Heroes in Crisis by Tom King

details
Title: Heroes in Crisis.
Writer(s): Tom King.
Penciller(s): Clay Mann, Travis Moore, Lee Weeks, Mitch Gerads & Jorge Fornes.
Colourist(s): Tomeu Morey, Arif Prianto & Mitch Gerads.
Letterer(s): Clayton Cowles.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: October 1st 2019.
Pages: 208.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781401291426.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.

thoughts

While vigilantism is always at the heart of juridical debates, with individuals breaking the law to serve a greater good, we’re often led to believe that their lives are void of adversity and that they represent the paragon of virtues as they dish out their own form of justice to those that escape the grasps of the law. Albeit partially true, these individuals are also subjugated to the same scale of emotions as everyone else and face some of the toughest decisions that humanity will ever have to face. Yet, how do they cope with these issues without breaking down and fully assuming those vulnerabilities that could destroy the image they represent for the people they protect? From the ex-CIA-operative who has given us The Sheriff of Babylon and Mister Miracle, Tom King, the same man who has been writing the ongoing Batman series since the beginning of DC Comics’ Rebirth era, now comes a stand-alone superhero story centered on the ability of these guardians to handle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is Heroes in Crisis about? Located in an ultra-secret farm lies Sanctuary, a therapy center for superheroes who, more often than not, voluntarily bite off more than they can ever chew in their crime-fighting lives, whether it concerns a simple bank robbery or a cosmic crisis. Through interviews with androids with artificial intelligence and an immersive virtual reality therapy, these heroes are invited to openly speak about the issues they have faced and the emotions they have been dealing with on a daily basis. A tragedy, nevertheless, strikes this location, where confidentiality is supposedly at its peak, when some of the heroes who presented themselves there as patients are found dead and only two very unusual suspects are identified: Harley Quinn and Booster Gold. It’s up to the DC Trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman) to demystify this tragedy while these heroes are put under extreme scrutiny.

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This story arc happens to be one of the most controversial plotting schemes by Tom King so far, as he generated an outburst among fans with his daring characterization of certain heroes, notably Wally West (The Flash). What he accomplishes in this nine-part tale completely remolds a hero and leads to a dark, twisted, and unpredictable finale that is far from being pleasant to the eyes of certain fans. Told through three distinct narrative styles (nine-panel grid interviews with patients at Sanctuary, the Trinity’s search for answers and their management of public outrage, as well as the point of views of several characters, including the prime suspects), the story slowly builds on the suspense until the grand reveal in the final two issues. Although the story is configured as a whodunit, Tom King also does what he does best as he focuses on character development by highlighting trauma through hesitant, confused or perplexed dialogues. It is stories like these that make comics so fascinating as they go beyond the narrative and tackle ideas and themes that aren’t easy to fathom.

Although the story is slightly convoluted with segments that explore unmemorable heroes and their existential crises, as well as relatively-minor issues regarding plot holes, pacing and structure, the jaw-dropping and marvelous artwork elevates the quality of this graphic novel to incredible heights. It is to be noted that artist Clay Mann figures among my favourite talents in the comic book business and even gets a helping hand from the talented Travis Moore, Lee Weeks, Mitch Gerads and Jorge Fornes. Alongside the stunning colouring by Tomeu Morey, Arif Prianto and Mitch Gerads, this graphic novel provided an insightful look at the splendid collaboration between artists and colourists into delivering incredible splash pages with near-perfect character designs. The meticulous detail in the subtle body language and facial expressions are also magnificent, allowing the artwork to speak for itself.

Heroes in Crisis is an ambitious and daunting exploration of mental health issues amongst superheroes by breaking the status quo with heroes and villains alike, coupled with breath-taking artwork to deliver a controversial and daring crisis among heroes.


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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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29 comments

    • I think you could indeed pass on it considering that it sort takes away the “heroes are a symbol of hope” platitude and that’s something you don’t tolerate, if I stand correct.

      As for the controverse around Wally West.

      *SPOILER ALERT* If you’re reading this, be warned, you’ll be spoiled. So in this story, the tragedy that strikes the Sanctuary is the death of multiple heroes in a place that is supposed to be peaceful, a home to heal. Amongst those who died, there’s Wally West, probably the most “memorable” and “important” hero to die, while the others are C-list heroes. As you progress through the story, you discover that neither Harley or Booster Gold are the killers, and it’s actually Wally West, who, one day, when he went for therapy there, he has a sort of “PTSD episode” which unleashes the speed force in him and kills other patients/heroes who were in the vincinity. When he realizes what he has done, we, readers, understand that Wally West is now a mass murderer. And in that instant, what he does is concoct a plan to hide the traces of his actions, so he manipulates Harley and Booster to blame each other for these deaths, then travels back in time to put a dead Wally West. So, not only does he end up killing so many, he also hides his actions from everyone, planning to then kill himself to complete the time-travel loop. The story however ends with him being intercepted in his plan and arrested from his crime, taking away his status as a “hero”… Now… What DC and its writers decide to henceforth is up to them but this remains a stand-alone graphic novel which could potentially not be taken into consideration as canon but as you can see… Fans of Wally West probably hate Tom King… a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        If King had done something like that to Supes, I’d want to kill him. No wonder fans were upset. That just destroys everything that West has been up to this point.

        And yes, I definitely do subscribe to the Heroes are Hope philosophy and I take it seriously. I’m hesitant to ascribe motive to those artists who do things like this, but I always wonder just what they are trying to accomplish…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hahahahah I had a feeling you’d have such a reaction too.

          I think what most are trying to do is what we’d call “realism”. Trying to attain “believability” with these characters that once seemed so ridiculous that they remained in the impossible/fantasy and now are taken seriously, put into real-life situations and evolving like anyone else. Sort of like the approach Zach Snyder had with Man of Steel.

          Liked by 1 person

  • Oh my Gosh! A therapy center for super heroes! That’s definitely something new! But yes I guess with all the battles they do they also could suffer from PTSD! Plus they always fight evil so it must be depressing to always see the evil side of mankind!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Excellent expression of thoughts as ever my awesome friend, I’ve been looking forward to your thoughts on HiC very much. I would see my verdict pretty much mirrors your own (I’d rate it an equal 4 stars) – there were some slight issues (like you mention the pacing and some overly convoluted plotting) and I wish that Clay Mann had been able to draw the whole thing (love Lee Weeks and Mitch Gerads but I think the series needed complete visual consistency – fingers crossed Mann does ALL of Batman/Catwoman).

    I get the controversy surrounding the story and some of the reaction but I feel this was an important story to tell, superhero comics are great fro escapism but every now and then we need something with a bit more substance and relevance – by showing that superheros can face the same troubles that real world heroes and everyday people experience it makes them that much more relatable and even empowering. I like where King leaves us with Wally – yes, terrible things have happened and mistakes made but there’s hope that it will get better and that’s ever present in the human condition.

    Wow, didn’t mean to get all meta with this haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Chris. I’m pretty glad to hear this from you since my appreciation for this controversial story isn’t unanimous. It’s nice to know at least one person shares my feelings on it hahah And yes, it would have been nice if they could just keep one artist for a whole project, especially these mini-series. Hope it’ll be the case for Bat/Cat. I’ll remain a bit pessimistic about it though, considering how rare it is for them to keep one artist for a whole project hahah

      I’m totally with you on that. I also think it was pretty clever to revisit that Barry/Wally moment from DC Rebirth #1 and to give us some insight on his point of view on things. I can’t tell how they’ll ever redeem Wally if they make this canon for a while though. He really was at the heart of a huge tragedy after all and I fear the only way he could come back from this is… to be a martyr for superheroes or something… 😮

      Like

  • Ok, so once again King takes a delicate subject and smashes it to pieces in the process of his “thoughtful examination”… I’d very much like to see the heroes fall, some getting up, some not so much, but I don’t see in West as a character developed over the years this cowardly need to escape responsibility and justice… I could see him commit suicide, or “suicide by others”, but in no previous comic I had read with him in it I saw this denial of responsibility – which, from psychological perspective, is grounded deeply for conscious, planned action. I’d love to see a good post-combat PTSD-themed comic, though. The only one I read and actually appreciated was the first several issues of the French Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaahah I looked forward to your reaction to this one too. King is extremely radical with some of his “thought” pieces, especially in his attempt to bring real-life issues into the superhero world. He doesn’t want these to feel like comic books, which is fine, but it’s bound to make so many people to react at how dramatic his approach is. Indeed, he does, almost, overlook some character’s history to transform them and shape them to his will. Throughout Heroes in Crisis you also see subtle nods to his past work, especially his revival of Booster Gold, which he did through the Batman series. I still enjoy watching him “destroy” things and like some of the ideas he wants to infuse in the DC lore but I’m also convinced that with the right “mitigator” to his ideas, we could get some of the best stories in a long time. For now, I’ll just see if he can learn with experience.

      He does do a pretty good Superman though and he has projects with that character, so I’m excited to see what crazy things he has up his sleeves for our iconic hero hahahah 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • King’s instincts in picking up difficult topics are spot on. What I resent is his ham-fistedness in dealing with them 😛 He has good intentions, granted – but the saying that road to Hell is paved with good intentions didn’t come from nowhere, after all 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  • Controversial, topical and exciting all in one. I’m liking the idea of therapy for super heroes.
    Read the spoiler…. yeah… that Tom King… I can only imagine the levels of hate mail he received 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nina!!!!! 😛 Right? Really intriguing stuff and something that definitely needed to be explored. Hahahahaha he absolutely did get hate mail, people who actually wished his death. He shared it all via his twitter account and it was quite amazing to see it all unfold…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey! A quick bloghop. Lol. Trying to sneak in some catch up anywhere possible.
        It’s incredible how people react to what producers and writers create. But then again, in this case, he was playing with characters that fans have loooooong histories and personal connections with.

        Liked by 1 person

  • Sorry I’m late to the party!! (I was at the hospital all week.) ❤️ I read your spoilers!! What a fascinating way to use superheroes to talk about mental health. Its good that this is stand alone, actually as a writer I think Tom King was super smart because comic readers are sure to pay attention when his name comes up again. Taking a risk in this limited space… and I can see where Wally West felt like hiding what he’d done was for the best… not just for himself but for all heroes. When heroes become too human people tend to grumble.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no, Dani! Don’t worry at all. I just hope you were able to take care of yourself lately! 😮

      And yes, it was a super ambitious move, story-telling wise, and he’s even backed up in the art department since it’s pretty much flawless. What he does to Wally is quite insane when you think about it but it can somewhat be “understood”, since he at least takes the time to give the hero an issue where it’s entirely his point of view and you see what happens and how he felt. Good stuff! 😮

      Liked by 1 person

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