Last month I complained that Tom King wasn’t providing any plot progression. That’s definitely not the case here. This month, Heroes in Crisis delivers a lot of information. I’m talking a huge info dump. One big, steaming pile of exposition that’s dropped right into your lap, and all I want to know is…
What’s the point of all of this?
Now, before I continue on, I’m going to give you a fair warning. If you read past this, I will be discussing spoilers. So, if you haven’t read the issue and you don’t want details revealed – say, who the killer is – then I recommend you hit the back button and go about your day until you read the issue.
Roughly eight months ago, Tom King launched Heroes in Crisis. It was boasted as a character study involving heroes suffering with mental health issues and/or PTSD. To create some intrigue and stakes, the study would be wrapped into a murder mystery that would shake up the DC universe. So, commentary on mental illness wrapped in a murder mystery. Got it. Unfortunately, Heroes in Crisis never really achieves either of these goals. But before we get to that, let’s discuss what everyone wants to talk about. Who is the killer?
No, this isn’t a joke. According to this issue, Wally West really is the man responsible for killing all of the heroes (and villains) at Sanctuary. From page one, it was quite clear that Wally is, in fact, the killer. He’s recording a damn confession. *Sigh*
I wanted to be angry. I wanted to be mad. I didn’t even want to continue reading the book. So, I took a moment and let my irritation wear off, then came back to the story. I promised myself I would allow the story to provide context. There has to be an explanation. I have theories. I’ve had theories for months. I’m holding on to the thought that nothing is as it seems. Sanctuary is in our heroes’ heads. I just need to read the issue, and I’ll be good.
I make my way through the issue, page by page, and while my theories above don’t come to fruition, a sad, all-too-real reality does begin to surface. The theme of loneliness. The reality of depression. With each page, King begins his exploration of what Wally is actually feeling. The impact of the loss of his wife and kids. The pain of a world that isn’t his. A lack of confidants that he no longer feels he can turn to. Nothing around him feels real because it isn’t real to him… And emotionally, he has a breakdown.
King explores the idea of the speedforce, its power, and what it’s like to contain it. More importantly, he explores the danger that it can create when it isn’t contained… And honestly, the writing is great. Wally’s internal monologue? I get it. I understand where he’s coming from. He feels alone. He’s aware that people around him are also struggling, but he still feels alone. He’s trying to get better, and it’s not working. There has to be something wrong. Something wrong with him specifically. Why is it working for everyone else, but not him? I know people who have expressed feeling this way. I have had moments where I felt this way. It’s hard to read, because it’s blatantly real and sad.
Wally has an emotional breakdown that results in him losing control of the speedforce, killing countless heroes. It wasn’t a premeditated murder. He isn’t evil. It was merely an accident. I felt bad for Wally… until questions started pouring in. What about his body? What about Booster and Harley? What about the Puddlers? What about the tapes that were sent to Lois? And this is where King lost me and ruined the entire idea that would make me believe Wally would kill someone.
After killing his peers, Wally immediately starts covering up what he’s done. He starts placing the bodies in specific locations, and alters Sanctuary files. He creates VR footage to force Booster Gold and Harley Quinn see what he wants them to see. He makes idle threats to the heroes of the world, and even goes five days into the future to kill another version of himself so he can be found at the crime scene. All of this to cover his tracks… All of this to cover an accident. Really?
This isn’t Wally. Wally West, no matter how depressed he is, wouldn’t act this way. I’m not saying he wouldn’t lose control of the speedforce and accidentally kill people. I’m saying after that happened, he wouldn’t work this hard to cover it up. He’d feel remorse, guilt. He’d seek out help. More importantly, he’d own up to the killings. So, all of this? I don’t buy it. And if it is what actually happened, then someone needs to prevent Tom King from writing in-continuity stories of beloved characters… Because this is ludicrous.
Thankfully, I still have a huge suspicion that this isn’t Wally West. I still feel as though we can’t believe what we’re seeing. We’ve already had it proven to us that Sanctuary can create scenes for a person. We know this happened to both Booster Gold and Harley Quinn, and that alone creates a reasonable doubt that Wally really did this. I’m hoping that’s the case anyway, because if it isn’t, then Tom King completely ruined an incredible character.
But here’s the thing, no matter which path ends up being reality, this is still a terrible issue. Once you take away all of the shock and awe of the characters that died and who potentially killed them, you’re left with a story that barely qualifies as an actual story. Beyond that, it doesn’t live up to what it claims to be. We have an exploration into mental illness and PTSD that barely scratches the surface, and while the confessionals have all been excellent – moving even – they don’t come full circle to provide any type of hope for people struggling with similar conditions. There are just scenes of broken people who continue to be broken. All this is going to do is make people feel like Wally does in this issue: that there are people like them out there, but they’re still alone… That’s the opposite of what this story set out to do.
Then there’s the lack of a murder mystery. If you’re enjoying a form of entertainment and a character(s) is murdered, a person will naturally wonder who murdered that character. And while that question exists, it’s important to clarify that this alone does not create a mystery. King made a point to establish the threads of a mystery – especially by introducing the confusion between Booster and Harley, the Puddlers, and by releasing information to the public – but then he did nothing with any of these threads except for Harley and Booster… And even then, those threads weren’t focused on finding the killer, but whether or not Booster or Harley are crazy. At no point did King create a chase to find the killer. There was never a sense of trying to uncover the truth, tracking leads, or coming to any conclusions. He simply presented ideas, then abandoned them. But with those ideas out there, he now has to resolve them… Think about that. He now has to resolve plots that have no foundation or growth other than their introduction. No wonder this book has felt like a waste.
This reality shines a harsh light on the structural problem with Heroes in Crisis. There have been a number of things that have happened, and none of them carry any importance, nor do they appear as though they will carry any consequences. This issue is nothing more than one big exposition dump to say, “Wally killed these people. These other things were just planted to cover his tracks. Got ya!” Except there is no “got ya” moment. There is, however, an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction.
The Art: As always, the art for this book is beautiful. Mitch Gerads and Travis Moore deliver incredible work – as we expect them to, and it’s the saving grace of this title – as it’s been since early in the run. They convey emotion incredibly well, and I just wish they had a strong script to work with.
- You want a story that clearly isn’t as important as its creators think it is.
- You like exposition dumps that take up a full issue to explain the entire book because the writer is incapable of taking you a journey of experiences that would allow you to come to this conclusion naturally.
- You like reading murder mysteries that are only murder mysteries because you were told it was a murder mystery.
Overall: Once again, Tom King squanders whatever potential existed for Heroes in Crisis. He infuriatingly wraps up an entire story by using a full issue as an information dump. There’s no creativity. No linear narrative. No actual progression. Just exposition. This is a perfect example of writers telling rather than showing. It’s cheap, and fans deserve more because there’s not much to experience here. It feels like we’re being cheated after being asked to make an investment.
The killer is revealed in this issue, but despite all of the revelations, I still don’t believe the reveal is the truth. Regardless, whatever is the truth, I feel as though it doesn’t matter. This story has gone nowhere, and with a mere twenty-two pages left, I can’t imagine that it actually will go anywhere. The interesting aspects of Heroes in Crisis are long gone, and now I just want the story to end so we can move on. There are too many holes, conveniences, and examples of piss-poor characterization for me to remotely care about this book or take it seriously… And that really is a shame because this book, as a whole, does have moments of greatness.