Heroes in Crisis #1
Finally revealed after months of hype, we see Bruce, Clark, and Diana -- the Holy Trinity of DC Comics-- descend on Sanctuary. Sanctuary is, in theory, a space where metahumans go to recover from various traumas inflicted by a life of capes and spandex. Sanctuary, however, has been turned into a massacre, the fail-safes destroyed and the occupants slaughtered. As Clark works his way through Sanctuary, he discovers Blue Jay, Hotspot, Citizen Steel and others dead before he comes across the side-by-side bodies of Wally West (Flash) and Roy Harper (Arsenal). Thanks to a cryptic message on the wall, Bruce determines that whoever committed these atrocities must have been a fellow patient, narrowing the search parameters quickly and efficiently.
As the Trinity investigates Sanctuary, a concurrent narrative track follows Booster Gold, sulking in a Nebraska diner before he is confronted with a grief-stricken Harley Quinn. The inevitable confrontation erupts as Harley assaults Booster with a knife whilst talking about the scars left by the so-called "talking cure" of therapy on the therapist. Finally, as Booster is left bleeding out, he verbally accosts Harley for what she did at Sanctuary, only to have Harley deny culpability for the murders, instead pointing her finger at Booster.
Let’s start with the positive. Clay Mann’s art is beautiful and he manages to construct a perfectly paced story despite a scatter-shot story, jumping back and forth between moments. He moves effortlessly between staccato therapy sequences with multiple frames, barely different (a technique used to slow down narrative time) to sweeping splash pages or limited frame pages. Clay Mann is a name to keep tabs on, because he’s clearly a rising star in the industry.
End of list.
While I don’t think Tom King is a bad writer, I do think this issue is full of cheap tricks and even cheaper stunts. King’s Batman run has been repeatedly marked with sequences designed to elicit an emotional response, such as the sequences between Bruce and Dick just prior to Dick’s injury in Batman #55. It is fine to shoot for a visceral reaction, but where I find it weak here is in how thinly-veiled and repetitive the method has been– a trick he has carried over to Heroes in Crisis. We see a long sequence in which Roy talks about his demons and his somewhat ridiculous reasoning.
This sequence comes shortly after the reveal that Roy is among the death toll at Sanctuary. At its core, the sequence reads as a desperation ploy to remind the reader that they are supposed to care that Roy is dead. Longtime readers already care or they don’t care depending on their tastes and history with the characters. As if the large name deaths weren’t enough, the same tactic is used with a few B-list characters (with more to come, since not every dead character got their moment in the sun in this first issue), attempting to play on the grief of the reader, almost condemning them if they feel no grief.
While all of these events and flashbacks are occurring, we see the Booster/Harley confrontation that is presumably at the heart of the title. In the months of solicits and coverage, we were told that this story would be linked to a notion of Post-Traumatic Stress, and in Harley, we see that stress manifests in a potentially problematic manner. To the person who has no experience with PTS, Harley’s actions read as a sort of norming of violence as an outlet to PTS, despite the fact that violent sufferers of PTS are, in reality, outliers. I can see this developing into a larger problem as the story progresses, and at this juncture, I don’t see a clear path away from establishing a dangerous stereotype regarding a very real problem.
Given the long and storied history the word Crisis carries in the DCU, I had much higher expectations from this issue. It is difficult to judge a 5-part series from the first issue, but as it stands, the path established for this series doesn't look promising.
Heroes in Crisis #1: No Safe Space
Writing - 3/10
Storyline - 3/10
Art - 8/10
Color - 8/10
Cover Art - 9/10
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