Comic Book Review – Heroes in Crisis

Heroes in Crisis (2019)
Reprints Heroes in Crisis #1-9
Written by Tom King
Art by Clay Mann & Mitch Gerards

Most event comics in the DC Universe are now bloated multi-title crossovers that stretch their thin story premise to an unreasonable length. They find some way to hammer the word “crisis” into the title as a way of drumming up nostalgia in burnout fanboys. If you read my reviews of the DC event books a couple of summers ago then you know I have had my nostalgia glasses removed and see most of my love for these books evaporating. I’m an adult now, and the understanding I had of story structure and character development has evolved since those days. Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis are just convoluted and boring books at this point. Then Tom King comes along, riding the acclaim of work like The Vision and Mr. Miracle. It’s announced he’ll be writing Heroes in Crisis, an event book.

There are not a thousand spin-offs to this story though. You can see it touch on The Flash and Green Arrow, but you only need to pick up these nine issues for the complete tale. Heroes has a terribly rough start, and the decision to begin it in media res was a bad one in my opinion. We’re introduced to Sanctuary, a hidden facility for superheroes experiencing post-traumatic stress right as the place is destroyed. There’s never time to really explore this place and the effect it’s had on heroes in the past. The story also begins with a murder mystery that there’s minimal investigation. Batman does examine some things, but we never get a list of potential suspects and the subsequent questioning that would occur.

The stars of this limited series are Harley Quinn and Booster Gold. The former I hate, and the latter is one of my favorite characters, so already I am in a weird headspace with this mini-series. Harley has become DC’s answer to Marvel’s Deadpool, and that is another character I dislike. They exist to showcase how ironic a writer is, and they inject a cynicism into a genre I believe works best when it’s heroes are earnest. Booster is not the same Booster I grew to love while reading old JLI/JLA comics. This is Tom King’s reinvention of Booster who has been seriously messed up from his time travel and reality-altering antics. Next summer I’ll be diving into King’s complete Batman run where I’ll go more in-depth about this particular wrinkle in Booster’s character. Both Booster and Harley have seen the incident at Sanctuary from opposing viewpoints, and as the story goes more in-depth, we learn that their perspectives were manipulated.

It’s hard to really pin down what Heroes in Crisis is about. There are the big moments, the reveal of the killer sticks out (we’ll talk about that in second), but there are some fantastic small moments. Booster and Beetle hanging out on the couch eating pizza is a reminder of the better days this duo has had. They aren’t prominent heroes in the DC Universe anymore, and they are stuck as immature jerks who are trying to do something better. King does manage to give Harley some humanity, having her reflect on the trauma of her relationship with the Joker while showing a positive path forward in a new relationship with Poison Ivy.

My favorite part of these nine issues where the snippets of confessionals from superheroes. As part of the treatment going at Sanctuary, patients talk to a camera where they work out some of the issues that have come out of this chaotic lifestyle. King spotlights characters who have been ignored for higher tier heroes, giving us some insight into Gnnarrk, Lagoon Boy, Arsenal, and more. This isn’t a crisis where realities are threatened, and alternate Earths are colliding with our own. This is a crisis of human proportions, and King wants to know what do heroes do when it all becomes too much for them. The burden of saving the world is crippling, and when a hero inevitably can’t stand up to the pressure, who helps them continue on?

The conclusion of the book is the reveal of the murderer who is Wally West aka former Kid Flash now the third bearer of The Flash moniker. Fans were distraught at both Wally being the murderer and the way the story showed him trying to cover up the accidental crime. Wally is a character who has been put through the wringer. After being the main Flash for 20 plus years, his mentor Barry Allen returned and Wally was pushed to the sidelines. The Flashpoint event managed to reboot the DCU, and this time Wally was gone. Barry eventually met Iris West’s nephew, Wallace West, but this was a different character. In 2013’s DC Rebirth Wally returned, a victim of nefarious reality-altering machinations. But even though he was back, everything he held dear was stolen from him. His wife, Linda, was a new person who had no memories of him. Their children Iris and Jai never existed in this reality and were apparently wiped out. It makes perfect sense that someone like Wally would require intense PTSD therapy.

I think a person is entirely in the right to argue that they didn’t like the execution of this storyline, but I don’t agree that having this happen to Wally was a “wrong” or “bad” thing. Having gone back and read Wally’s stories as penned by Marv Wolfman in Teen Titans and Mark Waid in the Flash title, he is a character who has long been pushed to his breaking point. That’s what made people love Wally. When he was dying from using his powers as a member of the Titans, it was heartbreaking for him to leave that behind. Barry’s death in the original Crisis was another blow to Wally’s psyche, forcing him into the spotlight when he’d just gotten used to the idea of living a life as a civilian. Under Waid, Wally was transformed physically and emotionally by becoming one with the very power that gave him his speed and was killing him when he was younger. Wally got married, had kids, saw the return of his mentor, and then watched himself get sidelined again. Flashpoint was intended to kill that Wally, but he fought back from even that, shrugging off editorial demands and coming back with nothing left. It was only a matter of time before Wally broke. As I said, the way King writes Wally handling the accident is questionable, but I don’t think this is a blight on the character. Right now there’s a mini-series written by Scott Lobdell (whom I have severe reservations about) called Flash Forward that is part of Wally’s redemption arc. I have no doubt he will redeem himself, it’s who Wally is. He’s a guy who gets hit, who makes mistakes, but always comes back because he knows what he’s here to do.

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