Heroes In Crisis #3… Where everything you see should be questioned…
Upon reading this issue, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is more in-line with what Tom King wanted Heroes In Crisis (or Sanctuary) to be from the beginning. And in wondering this, I then couldn’t help but wonder if we’re witnessing a quiet, behind-the-scenes battle between Dan Didio and King. Also, in response, have we been too harsh on King concerning the direction of the book itself? We’ll examine this idea and the story itself below!
If there have been any major complaints about Heroes in Crisis, it’s either been a lack of respect for legacy characters, or the blatant comparisons between HiC and Identity Crisis. With this title’s debut, King immediately caught heat for the death of Wally West and Roy Harper. He followed that up with the reveal that Poison Ivy was also a victim of the massacre at Sanctuary. Considering King is the author of this title, and the fact that these events followed the coattails of Batman #50, it’s easy to understand why he’d receive blowback. But should he really be the target of fans’ anger, or should that anger actually be directed at Dan Didio?
Think about it for a second… Didio is in charge, so clearly he’s going to have his way. If you’ll remember, it’s Didio who openly spoke out against legacy characters such as Wally, Dick, Roy, etc years ago, and look where they are now. He’s also the one who doesn’t believe in heroes finding happiness – a notion he made very clear going into the New 52 when he separated Clark and Lois, and again following Batman #50, when he stated that Batman would no longer be Batman if he were in love. And then we have Didio’s test-launch going into the New 52, Identity Crisis, as well as most of the New 52, and now the abrupt change in storytelling since regaining creative control following Rebirth.
Now think about Tom King’s work. He’s made a point to be as inclusive as possible with all continuity, and more importantly, he’s tried to use previous continuity to bring more substance and trajectory to his stories. That’s not to say his stories aren’t without their problems at times, mind you. But when he first announced Heroes in Crisis, it was to be called Sanctuary, and was only announced as a 7 issue miniseries that would focus on the emotional traumas our heroes face and endure every day. Then the series’ title changed to Heroes in Crisis, gained two issues, and began to appear as though it were shaping up to be “Identity Crisis 2.0.” Needless to say, there was an abundance of negative commentary surrounding this book that felt justified, until this issue. This issue almost feels like a new beginning – a course-correction if you will – to what this story is and could (should?) be.
In this chapter, we get our first actual glimpse of Sanctuary, how it works, how it helps, and the process in which it accomplishes these goals. Where the first two issues have ingrained themselves into the aftermath of the Sanctuary massacre – aside from footage of various confessionals – this issue takes us back to the moments right before the massacre. As with every issue, there are three arcs found here, each spotlighting a character, or characters, to tell the story of this particular chapter. So, who are the three heroes featured? The Flash, Booster Gold, and Lagoon Boy.
Each hero is shown at various stages of their treatment at Sanctuary. Lagoon Boy has been there for more than three months, while Wally is roughly two to three weeks in, and Booster is just arriving. Each page that follows delves deeper into each character, their trauma, their desire, and the incident. The books reads like a pattern, with each character receiving a page after all three are introduced on the first page. It’s a cadence that that parallels incredibly and effectively well: Lagoon Boy, Wally, Booster. Lagoon Boy, Wally, Booster. Lagoon Boy, Wally, Booster… Trauma, desire, need, reality.
Lagoon Boy’s spotlight is quite abrasive initially, and then completely heartbreaking. It appears as though Lagoon Boy is here to cope with the trauma he endured at the hands of Trigon’s Children – an attack that left him in a coma for years (Titans East). The treatment he chooses is to endure blast after blast after blast of an energy attack. It seems odd that he keeps calling for the attack, and then we learn why… and it’s completely heartbreaking. But it’s his resolution in the end that is really soul-crushing, especially knowing that it comes on the cusp of the massacre.
Then there’s Wally. As odd as it may seem, this issue feels as though it’s the most logical progression for Wally West following Rebirth #1 and the first arc/ standalone issues of Titans Rebirth. In fact, I think the themes presented here are what we had hoped to see – to some degree – Wally experience, then, more importantly, overcome in the pages of Titans. Simply put, Wally is depressed. He misses his family. He desires them endlessly. And he can’t have them… All he wants is his family. All he asks for is his family. What does Sanctuary give him? His family.
As great as this may seem, and as therapeutic as it may be, one has to wonder if this might actually do more harm than good. In many ways, I’d assume Sanctuary could become an obsession for heroes. Having your deepest desire, or the sensation of it anyway, at the drop of a hat? I can’t help but feel this is irresponsible and dangerous… But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get sheer joy out of seeing Wally hug his family. I know they’re not real. I know this moment will go nowhere. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good, and, unfortunately, make reality hurt that much worse.
Finally, we have Booster Gold. I’ll openly admit that I’m not the biggest fan of King’s interpretation of Booster Gold, but I do prefer him here over his depiction in Batman. In fact, I’d go as far as to speculate that Booster might be more of a depiction of King himself than truly being Booster Gold. Anyway, this chapter features Booster’s initiation into Sanctuary. He’s shown his quarters. The robes and masks are explained, while we, the readers, are able to experience and understand the entire process including the treatments. We learn about the A.I., what it requests, what it provides, and that everything seen or shown within the program is fabricated. And herein lies the mystery. What do we believe? Can we trust our eyes? Whose perspective is this story actually being told from, and are we even witnessing reality? Subsequently, can we trust what Booster Gold witnesses at the end of the issue? I’m going to say no, but I’m curious to find out, and I’m equally curious to see the roles the heroes teased on the final page will play in the overall story!
The Art: Aside from the nine-panel grid that begin and end this book, the art is handled by Lee Weeks. In case you’re wondering, yes, the art is INCREDIBLE. And no, I didn’t expect anything less. Weeks continues much of what Clay Mann established and created in previous issues to set the tone for both the book and Sanctuary itself. The attention to detail to surroundings and atmosphere elevate this story in many subtle ways, while the emotions of each character – their grief, desperation, desire, and denial – make the final product truly special. The visual storytelling is just as effective as King’s scripts, and hits all of the right beats and notes perfectly. Tomeu Morey’s colors serve as a cohesive continuation that helps transition from Mann to Weeks, while also elevating the script and pencils by creating tone and mood. When I say that the art in this book is masterclass, I mean it. Each of the contributing artists should have their own, on-going runs. Could we really ever be that lucky though?
- You want a natural continuation for Wally West following Rebirth and Titans.
- Lagoon Boy.
- You want to learn the secrets of Sanctuary.
Overall: This is quite possibly the most effective and promising issue of Heroes In Crisis to date. Despite being a flashback issue, we now know more than we’ve ever known, and respectfully have more questions than when we started. Lagoon Boy, Wally West, and Booster Gold each receive a spotlight, but not without an abundance of heartache. This is the first real glimpse of the traumas Tom King teased leading into the series, and I can’t help but wonder if we (collectively) have been way too harsh on King concerning Heroes in Crisis. We won’t know for certain until the series has completely played out, but for now, I’m going to say he deserves more credit than he’s getting. I don’t think the intention is for Heroes in Crisis to be an event, but more-so an experience, and I’m completely ok with that notion.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advanced copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.