Another fan favorite is confirmed dead in this issue, and while I’m sure it will spark some negative feedback from annoyed readers, I still can’t deny that this is one hell of a book!
Last month, Tom King sent shockwaves through the DC Universe when he debuted Heroes In Crisis. Established to help heroes cope with PTSD and other challenges, Sanctuary served as a discreet, safe haven for those in need… Until everyone there was found slaughtered.
After revealing the loss of heroes such as Flash (Wally), Arsenal, Commander Steel, Blue Jay, etc, the Trinity began investigating the murders. Witnessing Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman discover the bodies of their peers is a sobering site to see, especially when it occurs in a place that they viewed as sacred. But this was just one-third of the story. The other two-thirds were comprised of following the two survivors of the Sanctuary massacre, Harley Quinn and Booster Gold, as well as footage of heroes from their confessionals at Sanctuary.
This chapter follows the same format. Page one features a confessional from Poison Ivy – a gut-wrenching reminder for many readers that she had just been sent to Sanctuary. This is a smart play on King’s part to build suspense around the notion of whether she was there when the massacre happened and if she survived. But if you’re able to take your mind off of that suspense and really absorb Ivy’s interview, you’ll discover that it’s full of beautiful moments.
I would never consider Poison Ivy evil. She’s made some poor decisions, and some of her behaviors have classified her as a terrorist, but overall, she’s far from evil. We get to see that from her here. More importantly, we get to see a sense of appreciation towards our heroes because they recognized that in her, and allowed her to come to Sanctuary. The moments are subtle and non-verbal, but present.
We also receive a nice reminder of Ivy and Harley’s friendship and love for one another. Again, it’s beautiful. The dynamics of these two together is contagious, and in many ways, they tend to bring out the best (and sometimes the worst) in one another – thankfully this example is of the best. Not all of the interviews featured in this issue are positive though. While Ivy’s interview feels hopeful, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman’s interviews are all vastly different.
Out of the three, Batman’s interview hit me the hardest. I literally teared up. For such a headstrong, dark, confident character, the one thing Bruce seems to be haunted by the most is his role in recruiting younger allies to fight in his mission, as well as their deaths. We get to see a shame here in Bruce that we’re usually not privy to, and beyond that, an emotional response. When acting, it’s often said that playing a scene where you fight an emotional breakdown is more effective and moving than embracing an emotional breakdown. That rings true here. We get to witness Bruce’s shame, then his attemp to fight getting emotional, and finally he apologizes. It’s not easy to witness. It hurts, and you can’t help but feel for him.
The same goes for both Wonder Woman and Superman. Diana discusses how she fights fear and endures it because people need her to. While you could make the argument that all heroes do this, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t damaging. If you neglect yourself long enough, you’ll eventually start to grow tired, fall apart. As for Clark, he’s torn between his identities, who he really is, and why he needs to be both. This separation of identity, in some ways, makes him feel inadequate. It’s not something that I’ve ever thought about for him, but in many ways, it makes sense. And while I always find it hard to see Superman struggle emotionally – I think we all look to him as the light of the DC universe – it’s unrealistic to think that he wouldn’t experience these moments.
If these interviews do anything though, they provide a sobering reminder that everyone struggles. Everyone has moments, hardships, shame, regret, feelings of inadequacy, etc. They’re real emotions. And while this may not connect with you directly, not now anyway, someone else may need this. Someone suffering from some form of trauma or depression may need to see that their hero, these archetypes, also struggle as well. There’s a power in knowing you’re not alone when struggling, even if you’re getting that fulfillment from a fictional character.
Booster and Harley’s story split from the first issue. Harley decides to go into hiding – or does she? Whatever her intentions are, she leads the Trinity directly to her. It’s a scene that’s full of both great and questionable moments, but engaging none the less. On one hand, I love the interactions Harley has with our heroes, but once things turn physical, I found the sequence to be a little unbelievable. I know what King was going for here, and I think it’s both smart and refreshing for him to play into Harley’s intelligence, but the end results are a bit of a stretch.
I can’t bring myself to believe that Harley Quinn would best Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. I believe her approach, and feel like she would get a quick leg up on them, but I can’t bring myself to believe that she would “win.” One of these heroes would have easily bested her at some point.
The most revealing thing about this scene might be that Bruce still lies about his potential plans. He’s directly asked by Clark and Diana if he’s carrying kryptonite, and he answers no. The moment he’s in contact with Wonder Woman’s lasso, he reveals that he has kryptonite on him. It’s a nice throwback to the “Tower of Babel” storyline from Justice League of America – but ties directly to an autopsy scene earlier in this issue where Bruce is questioned about the parameters of Sanctuary, and what he really knows. While I have no doubt he’s innocent concerning the massacre, this drives the question of whether he really can be trusted. In the same respect, if Batman were completely honest – especially concerning his backup plans, then he puts those plans at risk should he need to use them. Complexity at it’s finest!
Meanwhile, Booster comes to and begins his own mission to try and determine what really happened, but he’s struggling as to whether he can trust his mind. Did Harley kill everyone at Sanctuary as he believes, or is he still going crazy and did he actually kill them? It’s part of the mystery that’s driving this narrative and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. While we think we might have an idea of what’s going on, there are still endless possibilities – an idea that is confirmed at the end of this issue. Can Harley or Booster be trusted? Can the Sanctuary program be trusted? At this moment, we don’t even know exactly how Sanctuary works, so there could be a strong possibility that the house, or the program anyway, adapts to what people need. That could then beg the question if anyone can truly trust what they witness or experience.
While there are many great moments in this chapter, there isn’t much in the way of plot progression. In fact, there’s only one scene that appears to move the plot forward, while the others play into characters, relationships, and the idea of trust. We do get to expand the “world” a little as additional characters are brought into the fold – predominantly Flash (Barry Allen) and Lois Lane. That being said, as good as this is, it’s clear that this story will be better served in trade format, and I suspect some readers will find the slow progression tedious on a monthly schedule.
As it turns out, it’s revealed by Booster that Ivy was killed at Sanctuary. It’s backed up by Harley’s remembrance of her at the bridge. While I know fans will be outraged – especially considering this is another off-panel death – I will call for patience. For one, we haven’t seen a body, and we all know that you can’t believe someone is dead if you don’t see it. And even then, we’re talking about comics, where characters come back to life all the time… Or, you know, we have a main character that is a time traveler and can re-write time. There are endless options and this is only the second chapter our of nine. So, if you are upset, I feel for you, but I’d challenge you to stick with it. These deaths – if they are final – clearly aren’t here for shock value. They’re here to make a point and tell a story, and they’re dealt with respectfully in the aftermath.
The Art: Once again, a highlight of Heroes in Crisis is the art. Clay Mann continues his incredible work here, and he’s assisted by Travis Moore. I’ll admit that I was cautious to see these two artists work back to back because, as a preference, I don’t like seeing two art styles in the same story unless it’s a flashback or something along those lines. Moore, however, melded his style quite well with Mann’s. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that any reader who doesn’t pay close attention to the art probably won’t even notice the change in artists.
Regardless, the book is full of wonderfully drawn action, emotion, themes, and is another example of world-class work! I hope DC takes their time with the book to allow Mann, Moore, and Gerads the opportunity to deliver the best work possible rather than rush the product and hinder the artwork by adding less-capable artists over time. But for now, let’s just look in awe at the beauty of this book!
- You enjoy murder mysteries.
- You don’t mind taking an emotional journey from time to time.
- This is an example of Tom King at his best.
- You’re struggling with life and need a reminder that you’re not alone.
Overall: King is definitely going for a slow burn, and I’m perfectly ok with that. He’s set up an emotional murder mystery that is both excellently written and captivating at the same time. Other than a questionable scene or two, we’re treated to another chapter of what should serve as a standard for writing comics. But more than anything, this book is a success because it’s important, and for some people, may be needed. King continues to face personal challenges head-on, creating a commentary that some reader, somewhere, might need to hear. That’s not to say every comic should include these moments, be this deep, or personal, but Heroes in Crisis set out to do exactly this from its inception. And quite frankly, it’s managing to accomplish that task quite well. Add in beautiful artwork from Clay Mann and Travis Moore, and you’re left with one hell of a final product!