Heroes in Crisis is DC’s newest big event story. And it is officially a “Crisis” event as well. This carries a heavy burden as previous Crisis events have been quite good. Personally, I do not see much similarity between Heroes in Crisis and Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis, and Final Crisis. To me, Heroes in Crisis looks like an editorially mandated and uncreative remix of Identity Crisis. Heroes in Crisis seems more like DC’s version of Marvel’s Secret Wars and Civil War II than an original and creative big event story.
Having said that there is no doubt that Tom King is a talented writer. Kind is certainly not perfect and has tosses out his fair share of misses when writing mainstream super hero titles. But, King is talented and is definitely capable to delivering a quality story. Let’s hope for the best and hit this review for Heroes In Crisis #1.
Words: Tom King
Art: Clay Mann
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Booster Gold at a diner in Gordon Nebraska. We see Harley Quinn enter the diner. Harley sits next to Booster.
We then cut to Superman streaking through the sky. (Welp. That’s two pages for pretty much nothing at all.)
We shift to Harley Quinn being interviewed at Sanctuary. Harley says that she does not believe in trauma. That it is just weak people. Harley says that she should not have been listening to people talk about their problems. Instead she should have been beating them with a sledgehammer. Harley proceeds to say “Bang” for several panels. Harley then says, “God.” (Wow. This is an uninspired take on Harley.)
We hop back to the diner. Harley orders some peach pie. Harley then confesses to Booster that she hates pudding. (This is supposed to be ironic humor because Harley always calls people “pudding.”) The waitress then brings Harley her peach pie. Harley eats it and says that it smells like America. (Nope. That would be Apple pie. And how awesome is it to get two whole pages that give us nothing more than Harley drinking coffee and enjoying a slice of pie. Wonderful. This is why I purchase mainstream super hero titles.)
We then shift back to Superman arriving at Sanctuary. We see birds eating the Blue Jay’s tiny corpse.
We then cut to Blue Jay being interviewed at Sanctuary. (Oh, yay. Another page of nearly the exact same panel of a talking head. Nothing says big event artwork like the same panel of a talking head, baby!)
Blue Jay says that he has been losing control of his powers. That he will shrink while asleep and wake up drowning in his bed.
We hop back to the diner. Harley finishes eating her pie. She drones on and on about pretty much nothing at all. (Just time-wasting babble.) Harley then picks up her knife and stabs Booster Gold in the side with it. (Surprising no one. I wish we could have gotten here about ten pages sooner.)
Harley gets on top of Booster and is about to stab him when he powers up and blasts her. We see the two squaring off outside of the diner. Booster tells Harley to stop and that he does not want to hurt her. Harley says that she is going to hurt Booster. (What the hell is up with Harley’s knife?! We saw in page 9 that she picked up the knife that was given to her along with her fork back at the diner. She was eating pie. Not a delicious steak. She had just a regular blunt silverware knife. But, in this the knife is drawn like a pointed, curved, and razor-sharp killing knife. Really?!)
We shift to Batman racing toward Sanctuary. Batman is 13 minutes away. We see Wonder Woman flying toward Sanctuary. We see Superman looking at the corpses of Hot Spot, Captain Steel, Lagoon Boy, a woman with a gold mask and an unidentified Green Lantern.
We cut back to Hot Spot giving an interview at Sanctuary. Hot Spot says that he has a catchphrase. it is “I’m just warming up.” Hot Spot says that he gets scared when he is in a fight. That a lot of people are like that. And nobody admits to it. That they are all trying to be something. But, it helps to have a catchphrase to say. At least if you die they will remember you. Hot Spot then says his catchphrase. (You know what this means, right? That nobody is going to remember his stupid catchphrase.)
We hop back to Superman kneeling next to Hot Spot’s corpse. Superman says “there’s a thing he would say. Wasn’t there? I can’t remember.” (Cue dramatic music. Bum-bum-bummmmmmm!! This is some high quality unintentionally hilarious cheese.)
We zip back to Booster Gold and Harley Quinn fighting. (I’m still not sure how Harley Quinn with a simple diner knife is able to penetrate Booster Gold’s high tech force field. But, whatever. Logic need not apply. And Harley’s knife? It is now straight instead of curved and even more razor-sharp looking. It is still not a regular silverware knife that you get at a diner when being served coffee and pie.)
Booster grabs Harley and tells her to stop. Harley refuses to stop attacking him. Booster grabs her and flies high into the air and says that he is going to take her to the Hall of Justice.
We then cut to Superman entering Sanctuary. We see the corpses of Arsenal and the real Wally West. (And at this moment Joshua Williamson gives Tom King the middle finger for fucking up all the incredible work Williamson has been doing with Wally West in the pages of Flash. And then Scott Lobdell raises his middle finger to Tom King for fucking up all the impressive work he was doing with Arsenal’s character over in Red Hood and the Outlaws. And, I get it. Heroes in Crisis is a “Crisis” event so a Flash must die. How original. How fresh. How unexpected. Please, continue.)
We shift back to Arsenal giving an interview at Sanctuary. Arsenal talks about being a drug addict.
We cut back to Booster Gold with Harley on his back high in the sky. Harley stabs Booster again and the two of them plummet to the ground. (And they both die. And this issue ends. Wait…that isn’t what happened? We still have more of this issue to go? Dammit.)
We hop back to Sanctuary. We see the android staff of Sanctuary are all destroyed. (The killer even threw the “Welcome” sign into the fire in the fireplace! WHAT AN ANIMAL!! And what is even better than that cheesy touch is that Superman shows more sorrow and loss over the “deaths” of thee androids than he did for WALLY WEST AND ARSENAL. HILARIOUS!)
The killer wrote “The Puddlers are all dead” on the wall. Batman and Wonder Woman then enter the room. Wonder Woman says that puddlers were people who worked in iron making swords and weapons. That they would remove the impurities so the iron could be strong.
Batman says that someone was being treated here by Sanctuary and that someone killed everyone else. Batman says that their hope for redemption is now just another hunt for vengeance. (Cue dramatic music again. BUM-BUM-BUMMMMMM!!!! How did Batman even say that dialogue with a straight face. I could not read it with a straight face. It is like Tom King played Boggle with classic comic book buzz words.)
We cut back to Booster Gold and Harley Quinn on the ground. Both are beaten up. Booster says that they were all at Sanctuary to get help. They were all hurt. (I think Tom King needed to insert Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt into this scene.)
Booster says he saw Harley killing them. Harley asks Booster how deep did he crack. Harley says that she ran from Booster. Like a coward. Harley says that she did not save the victims, but she did not kill them. Harley says that Booster killed them all.
We flashback to Booster Gold giving an interview at Sanctuary. Booster says that Sanctuary is a robot super-reality therapist built with Kryptonian tech and infused with the will of Batman and the compassion of Wonder Woman. (What about the libido of Nightwing?! WHY WAS THIS NOT ADDED?!)
Booster says that Sanctuary helps heroes who have seen too much or done too much. Booster says that heroes are all messed up. Including Booster himself. Booster then says that he is here and ready. Booster says, “Help me.” End of issue.
The Good: The best part of Heroes in Crisis #1 was the cool preview for the new Green Lantern title by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp. That is going to be an absolute blast to read.
Okay, okay. The Comic Book Revolution’s Rule of Positivity means that I actually have to find something good about the story itself and not a preview for another title. Can you blame me for trying?
The greatest strength of Heroes in Crisis #1 is Clay Mann’s phenomenal artwork. And this is not even close. Mann’s artwork is the only thing that kept me reading Heroes In Crisis #1. It is a real shame that Mann did not get a story with actual substance to it in order to compliment his incredible artwork.
Mann is able to deliver sweeping splash shots that look dramatic and cinematic. Mann is comfortable delivering action scenes as he is at delivering dialogue heavy scenes. In fact, Mann displays the ability to even deliver eye-catching artwork when the writer gives him scenes that have no action and next to no actual dialogue or content at all to them! Now that is real talent!
Mann also does a great job with the panel layouts as well. With the exception of the five dull looking talking head scenes, Mann delivers some creative and dynamic looking pages.
While King failed to deliver Big Event quality writing there is zero doubt that Mann absolutely delivers Big Event quality artwork.
The Bad: Heroes In Crisis #1 is all flash and zero substance. It has all the trappings of what is a “serious” and “mature” comic book much like the ones that came before in Identity Crisis and the Watchmen. However, Heroes in Crisis #1 has none of the introspection, raw emotion, nuance, meticulously detailed story, and gravitas that Identity Crisis and the Watchmen delivered.
Heroes in Crisis #1 reminds me of a highly detailed theater stage set. The ornate facades of the impressive stage set make the audience feel that what they are seeing on the stage is real. However, once you look behind the detailed and themed stage set everything is revealed to be a fake facade with bare lumber and emptiness behind the stage set. The grand stage set has no content to it. It has no substance or realness.
This is what King has done with Heroes In Crisis #1. King has obviously read the prior Crisis events, in particular Identity Crisis, and knows what a “serious” event should look like. King mechanically places all the proper trappings of a “serious” event onto his story as if working off a checklist. The result is an issue that is superficially impressive but ultimately soulless.
We have the DC’s Trinity in Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman present in a properly somber fashion. We have the “shocking” deaths of numerous heroes. We have the “surprising” suspects as the murderer including one of the Justice League’s own members. King even bandies about the word “trauma” to let the reader know that this is indeed a “serious” event.
Sadly, at the end of Heroes In Crisis #1, the reader realizes that King has given them nothing more than the trappings of a “serious” event. There is no actual substance. There is no depth. No texture or nuance. No introspective examination of “trauma” and how it impacts our heroes.
It is going to be impossible to read Heroes in Crisis and not compare it to its obvious predecessor in Identity Crisis. In this comparison, Heroes in Crisis #1 falls short in stunning fashion. Brad Meltzer was able to offer the reader a view into the window of the souls of our heroes as they reacted to the death of Sue Dibny. Meltzer did not just mechanically throw the word “trauma” about the story. Instead, Meltzer showed the reader the trauma that our heroes were experiencing without ever mentioning the word “trauma.”
Meltzer created a three-dimensional world rich with detail and substance that pulled the reader deep into the story. Meltzer delivered complex character work where the readers experienced the trauma of the heroes rather than simply being told about trauma in a mechanical fashion. Meltzer delved deep into the psychology of his story. Meltzer employed the tactic of showing the reader rather than telling the reader.
King takes the lazy and uncreative route with Heroes In Crisis #1. King simply tells the reader rather than showing the reader. King tells us that our heroes are experiencing trauma, but never shows the reader. King never examines what trauma is and how it impacts the characters and their relationships with each other. King never begins to peel back the layers of the trauma and the tragedy. The word “trauma” is simply used as a label to tell the reader that this is a “serious” story.
King keeps his entire story right on the surface. The result is a story that is shallow and that never engrosses the reader. There is no dense and mentally stimulating substance to engage the reader’s mind.
King delivers the story in Heroes In Crisis #1 in nothing more than the most basic and broad strokes. There is no desire to actually get into the details. There is no layered world building performed in this issue at all. There result is that Heroes In Crisis #1 is nothing more than an empty suit. It is a hollow shell of an issue. It has the exterior of a “serious” comic that lacks anything of real substance. In fact, King seems more engaged with the concept of being “serious” than the actual supposed subject matter.
Unfortunately, King failing to examine the central theme of trauma and keeping the story shallow and vacuous are not the only problems with his uncreative approach to this issue. There is also the problem of King’s lazy approach with the “shocking” deaths in this issue.
In Identity Crisis, Meltzer employed just a single death: Sue Dibny. By limiting the story to one death and keeping that the focus of the mystery Meltzer was able to maximize the impact of that death and how it effected the various characters. It also made the story have far more impact on the reader as well.
In Heroes In Crisis #1, King goes for the intellectually lazy route of “if a little is good then more is better” and overwhelms the reader with a massive body count of dead heroes in this issue. I counted 14 bodies at Sanctuary. It is a bit hard to tell. I included any figure with blood around it to be a corpse. The number may be slightly lower or slightly higher by the time we get to the next issue.
Regardless, the huge body count is way too much. It simply serves to overwhelm the reader and make them numb to the deaths. There are simply too many characters getting killed off at once for the reader to get invested in any of the deaths. Less is always more and that is most definitely the case when it comes to killing characters. The sheer number of characters killed off in a single issue dilutes the impact of death as a concept.
Further complicating the issue is that the deaths are treated as a lazy and convenient plot device to put King’s murder mystery story in place. What King delivers is basically the largest fridging of characters that we have ever seen at one time. ‘Fridging’ is when the writer kills off a minor character in order to motivate or torture a main character. To put simply, fridging is an easy way for the writer to make the protagonist hate the antagonist. It is viewed as an intellectually lazy and creatively bankrupt route taken by a writer. This is why the concept of fridging has such a negative connotation.
This is exactly what King does in Heroes In Crisis #1. The characters that are killed off are all minor characters. The biggest name characters who are killed would be Arsenal and the real Wally West. Now, I am a huge fan of Roy Harper, but the fact remains that Roy is most definitely a minor character. And I love the real Wally West, but the fact is that he was erased from the DCU by the New 52 and has had no point or purpose since returning to the DCU after Rebirth. So, the tough truth for readers like me is that the real Wally West is nothing more than a minor character as well. The rest of the characters that are killed off are nothing more than a collection of C-list and D-list characters.
The deaths of these characters all happen off panel. This makes their deaths even more meaningless. All the deaths occur in an unheroic fashion. Remember, Barry Allen died in Crisis on Infinite Earths as a true hero saving the Earth from the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter cannon. That is a heroic death with meaning. The dead characters in Heroes In Crisis #1 are all robbed of any meaning or heroism in their off panel deaths. These characters have been reduced to the roles of the anonymous murder victims from a police procedural televisions show who play no important role other than getting the story moving.
So, King gives us the meaningless and unheroic deaths of a bunch minor characters. These deaths all serve a single purpose: to provide motivate and torture the Trinity in Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. That is plainly evident in the scene with the Trinity at Sanctuary as they surveyed the deaths. The deaths tortured all three characters. The deaths then motivated all three characters to discover the identity fo the killer. The deaths also made our three characters hate the unknown antagonist. That was evident in Batman’s angry talk of vengeance. It is all textbook fridging.
And to circle back to the real Wally West’s death for a moment. Dan Didio’s belief that a Flash must die in every Crisis event is a concept that may need to be retired. It is becoming more of a joke moment, like Kenny getting killed in every episode of South Park, than it is a legitimate serious moment that has any real impact on the reader at all. I was expecting Superman to turn to the reader and shake his fist and yell, “They killed the Flash! You bastards!”
The plotting and pacing of Heroes In Crisis #1 are equally unimpressive. I now understand why DC extended Heroes In Crisis from a seven issue mini-series to a nine issue mini-series. Because, King is moving this story along so slowly that there was no way he could finish it in just seven issue. Heroes in Crisis #1 suffers from decompressed storytelling. The story slowly ambles along. King manages to deliver as little plot progression as possible.
King opens the issue with a one page scene with Booster in a diner and Harley entering the diner. We then get a two page splash shot of Superman streaking through the sky and no dialogue or narration. This is then followed up with a one page talking head scene with Harley that gives us zero content at all. We then get a two page scene at the diner of Harley eating a piece of pie.
At this point, we are now six pages into the issue with zero content at all. Seriously. We have seen Superman fly through the sky, Harley enter a diner and then eat a piece of pie. That is it. The first six pages are nothing more than pure filler. This is just fluff designed to waste time and stretch an already thin story out across the entire issue.
We then get a one page scene of birds eating Blue Jay’s body and then a one page talking head scene of Blue Jay talking about how his powers are behaving erratically. So, now we are eight full pages into the issue and the only actual content the reader has received is that Blue Jay is dead.
We then get a one page scene of Harley just babbling about nothing substantive. We then get two pages of Harley and Booster fighting. So now we are eleven pages into the issue and all we have gotten in the way of substantive content is that Blue Jay is dead and Harley has attacked Booster.
We then get an entire page dedicated to Wonder Woman flying, Batman flying and Superman standing. We then get one page of Superman discovering more dead heroes. One page of Hot Spot talking to the camera and one page of Superman kneeling next to Hot Spot.
We then get two pages of Harley and Booster fighting with nothing at all in the way of actual substance to add to the story.
We then get one page of Superman discovering more dead. And we get one page of a talking head scene with Arsenal. We then get one page of Booster and Harley fighting with Harley babbling and nothing of actual substance being added to the story. We then get a one page scene of Superman seeing Sanctuary’s androids destroyed. We then get a one page scene of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman reacting as shallowly and superficially as possible to the scene of the dead heroes.
So, here we are twenty-two pages into Heroes in Crisis #1 and the only actual substance content that we have received is that Harley is attacking Booster for unknown reasons, and that several heroes have been murdered. That is it. Nothing in the actual way of any true depth or substance has been delivered at this point. Everything has been completely hollow. All King has done is give us a fight scene with zero psychology that delivers nothing in the way of substance and give us a scene with Superman simply ticking off the list of dead heroes like he was checking off a grocery shopping list.
We then get the final two pages which reveal that Booster was also at Sanctuary and that he killed everyone. And with that the issue is done. These final two pages are supposed to operate as the “shocking” hook ending that are designed to make the reader forget that largely nothing happened in this surprisingly slow and shallow issue.
The only action in Heroes In Crisis #1 come by the way of the Booster Gold and Harley Quinn brawl. Unfortunately, King puts forth zero effort in crafting this fight scene. The fight lacks any psychology at all. King performs zero plot progression with this fight. Nor does King do any character work in this fight scene. Fight scenes with excellent psychology are a powerful and entertaining tool to forward a plot line or to perform good character work and reveal a character’ motivations or desires. The fight felt perfunctory and lacked any stakes. The fight scene felt more like King going off of a big event checklist and inserting the obligatory “exciting” fight scene.
The character work and dialogue in Heroes In Crisis #1 were also unimpressive. The character work is largely absent. None of the characters have any real three-dimensional personalities at all.
Harley Quinn is nothing more than a caricature instead of an actual character. This is a far less engaging and interesting Harley Quinn than we have gotten from numerous other writers on her own titles in the past. There is absolutely zero depth to Harley’s character at all.
King’s Booster Gold is also disappointing. King does not have a good feel for Booster’s character at all. King simply falls back to the loser caricature when writing Booster in this issue. There is absolutely no depth to Booster’s character unlike what we have gotten in the past. In particular, his more heroic rendition that we have seen since the end of 52.
Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all display bland and generic personalities. They are nothing more than props who robotically carry out their duties in the story. While Wonder Woman and Batman were bland at best, it was Superman who was the worse of the three. It seems that King uses Henry Cavill as his source of inspiration on how to write Superman.
King has Superman survey the death and carnage at Sanctuary in a mechanical and cold fashion. Superman ticked off the list of the dead characters like he was checking off his grocery shopping list. The poor character of Superman and the lack of depth and emotion made this thin story seem even more hollow.
King’s dialogue vacillates between bland and generic at best and cheesy and melodramatic at worst. Most of the dialogue is simply bland and generic. However, there are moments where the dialogue gets so cheesy and melodramatic that it becomes unintentionally funny and elicits the exact opposite response from the reader than what Kind had intended.
Harley’s dialogue was also unimpressive. Poor Harley was given pointless dialogue that never rose beyond being utterly meaningless drivel. King gives Harley the most babbling and useless dialogue possible.
Unfortunately, the melodrama and heavy-handed writing is not limited to just the dialogue. King’s ham-fisted approach extends to how he writes the entire issue. There is no nuance or artistry with what we get in Heroes In Crisis #1.
There are plenty of examples of this through out the entire issue. My favorite example is the scene with Superman trying to remember Hot Spot’s tag line. This scene was wildly unintentionally funny. This was a culmination of King’s ham-fisted handling of the theme of trauma and the deaths in general and King’s cheesy dialogue.
Overall: Heroes In Crisis #1 was a stunningly disappointing start to this “Crisis” big event. King coughs up a poorly written issue that reads like the beginning of a dull police procedural television show. All for the high cover price of $4.00. Readers can easily skip this issue and miss nothing at all. All you need to know is that a bunch of minor characters are dead at the hands of an unknown killer.
Hopefully, King can turn this story around in quick order. We still have eight issues remaining. King is certainly talented enough to rebound from a surprisingly bad start and deliver a quality story. However, Heroes In Crisis #1 does not fill me with confidence that we have a quality story headed our way with the remaining issues.