On May 29th, the ninth and final issue of the divisive murder mystery Heroes In Crisis written by Tom King and illustrated by Clay Mann was released to comic books stores everywhere.
The premise of this series is centered around superheroes coming to terms with their PTSD. One message this comic is successful in demonstrating is that these heroes, at the end of the day, are people. They react to traumatic instances just like any average Joe would and need the necessary help to overcome the aftermath of these impacts. Instead of showing each individual hero go to their own respective therapist or showing them cope with these impacts in their own way, King creates an institution known as Sanctuary which is specifically designed to treat superheroes mental issues. Being a comic book, of course, something goes wrong at this institution. Multiple heroes at the institution are murdered including fan favorites Roy Harper and Wally West. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman investigate the scene and come up with two possible suspects who were themselves patients in Sanctuary: Booster Gold and Harley Quinn. The series begins to become unfocused then on with Ted Kord Blue Beetle attempting to clear his futuristic friend’s name and Barbara Gordon trying to help Harley Quinn despite the two not really having a positive relationship in this continuity.
Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Batgirl, and Harley Quinn are essentially the main characters of this tale but their “investigation” of the murder mystery is constantly interrupted by other heroes session tapes in Sanctuary discussing their problems. While some of these sessions are interesting such as Guy Gardner asking if he has so much willpower, why wasn’t he chosen as the Earth’s first Green Lantern? He’s essentially asking what’s wrong with him but these instances of intrigue with the sessions are few and far between. These sessions use the display of the nine-panel-grid so frequently and so lazily that it really bogs down the story and makes Mann’s art look very static and unrealistic. It really looks like Mann just copied and pasted male and female silhouettes for these panels and the writing for these panels adds little to no context for the entire story. While some reveal something interesting concepts for characters, other panels just simply waste readers time such as Catwoman just saying “meeoww”; sometimes characters don’t even say anything in these panels! These panels truly feel like a waste of space in the comics and without them, this series really could have been cut down to 5-7 issues as they make up roughly half of this miniseries. The other half of the series focuses on the group determining if either Booster Gold or Harley Quinn actually murdered their fellow heroic patients. However, they don’t really do any sort of investigating,
Wally West is revealed to be the true murderer. Apparently Wally West became so distraught by his experience in DC Rebirth with losing his wife and kids and believing that he no longer has any friends that he became depressed and sought help in Sanctuary. Believing that no one has gone through such soul-shattering trauma as he has Wally snapped, losing control of his speed-based powers killing his fellow heroes in the institution. He then quickly plants evidence in the institution showing that it was either Booster Gold or Harley Quinn who committed the murders while placing a deceased clone of himself at the crime scene. Eventually, Wally does confess the truth to Booster Gold and Harley Quinn and the comic ends with Wally turning himself in to the Justice League. This wasn’t revealed until the second to last issue causing most fans to be confused during the prior issues as to what the point of this story is. While this is a murder mystery story, the story didn’t have to be dragged on for so long in anticipation for this reveal. Much of the story could have been cut out as it was essentially filler and the whole series could have just been 5-7 issues.
This story, while not as bad as other critics are claiming it is, is not great. It seems both King and Mann were phoning it in for this series. King has previously written books that dealt with PTSD and mental issues very well but this comic just feels like he was writing this story cause he was told to. It just feels like his writing wasn’t passionate in this tale as compared to his work on Mister Miracle and Vision. Perhaps this is because King didn’t want to originally use these characters for this story? After all, it was the editors who told him to use Wally West, Harley Quinn, and etc. The art in this series is also just ok. Mann’s art is fantastic but the poor use of the nine-panel-grid really brings down the quality of his art. It’s odd how poorly this paneling was used since King has used the framing method very effective in one of his previous works The Omega Men: The End Is Here. This series feels like it trying to evoke the feel of a prior DC murder mystery series Identity Crisis but Heroes in Crisis lacks the emotional impact that story conveys fairly well. Overall this series isn’t terrible even though it does hurt a lot of character’s development (sometimes to the point of death).
I would give this book a 6/10.
If you want to read groundbreaking books that effectively cover depression and mental illness, I would recommend King’s other works but not this one.
Heroes in Crisis will be collected in hardcover format on October 1st later this year.