Here it is folks… The conclusion to Heroes in Crisis. If you came into this issue hoping for some sort of redemption for Wally West, or perhaps just a satisfying conclusion to the book itself, I’m sorry to tell you that it doesn’t happen. While there are moments that are impactful, they tend to be followed by moments that are completely absurd. I’m sure King had the best intentions going into this book, but the end result, in my opinion, is quite damaging.
So, the crisis is over. Or is it? I think this sums up a major problem with Heroes in Crisis. Now that I’ve read it, completely, fully… I don’t feel it accomplished anything. I don’t feel as though King successfully achieved what he set out to do. He made his mission with Heroes in Crisis quite clear, but the final product, unfortunately, appears to be in opposition with King’s intentions. He writes some decent speeches in this issue, but those speeches are ultimately convoluted and contradicted by what actually takes place within the book itself.
As we know, Wally is the killer. The murders were an accident, and while this alone could be forgivable, Wally’s actions following the murders are not. The fact that he would take the initiative to frame two people, release personal information to the public, time travel, kill himself, etc… It’s despicable and completely out of character for Wally. In fact, it’s so out of character for him that the character itself is practically ruined for a good while. And to think, months ago, we were all bemoaning how this book would most likely end with time travel undoing everything that happened… Man, if only we could actually get that ending at this point.
Another issue with Heroes in Crisis is that its purpose was to help shed light on mental trauma or illness, and help fight the stigma that surrounds it. This book was intended to provide a commentary on how our mental health shapes society, and how harmful it can be for individuals who need help but fail to seek it out. Early in the book’s run, I’d say King showed signs of this. We saw a number of heroes confronting and discussing horrific events they’d endured. By the end of this issue, however, the exact opposite happens.
King goes out of his way to say that the heroes need help from programs or initiatives like Sanctuary so events like the Sanctuary massacre don’t happen again. The problem here is that Wally did seek out help, and it didn’t work. The entire point King tries to make in this issue is moot, because everything that transpires throughout the course of the book proves his speech wrong. Reality is the actual antithesis of the speech about seeking help. And it wasn’t just Wally that wasn’t gaining anything from the “treatment.” You could make this argument for Lagoon Boy, Gnark, and others… They just didn’t kill people as a result.
So, instead of shedding light on mental illness, King just pushed the stigma. He drove the narrative that “crazy people” are dangerous. He went even further to push the idea that people with mental illness can’t be trusted, and worse, that seeking out help isn’t effective. You can try to make the argument that Wally does get help by the end of the issue before enduring the consequences of his actions… But that’s not the reality of the situation. Wally doesn’t seek help, he merely gets caught. Other heroes stopped him. Yes, there’s some light-hearted “bro talk” (which I’ll get to later), but had our heroes not confronted him, then Wally would have carried out his plan.
One of my favorite parts of HiC are the confessionals. Because of that, I was excited to see a number of heroes popping up in this issue in the confessional grids. My excitement, however, was short-lived. There are a plethora of heroes here, each of them receiving one panel, but most of them don’t even have anything to contribute to the story or theme of mental illness or overcoming trauma. There are a few heroes who make a strong impact with a single panel, but most just feel like they were included because “it would be cool.” It’s a bit frustrating and only pushes the thought that this entire book is a wasted opportunity.
What’s more frustrating is to learn that the confessionals featured in this issue are new confessionals! These aren’t videos of our heroes from before the massacre… No, Sanctuary has been repaired and reopened. Umm… Why? Why reopen something that proved to be completely ineffective and dangerous? The entire run of the book captured everything that is wrong with the idea of Sanctuary, so why go back?
We know heroes need help. King conveyed that message clearly. Even within the world of the DC Universe, it’s now public knowledge since the confessionals were released through the media. Superman even made a statement concerning the videos, and the needs our heroes have… But this only drives the idea that Sanctuary is ludicrous. One of the original intentions of Sanctuary was to keep the reality that heroes struggled protected and hidden from the public. But since they know now, why go back to Sanctuary? Why not just seek out a normal therapist with clauses or contracts in place to protect their identity if needed? Again, Sanctuary proved to be a complete and utter failure, so while the need is there, the resolution wasn’t effective. It just doesn’t make sense.
Shifting away from the themes of the book, Tom King, yet again, couldn’t help but be Tom King here. If you’ve had frustrations with this title or his Batman run, then you’ll most likely find plenty of issues with the conclusion. As expected, characterization is quite questionable at times. He also tries desperately to infuse his humor into the narrative, and while I like King’s humor, it isn’t necessarily fitting for the likes of Harley Quinn. There are simply too many scenes that are just off.
King also runs into the problem of not working his stories thoroughly. I’ve commented on previous works of his feeling more like an outline than an actual story, and that remains true here. There are two pages in this issue alone that brashly throw out an explanation for how things transpired (see examples above and below), without providing an actual, detailed answer. I know people have taken issue with me describing King’s writing as lazy, but this is lazy. Merely having Booster, Wally, and Wally claim something is crazy and weird to prevent from actually having to explain how Wally can get a body and close the loop without killing himself is a copout. There’s little effort here, and it appears to be played off as a joke during a situation where jokes aren’t appropriate.
And then there’s the whole “bros before hoes” bit. Excuse me, “bros before heroes.” My apologies. Honestly, this entire approach is poor form on King’s behalf. Considering the political climate in our country, and the instances of people of authority abusing their power or using it to cover up for someone else… This decision simply seems misguided. I don’t think this moment was clearly thought out, and I’m surprised someone in editorial didn’t step in to say that there might be more backlash than laughs. And I know they don’t necessarily cover up the murder, but it does feel as though they cut Wally a lot of slack. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I find myself thinking, “What were they thinking?” all too frequently these days.
The Art: Clay Mann delivers the art for this issue, and as is the case for most of King’s recent releases, the art is the best aspect of the book. Some of the confessional panels look a little odd, but everything else is fantastic. He adds so much detail into his panels and backgrounds, and he has a knack for storytelling. Once you factor in Morey’s colors – which are incredible – you’re left with some beautiful work. I just wish these guys could have worked on a better product overall…
- You might as well finish it, right?
- Bros before heroes.
- So… Should we still be waiting for that Wally West/ Suicide Squad rumor that’s been around for months now?
Overall: Tom King’s Heroes in Crisis is a failure as far as I’m concerned. The book damages a great, legacy character, and this final issue fails to deliver a satisfying conclusion. I think we all know what Tom was going for here, but it didn’t happen. Whether you blame Tom himself for this, Dan Didio, the “murder mystery,” mistreatment of characters, editorial mandates… Whatever. They’re all part of this, and the sum of these parts just don’t work. This issue, in particular, is just the nail in the coffin.