In the recliner, quarterbacking on recently concluded series, events, etc.…. Heroes in Crisis was a nine-issue mini-series written by Tom King and illustrated by Clay Mann, Mitch Gerads, et. al….
The premise for Heroes in Crisis is just as advertised – the Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have established Sanctuary, a therapy center for heroes. The series opens with the discovery of a massacre at this anonymous location – and the bodies of at least fifteen of Sanctuary’s patients scattered in the fields surrounding it. From there, the series not only explores the questions of who committed the murders and why, but also examines the very sensible need for heroes who have seen and suffered the very worst of humanity to have a place to decompress, reflect, and heal.
I get the impetus behind King crafting this story around the themes of PTSD and mass shootings. I understand that if our heroes really existed something like Sanctuary would not only be necessary, but welcomed. None of that is what ultimately makes Heroes in Crisis so distasteful. The issues arise with the story’s execution.
After the first few issues, where the sense of shock and loss are palpable for the characters – both the suspects and the investigators, the series descends into a series of quips and one-liners that wouldn’t be appropriate even if there hadn’t been a mass murder. And worse, what follows is a study of disfunction, where all of the protagonists and the eventually-revealed murderer are acting as the definition of, “out-of-character.”
Batman and Flash, the premier detectives and crime scene investigators are fooled by a staged crime scene and the red herring of the framed main suspects. This is made worse by the revealed culprit, whom despite the long familiarity with the methods of the aforementioned heroes, the reader finds it nigh-impossible to suspend disbelief that far.
The Trinity are depicted at almost amateur-level competencies. Even if the reader believes that they had been distracted by the initial deaths, and an argument can be made that she may be quicker than Batman, there is no way that Harley Quinn is faster than Wonder Woman, nor Superman, for that matter. This feeling is only compounded by the pair of “partnerships” that arise in pursuit of the investigation.
Yes, the history of the characters lends credibility to the thought that Blue Beetle would help his best friend Booster Gold clear his name, no matter the circumstances. That Booster is able to incapacitate the Flash on his own? Not so much…. And, regardless of a solid theory for why Batgirl would want to aid Harley Quinn, it just doesn’t hold up that Barbara Gordon would go to the lengths she does to aid the one-time paramour of the Joker – who shot (and once-upon-a-time paralyzed) her….
The worst is reserved for the killer’s confession and the resolution of the story. The entirety of the penultimate issue depicts how Wally West accidentally killed his follow residents at Sanctuary. It is very, very difficult to reconcile that the hero who discovered and was most in-tune with the Speed Force would ever lose control to the point that he would inadvertently kill the people around him. Difficult, but not impossible, mind you. Wally, since his reintroduction, has struggled with the loss of his beloved wife and children. His speed unfortunately allowed him to absorb the pain and trauma of the Sanctuary’s residents, all at once. In his own words, “it broke him.”
What is inconceivable, on every level, is what happens next. Wally West, who appeared for 27 years as Kid-Flash and 33 years as the Flash, not only covered-up his role in the deaths, but framed two innocent people, and in a convoluted, time-travel suicide, killed his future self and planted his own body at the scene.
To quote the vernacular, “nah, Son…”
Quick aside, which will make sense, in a moment. When Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie was first screened, I had a friend who recounted just how horrible he thought it was. I started to counter how, if he had read the books, it would make more sense. He stopped me cold with the statement, “if you have to read something to make a movie make sense, it’s a bad movie…” Tom King is a talented writer. If you’ve been reading his work in Mister Miracle and Batman, you’ve been treated to masterful storytelling. That being said, taking Heroes in Crisis in context, it’s clear that there is a larger narrative in and around it. And that’s without even mentioning Doomsday Clock…
Clearly, something is very wrong with Booster Gold. And odds are that his evil partner Skeets is responsible (maybe Mr. Mind again?). Also, the series feels as if it’s just one more step in the deconstruction of King’s take on Batman. In terms of storytelling, all of that is well and good. In terms of a mini-series that has to stand on its own, its trash…. It’s bad enough that a fan-favorite character has been irreparably (as far as that goes in comics) tarnished. But to realize that these actions have been forced upon that character to serve other characters and storylines is several steps too far.
Yes, the premise of Heroes in Crisis is sound; the execution is horrible.
From the recliner, I have to ask: “did you really have to manage the game the way you did?”