Heroes in Crisis Part 9 -
It all comes down to this: Wally West has traveled five minutes into the future to kill his own future self, so that he can plant the body at the scene of the Sanctuary crime. Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Batgirl, and Harley Quinn are attempting to arrive on time to stop him... but when time travel is involved, is there truly ever any such thing as "on time?"
And, ultimately - will any of this wind up mattering at all, if Wally can just travel through time to fix his mistakes?
When I initially set about writing this review, I chose a different cover image than the one that ultimately wound up attached to the article:
I initially chose the above image because I felt it was an apt summary of Heroes in Crisis‘s central failing: in trying (ostensibly) to tell a Very Serious Story about PTSD, writer Tom King swerved far too hard into more fanciful superhero storytelling, which culminated with this scene, where the Wally of Today has traveled forward in time to murder the Wally From Five Minutes From Now, so that he could then travel back in time, plant the body, and then somehow be free to run amok through the timeline and somehow fix things. It’s an idea that’s complete nonsense; it doesn’t even make sense in a Comic Book Science kind of way, and it’s so convoluted that even trying to mentally unravel the Gordian knot it presents is an utter exercise in futility.
And, to reiterate a point I made in my review of the previous issue: it completely destroys Wally West as a character (at least until some future writer pulls a Geoff Johns and undoes all this character assassination, restoring West to his rightful glory).
But instead of the more shocking image, I chose the image that you see adorning this review in its place: Wally offering himself words of encouragement and love and support, while his friends look on, keeping a respectful distance but letting it be known that yes, they are there for him. Taken solely in the context of someone battling depression, anxiety, and PTSD, it’s a powerful image, offering hope when all seems completely lost. For this final Comic Watch review of this extremely polarizing series, I wanted to make a visual statement on the poignancy this series was supposed to be about.
Unfortunately, Heroes in Crisis does absolutely nothing to earn that poignancy, and as the series concludes with a quietly bizarre series of events and goes out with less than even a whimper, the supposedly intended message gets completely lost in Tom King’s miasma of half-realized subplots, each one stretched past the point of credulity and leaving readers to ultimately wonder, “What was the point?”
PTSD is an extremely serious topic, as it affects people everyday, leading to depression, isolation, stigmatization, psychosis, and death. It should be treated with all due seriousness, and to his credit, I can tell that Tom King is at least trying. The problem is, he gets so full of himself that the message gets completely lost in the mix of extended “confessionals” pages, and scene after scene, issue after issue, that ultimately don’t add anything whatsoever to the story other than padding.
(It’s worth noting that this series was originally intended as five issues, and then got extended to nine. If a “Tom King cut” were every released, even just digitally, I’d be interested to read it if for no other reason than to have a firmer grip on the author’s original intent.)
There’s an extended bit in this issue concerning Harley’s reunion with Poison Ivy, only it’s a vestige of her that has somehow merged with the Green (from Swamp Thing). The moment of their reunion briefly hangs there, waiting to exhale, but at no real point does King make it clear what this has to do with anything. It’s a nice moment for Harley, sure, but it has a lot of weird Ivy plot threads thrown in, that have nothing to do with anything. Nor are they ever resolved or implicated as any other piece of the plot.
There’s also the reunion of the old-school JLI Blue and Gold team, but other than the fan service of having the band back together, their friendship doesn’t add anything to the mix. Nor does Batgirl’s presence. Any of these characters could be substituted out (with the exception of Booster), and it wouldn’t make any difference to the plot.
And so in the end, Wally accepts that he screwed up, no timey-wimey shenanigans take place, the dead stay that way, and Wally ultimately accepts responsibility and punishment like a big boy. And goes off in cuffs to the disapproving looks of the Justice League.
There’s probably some deeper metaphor there, like the older generation not properly looking out for its successors or something, but I just can’t bring myself to care. All that matters at this point is that a whole slew of characters have been wiped out (most of whom were Titans, for whatever it’s worth), and Wally West has a stain on his character that will linger for many years to come. It was pointed out to me after my review of the previous issue that this paled in comparison to DC’s cavalier treatment of Hal Jordan back when he became Parallax, but there’s a very noteworthy difference. DC’s destruction of Hal and subsequent introduction of Kyle Rayner was precipitated by desperation, as the book was on the verge of cancellation and DC didn’t want one of their marquee characters getting the ax. It might have been clumsily handled, but with Hal having a few years to cool off, readers were treated to some the highest water mark stories the GL mythos had seen in years with Kyle’s adventures, and ultimately the stage was set for Hal’s grand and glorious return – which then set up the next decade of legendary, character-defining storytelling for the character. But what good can come of having Wally reduced to a murder in a cold and calculated fashion that no one was clamoring for? When it’s done under the pretenses of having deeper meaning, of having something worthwhile to say about PTSD, but in the final analysis, was really just an exercise in cruelty?
What was the point?
Puerile instead of insightful and trashy posing as deep and meaningful, Heroes in Crisis limps across the finish line and does nothing at all to redeem itself and the sins it wrought upon Wally West... and readers' wallets. This is a story best forgotten, a cautionary tale of what happens when an ambitious writer sets his sights too high and editorial falls asleep at the wheel.
Heroes in Crisis #9 (of 9): What Was the Point?
- Writing - 1/101/10
- Storyline - 0.5/100.5/10
- Art - 6/106/10
- Color - 6/106/10
- Cover Art - 5/105/10
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