Two Graphic Novels from Tom King

Supergirl and a troubled man

I dug the Supergirl collection, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (2022), written by Tom King and drawn by the Brazilian illustrator Bilquis Evely (suggesting a combination of P. Craig Russell, Kevin O’Neill, and Richard Sala). As a longtime reader of King’s, I was relieved it managed to not fall back on a combination of PTSD and faulty memory. It also had some welcome humor. It pairs Krypton’s most famous daughter with a young girl fueled by revenge for her father’s death. They travel the universe together for different reasons: similar goal, different aims.

We learn a bit about Supergirl along the way, in particular about her power of hearing. I’m always up for someone who’s willing to rewrite the overstated idea that there’s no sound in space. King does it well.

As to why there’s a schooner in space — just read the book.

. . .

I continued my Tom King–athon during my unfortunate if brief (27-hour) Facebook limbo. Facebook had, in its all-thumbs manner, temporarily (and in error) deemed me a troublemaker, so I read a graphic novel about one of comics’ most troubled troublemakers: Rorschach (2021). It’s pretty darn good. 

Having not read any of the other post-Moore Watchmen stuff (I’ve been fairly wary), I don’t know how much of the rest of that material aligns with the TV show, but I dug the touches, like the race history material about the untended graveyard. I was surprised by the role a certain Batman storyteller plays in it, that’s for sure (The Dark Fife Returns, indeed). I took the main bad guy to be a kind of Steve Ditko figure, though perhaps someone else was the intended model. Fascinating how inside-baseball comics have gotten — this book is so knee-deep in self-referentiality, it feels like it limited its audience to a degree, but maybe those characters are fine even without the background knowledge. I loved how pirates are the big-screen superheroes in that world, which is especially funny since Marvel’s having a lot more success than DC is in that regard. The pirate stuff also feels like it changes the context of the meta-comic in the original Watchmen, because it makes pirates feel more mainstream, less retro, but maybe I’m just misremembering the original (and maybe this is a theme in some of the other “expanded Watchmen” material). 

King does what he does well. He mixes up past and present so you don’t often know where you are until you’ve been there a while. The color-coding of time periods drifts into confusion, first on the audience’s part, then on that of the characters themselves. King also works so well with parallel structure, in particular when the three visitors to the ranch are telling their individual stories simultaneously yet separately. That was super duper. (His artist collaborator, Jorge Fornés, is totally up to the task.)

For better or worse, I saw the ending coming from quite a distance. Maybe that just makes this a tragedy. It’s not giving anything away to note that one character’s “hm” was paired with another’s telltale “hurm” several times too often for any actual surprise to have been intended. As a result, the end felt oddly certain whereas the rest of the book was enjoyably unfixed. And of course I greatly appreciated all the stuff about voices secreted in the silences of audio tape.

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