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.
Release Date: October 1st 2019.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
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.
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.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!