquis Evely will capture your attention pretty early on via Ruthye Marye Knoll. She eventually accompanies Supergirl, and supplies the narrative captions, King giving her formal and educated speech patterns despite her relative youth, as she considers in hindsight. She’s on a mission to avenge her father’s death, which she pursues with stubborn persistence, bringing to mind True Grit’s Mattie Ross, or Rin’s similar nature and strength of personality in Blade of the Immortal, although Ruthye is the better storyteller.
Ruthye is drawn with costumed elegance by Evely, whose Supergirl is styled as a 1940s film star, perhaps modelled on Veronica Lake the way her curled hair sometimes hangs over her eye. What she does best, though, is to open a door into the wonder of Supergirl’s life, alien worlds and how beautiful nature can be. A sunset is a sunset after all, and that would be down to the colouring of Matheus Lopes. Not every place visited is as picturesque, though, and some that are hide grim secrets, so it’s to be admired that Evely puts in so much work designing cities only visited for a single panel. There’s incredible thought about the page layout, exemplified by contrasting a final chapter scene placing a sword with what’s happening elsewhere.
Woman of Tomorrow is sustained by a quest, Ruthye and Supergirl travelling from place to place through space following Krem of the Yellow Hills, both killer of Ruthye’s father and thief of Supergirl’s spacecraft. However, that’s the mechanism on which King hangs his observations about life, companionship and the universe and several problems pertaining to them all. Along the way he defines how Supergirl is a superhero not because she has super powers, although there are situations where they’re a great help, and some where they’re essential. There’s also considerable sorrow at what she hears and witnesses, with the fourth chapter especially upsetting, but the mood and the challenges vary from chapter to chapter. King slightly overplays the juxtaposition of Supergirl and Ruthye’s individual narratives, and there’s a feeling that he hasn’t adequately considered possibilities early on, but there’s a triumphant rebuttal in the final chapter.
Most of the final chapter is occupied by the validity or not of a single act, and it includes rather a cheap resolution of an opening chapter tease. However as everything in between has looked so good and prompted such a spectrum of emotional responses few readers are likely to squeal too loudly. The best Supergirl story ever? Possibly, although check out the recommendations.