Heroes in Crisis #4 hit shelves today, and it’s, unfortunately, my least favorite issue of the series. Ironically, it will probably be the least controversial issue, so… that’s good, right?
There have been many complaints about Heroes in Crisis since its debut. A number of people were immediately repelled by the gratuitous deaths of beloved characters such as Wally West, Arsenal, and Poison Ivy. But it’s not necessarily who died that angered people as much as how they died – or more importantly, the lack of care or concern displayed for the character and their legacy. In fact, many fans have written the deaths off as nothing more than cheap shock value in an attempt to sell books or take political jabs at others within the industry/ company… And they could be right.
But there have been other issues presented as well. Fans have complained about pandering, poor characterization, over-sexualization, etc. No matter what Tom King and company presents, there’s something that ruins Heroes in Crisis for a number of readers (*cough*) Harley beating the Trinity (*cough*). While I do agree with many of the disgruntled opinions pertaining to the book, I also see many positives to this story as well.
From a technical standpoint, Heroes in Crisis is excellent. We’ve been treated to moments that are some of the most powerful and moving scenes I’ve ever read in comics. Nearly all of these moments are from the confessionals at Sanctuary, or an interaction with the A.I. hologram. We’ve had the endearing confessional with Harley and Poison Ivy, witnessed the feelings of inadequacy from Superman, and the gut-wrenching desires of Wally West. I’ve found that I come to HiC each month eager to see what hero we’ll see next, how they’ll be explored, and what their trauma is. That trend continues here.
The biggest addition to the book in this issue is Batgirl. As far as confessionals go, she probably says less than any other hero we’ve seen in this position, but her nine panels are chilling because nothing needs to be said. We know her trauma. We know it well. And despite the countless (brilliant) writers that have explored the trauma she’s endured due to the Joker shooting her, nothing has been as vulnerable as this. It’s simply magnificent. But then we see King’s range as we experience a completely different confessional session from Black Canary – one that literally made me laugh out loud and cheer!
It’s during these scenes that I see the best of what Heroes in Crisis could be. This is where Tom King’s heart appears to be, and where the heart of the book lies. Stan Lee is revered for making superheroes human – characters that we can relate to and connect with, not just look up to as some sort of unattainable goal. Here, King takes this concept and just blows it wide open. For someone, somewhere, one of these scenes will impact their life in unspeakable ways, and for that alone, this book is important, needed.
Unfortunately, when you look outside of the confessionals or character explorations that occurs within the walls of Sanctuary, that’s where you find the book’s problems – all of those pesky little issues I mentioned earlier. Characterization – at one point or another – has been off in every single issue of Heroes in Crisis, and that too remains true here. There are some odd team-ups that either don’t make sense or feel forced.
Beyond that, this issue probably has more plot progression than any chapter that preceded it… But it’s only progression for the characters within the story, not for readers. What our heroes learn here, we learned in the three issues leading up to this one. So while we can see the wheels turning, and while King starts to tease some of his cards (plot twists), it’s hard not to have a sense of “been there, done that.” I suspect things will only pick up from here – and I genuinely hope that’s the case – because the further we get into this book, we’re most likely going to get less confessional time, and more murder-mystery mayhem.
The Art: Clay Mann continues to deliver some of the best art in the industry. There have been recent complaints about how over-sexualized his art is, and while I can see where people are coming from, I sometimes feel as if it’s just something else for someone to complain about. I’ve seen complaints from readers about a panel with Lois standing in a doorway in her t-shirt and panties.
I can see how this could be taken as an overly sexualized depiction… But I also kind of see this as real life. I know so many girls that wear t-shirts and panties to bed. They don’t do it to be sexy, they do it because it’s comfortable. I know that when I’m home from work, I’m usually in a t-shirt and underwear in the winter, or shorts and no shirt when it’s hot. And trust me, I’m not trying to look sexy for my other half, I just don’t want to be in jeans anymore. But even if the intention is to have a sexual connotation, Lois is with the man she loves. I also think the fact that Lois is the idea of what’s “physically attractive” pushes this narrative. If Mann depicted me in a doorway doing this same pose, nobody would think it’s sexualized… or sexy, for that matter. But yes, there is a little tongue-in-cheek here – especially when paired with the dialogue – but with this, Mann is also an equal opportunist.
Regardless of your thoughts on whether Clay Mann sexualizes characters or not, he continues to create one hell of a visually stunning and emotionally gripping book. He frames his panels beautifully – think of Superman looking upon Sanctuary in the first issue, or Wally in his room in the last issue. Then there’s the “acting.” Mann allows his characters to emote in tremendous ways. So many of the best moments in Heroes in Crisis aren’t from Tom King’s script, but the reactions that Clay Mann draws in the characters. The art is worth the price of the book alone, and I thank Mann for the detail and care that he puts into these panels.
- Come for the confessionals.
- Decide whether or not you want to stick around for the murder mystery and questionable character encounters.
Overall: Heroes in Crisis is an important and emotionally gripping book that is plagued by a number of problems. For every incredible moment we get, we receive an equally questionable moment. In this issue, King starts to show his hand a little more blatantly, but it’s nothing new for readers… And considering the momentum of this book relies on “what’s around the next corner?” that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.