Heroes in Crisis #1 (of 9)
Written By: Tom King
Art by: Clay Mann
Colors by: Tomeu Morey
Lettering by: Clayton Cowles
“Crisis” is a heavy word when it comes to DC properties. An event tagged with the word immediately signifies that something major will happen in the pages of the series. They have traditionally altered the makeup of the universe and create a new status quo going forward. Even more importantly, “Crisis” titles tend to be controversial with the fan base (to say the least). This new event is no different.
The high concept of this story is simple and fantastic. Superheroes are like anyone else. They have high-stress jobs that have them facing violence and death. Therefore, they would have mental health issues like anyone else would in those situations. Sanctuary is introduced as the place where heroes can go and get the help they need. The location has been hinted at in many titles for months, and this issue gives us our first glimpse. Page one starts after the inciting incident, but there are flashbacks explaining why each hero went to Sanctuary. These flashbacks are our only glimpse into what Sanctuary was like. There is a battle between Booster Gold and Harley Quinn that seems to have spilled out from what happened previously, and it isn’t revealed why until the end of the issue. Much of the issue also revolves around Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman discovering that something horrible happened at Sanctuary, and that is the main hook of the mystery that will follow. Without going too much into spoiler territory, that is all that can be said (a spoiler tagged paragraph will be at the end of this article if you want to scroll down).
This story is going to make a lot of people angry. However, Tom King has shown his ability to craft a good tale on many occasions. King himself has served overseas and has been candid about what that can do to someone’s mental health. The nine-panel reality TV show formatted flashbacks give some real weight and empathy into the character’s lives. I found it very real and emotional when Roy Harper’s drug addiction is explained. This is something that has been touched on in comics before, but King sold it in a very respectful way on a single page. The battle between Harley Quinn and Booster Gold is extremely well written and plotted. It is intense but also has the wit and humor that Tom King is known for. Beyond King’s high concept, he introduces the mystery of the series in the most dramatic way possible. This is where the story will make people upset, and I still do not know if what was written has a payoff worthwhile. It does seem abrupt and jarring when looking at this one issue as a singular entity, but it did get me very excited to see what is coming next.
Unlike the story, I don’t believe anyone is going to be complaining about the art. Clay Mann is one of the best artists working today. His realistic style still plays well with the sequential storytelling of the medium. Because this is a story with real emotional weight to it, for the reader and the writer, his art is what is needed to make everything feel “real.” Whether it is an action-packed fight scene or a quiet conversation Clay Mann makes this comic dynamic and beautiful.
I could not review this comic fully without talking about the major spoilers in this issue. Tom King has written in some fairly big deaths here. There are a lot of D-list heroes here who end up dead, which is par for the course in any event. Big comic events sell themselves on these “permanent” changes. However, the big news here is the death of Wally West and Roy Harper. Both of these character are not minor and have been featured in monthly comics since the last DC Rebirth reboot. Wally West has even been a key figure in major storylines throughout multiple series. His death here is jarring, to say the least. It is one thing to kill off a main character, and I am not one to get upset by this, but another to do so in the way depicted in this comic. Comic book deaths are never forever but a death needs to be earned, and justified, in the story itself. Within this one issue, it is debatable if this goal is achieved. Personally, it got me interested in reading the next issue, and that does say something. It just seems strange to bring someone back only to kill them unceremoniously in the first big event. The death of Wally West is my only real knock against this comic.