It is stunning how bad Heroes in Crisis has been. We are now edging passed the midway point of this story and next to nothing has happened. It boggles the mind how painfully slow and boring this “big event” has been. At this point, Heroes in Crisis might be one of the worst “big event” I have read. Yeah, even worse than such train wrecks as Siege, Fear Itself, Original Sin, and Infinity Wars. Heroes in Crisis will go down in history as the big event about nothing.
I want to hope that Tom King is finally going to kick this story into gear and give us something that faintly looks like actual content and plot progression. But, at this point, my hope may be nothing more than foolishness on my part. I have to believe that now that we are crossing passed the midway point that King has to deliver an issue full of content and plot progression. Let’s hope for the best and hit this review for Heroes in Crisis #5.
Words: Tom King
Art: Clay Mann
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a page of nine small panels of Booster Gold talking to the Sanctuary camera. Booster says that ever since he saw the Batman from an alternative time-line kill himself that Booster keeps seeing a smudge of blood on his goggles.
We cut to Booster Gold and Blue Beetle hanging out at Blue Beetle’s apartment drinking beer, eating pizza, and watching TV. (I just love Team Blue and Gold.) Booster says that he has an idea. That they can break into Barry Allen’s lab, knock him out, and then figure out who is the killer. Ted responds that Booster just did that and it failed. That Barry knocked out Booster and then the Justice League locked Booster up in a cell.
Booster says that it is the dumbest idea ever. And since it is the dumbest idea ever that the Justice Leaguers will never think of it. Ted then toasts Booster on his stroke of genius by pulling off the dumbest move possible.
We shift to a page of nine small panels of Commander Steel recounting the two times that he has died and then been reincarnated. Commander Steel says that he is going to die again.
We zip to Batman meeting Batgirl in the Batcave. Batman has used the Batcomputer to run tons of tests on Skeets to find out Booster Gold’s location. It has been fruitless as Skeets simply does not know Booster’s location.
Batgirl takes Skeets and says that she will give it a try. That she has created a new algorithm back at her place that may work. Batman tells Batgirl to keep him posted if she finds anything.
Batman says that Superman and Wonder Woman are making a statement to the media about Sanctuary. Batgirl says that Batman is part of the Trinity and asks why he is not with them. Batman replies that he is Batman and he doesn’t’ do press conferences. (This might be the best line in this entire big event.)
We hop over to Superman and Louis’ apartment. Superman is writing his speech that he is going to deliver at his press conference. (Wait, didn’t King just have Batman say in the prior scene that Superman and Wonder Woman are giving a statement to the media? Is this scene a flashback? There is no narration box indicating that fact.)
Clark does not want the public to be scared about Sanctuary. That the entire point of Superman is to make sure that people are not scared. Lois asks Clark to come to bed. Clark says that he is not done with his statement.
We zip to a page of nine small panels of Solstice trying to control her powers and failing. (Riveting.)
We hop over to Batgirl and Skeets arriving at a playground. Skeets says that he honestly does not know Booster’s location and that Batman ran every test possible on him. Batgirl says that Skeets does know Booster’s location and did a good job hiding that fact.
Harley Quinn then appears on the scene with her big cartoonish mallet. The implication is that Harley will smash Skeets to bits if he does not tell them Booster’s location.
We hop over to Barry working in his crime lab. Booster smashes through the window. Barry punches Booster and asks him what is wrong with him. Booster then zaps Barry with his gauntlets. Barry is knocked out. Booster is excited that his stupid plan worked.
We then get a page of nine small panels of the Protector talking to the Sanctuary camera. The Protector says that he is used to so Public Service Ads telling kids to not do drugs. But, that the Protector actually took lots of drugs and was on drugs when doing the Public Service Ads. (Yup. I needed a full-page of that one thing being told to me in about five different repetitive ways.)
We hop over to Superman and Wonder Woman giving their statement about Sanctuary to the media. Superman talks about how several super heroes were killed at Sanctuary. Superman then asks anyone with knowledge of Booster Gold or Harley Quinn’s location to contact the authorities. Superman says that the heroes are working hard to solve the Sanctuary murders and that the heroes are working with both Federal and local authorities.
We zip back to Barry Allen’s crime lab. Booster is looking at computer scans of Wally West’s body. Booster says that he knows a lot about time travel and how Time Travel-Police operate. How the Time Travel-Police measure your RNA’s half-life and they compare it to your birthday.
We shift back to Superman droning on and one with his boring speech about how Sanctuary is a place of respite and healing for super heroes who have sacrificed everything to protect the world. That Sanctuary is a place to heal the heroes who have been broken. That sometimes heroes are vulnerable and afraid.
Superman says that he understands the public’s fear or highly powered super heroes needing mental therapy. Superman says that the people of Earth have accepted him, an alien, as a friend and that he has tried to continue to earn that friendship every day.
We cut to Batgirl and Harley heading off to Booster’s location that they got from Skeets. Harley says she will murder Booster. Batgirl says that nobody is killing anyone.
Superman then continues his speech. Superman says that he has seen heroes sacrifice everything to protect the world. That heroes have seen every horror possible but still refuse to stop fighting. That these heroes will sustain scars and nightmares that will forever haunt them.
Therefore, Sanctuary exists. That the existence of Sanctuary should comfort the public. That the suffering heroes will get the healing they need. That it is not a mark fo a madman but a mark of a warrior. During this part, we see a shadowy figure by the water. The figure picks a rose up out of the water.
We zip back to Barry Allen’s crime lab. Booster tells Blue Beetle that Wally’s body is five days older than it should be. (HOLY SHIT!!! ARE WELL ACTUALLY GETTING A CRUMB OF ACTUAL NEW CONTENT AND PLOT PROGRESSION IN THIS ISSUE?!?! WILL MIRACLES NEVER CEASE?)
Batgirl and Harley then arrive at the lab. Harley says she is here to massacre Booster. Batgirl says massacring is still killing. Harley asks if anything is not kill. (Tom King might possibly be writing the worst Harley Quinn ever. This character is beyond stupid and annoying.)
We shift to Harley Quinn talking to the Sanctuary camera. Harley talks about how Joker used to beat her a lot. End of issue.
The Good: Sweet baby Jesus. Somehow, King managed to top himself and deliver an issue in Heroes in Crisis #5 that was even more devoid of content and plot progression than the prior four issues. I did not think it was possible. But, here we are.
Having said that, there were some aspects to Heroes in Crisis #5 that I enjoyed. First and foremost, I liked the only bit of actual plot progression that we got in this issue. The surprise reveal that Wally West’s corpse is five days older than it should be. This was a brilliant plot twist.
King does a nice job utilizing Booster as the character to discover this clue. Booster has a long history of being a time traveller. In fact, Booster’s very origin includes time travel. And Booster is definitely a character who would know all about the Time Travel-Police. I appreciate how King made this plot twist a surprise yet still unveiled it in a pleasantly organic fashion. Sometimes plot twists are awkwardly shoved into the story. That is definitely not the case with this plot twist involving Wally.
Of course, this revelation about Wally’s corpse leads us to a renewed hope that Wally West is indeed alive and well somewhere. Of all the deaths in Heroes in Crisis, Wally West was the one death that made zero sense and rant completely counter to the entire direction of Rebirth.
Wally himself was the very personification of DC’s Rebirth. Wally’s character embodied the new positive tone and direction of Rebirth spinning out of the complete failure of the New 52. Wally was presented as a centerpiece character in the mystery surrounding Rebirth and Dr. Manhattan’s tampering with the DCU. It made no sense from a thematic standpoint or from a continuity standpoint to kill of Wally West. Hopefully, this plot twist in Heroes in Crisis #5 will lead to the reveal that Wally West is still alive.
The other aspect of Heroes in Crisis #5 that I enjoyed was Team Blue and Gold. Booster Gold and Blue Beetle is the best buddy team in the DCU. It is such a joy to see these two characters together again. King creates some fantastic chemistry between Booster and Ted. The bond between Booster and Ted feels so genuine.
And Booster’s completely moronic plan? Pure genius by King! I loved it! This was a fantastic move by King to have the most idiotic plan possible actually be the best plan. It is so Booster Gold and I loved it. The ludicrousness of the plan actually working is what made this plot even more successful. It was a great way to show Booster being a success in his own unique and dumb way. Booster’s ridiculous plan and the way that he rationalized it to Ted was also a wonderful moment of humor and entertainment in an otherwise dull story.
The only dialogue in Heroes in Crisis #5 was the dialogue for Batman. All the rest of the dialogue was average at best. Batman, though? King gave Batman some great dialogue. It was well done and in keeping with Batman’s personality.
I also liked that we continue to see the New 52 wiped away with more of the pre-Flashpoint DCU continuity being weaved into the story. In the scene with Commander Steel he mentions his various deaths and resurrections. Steel’s first death is a reference to Justice League of America #260 from 1987. King also brings up Steel’s resurrection in Blackest Night and second death in Justice League of America in 2009. Everything that Steel mentions is Pre-Flashpoint DCU continuity. This is a continuation of Rebirth’s wiping away the New 52 and reinstating the real DCU continuity. This is always a good thing!
Clay Mann delivers another quality looking issue in Heroes in Crisis #5. King continues to be an artist’s worst nightmare and gives Mann absolutely nothing to work with in this issue. But, Mann does the best with what King gives him and makes this issue as good-looking as possible given the limitations set by King.
The issue is dominated by dull talking head scenes with practically nothing going on at all. Other than the two pages of action at Barry Allen’s lab, Mann is not asked to do anything at all. It is clear that Mann simply had to lock into autopilot and mindlessly crank out this issue.
The Bad: Heroes in Crisis #5 is a four page story that was fluffed up and dragged out over a mind numbing twenty-four pages. I have read plenty of decompressed issues over the years from Brian Bendis and Geoff Johns that I thought were pretty slow. But, holy shit. I have never read an issue like Heroes in Crisis 5 where it seems like the writer is going out of his way to not perform any plot progression at all. It is stunning.
King kicks off Heroes in Crisis #5 with a one page with nine small panels of Booster Gold talking about the Batman from another dimension who killed himself. This scene does nothing. King has already told the reader ad nauseam about Booster’s mental problems. This is nothing new and is simply repetitive fluffing.
We then get a double page splash shot of Booster and Ted sitting on a sofa, drinking beer, eating pizza, and watching TV. That is it. Zero dialogue. Zero narration. This is it. Look, I love Team Blue and Gold more than anyone. But, this was a total waste of two pages. It is stunning how King continues to fail to understand the role of a double page splash shot in comic book storytelling.
We then get one page of Booster telling Ted about his plan to find out the identity of the Sanctuary killer. This should have been the first page of the issue.
King then gives us another page of nine small panels with Commander Steel recounting the number of times he has died and come back to life. This was utterly pointless. Commander Steel was fridged along with the other characters. Their deaths were meaningless. There is zero reason why the reader would care about any of these characters. Re-telling the deaths and rebirths of a D-list character four issues after that D-list character was fridged is useless time-wasting.
We then burn an entire two pages at the Batcave learning that Batman cannot figure out Booster’s location from Skeets and that Batgirl will now give it a try. This scene was slow and dull. It clearly felt like King was purposely keeping this story in neutral.
King then wastes an entire page of Superman writing his speech. It was not good character work nor did it deliver good dialogue. This was a shallow scene that felt like blatant stalling by King.
We then get another page of nine small panels with Solstice not being able to properly control her powers. Seriously. That is it. What the fuck. At this point, it feels like King is giving the reader the middle finger and is purposely trying to waste time with pure filler. At this point of Heroes in Crisis #5, we are nine pages into the issue and have gotten literally zero new content and zero plot progression. That is shameful.
King then wastes two pages with Batgirl and Harley Quinn threatening to smash Skeets unless he gives them Booster’s location. Two pages. On such a shallow scene. Again, it is just more blatant filler and time-wasting.
We then get the two page scene of Booster breaking into Barry’s lab and taking Barry down. Yup. It takes us going eleven pages into this issue before we finally get a scene that actually presents the reader with plot progression. I mean, it is not much plot progression, but at this point the reader will gladly take whatever crumbs they get from King.
But, don’t worry, because King slams on the brakes as we get a one page scene of nine tiny panels about how the Protector used to tell kids not to do drugs but did drugs himself. Seriously. That is it. King proceeds to restate that same point in about five different ways. It is so repetitious and nothing more than blatant time-wasting.
King then gives us a one page scene of Superman giving his speech to the media. It is the beginning of a long and dull speech that does nothing to offer new content or plot progression to the reader.
We then get a one page scene with Booster and Ted at Barry’s lab with Booster revealing that he sees a clue that Barry missed concerning Wally’s corpse. This is the first bit of actual plot progression since the scene where Booster broke into Barry’s lab. Again, it is the barest minimum amount of plot progression, but the reader cannot be picky at this point.
Thankfully, King immediately stops progressing the story forward and goes right back into time-wasting mode with six painfully dull and boring pages where Superman drones on and on about Sanctuary and its role in the super hero community. It is highly repetitive and absolutely nothing new at all. These are topics that King has already brought up multiple times in the prior four issues of Heroes in Crisis. King just repeats himself and bores the reader at the same time. This is neither a complex or deep concept.
We then get the one page scene with Harley and Batgirl entering Barry’s lab and Booster revealing that Wally’s corpse was only five days old. This moment presents the reader with the only new content and plot progression in seven pages. This one page is the only page worth reading in this entire issue. This one page is also the only moment where King actually decides that to deliver some true content and plot progression.
We then end Heroes in Crisis #5 the same way that we started this issue with another page of nine small panels with Harley talking to the Sanctuary camera. Again, it is nothing more than same repetitive dialogue telling the reader what we have already had drilled into our head. The Joker beat Harley Quinn when they were together. Yes. We all know this fact. If we did not know this before Heroes in Crisis then we all certainly knew it since it was continually mentioned in issues 1–4. This scene was just more of King taking the most threadbare themes and repeating them over and over and over.
Did King learn the craft of writing while being a writer for a daytime soap opera? Did King study under Nick Dallis in terms of how to write for comics? Seriously, Heroes in Crisis #5 is so slow and lacking in plot progression and content that it makes Apartment 3-G and Rex Morgan seem like shining examples of compressed and content heavy story telling.
The plotting and pacing in Heroes in Crisis #5 is simply horrid. This might be one of the most wretchedly paced and plotted issues that I have ever read. And that is saying something since the first four issues of Heroes in Crisis were pretty pathetically plotted and paced.
I honestly did not think that Heroes in Crisis could get any worse in terms of plotting and pacing. I thought that now that King was passed the midway point of this story that he had to finally stop wasting time and deliver an issue that was heavy on plot progression and content. I was completely wrong.
Instead, King delivered an issue that is the very definition of stasis. King does what I thought was impossible and actually cranks out an issue with even less content and plot progression than the prior four issues of Heres in Crisis. It is stunning how King firmly keeps this story stuck in neutral from cover to cover. Without a doubt, Heroes in Crisis #5 is completely skippable.
It is shocking that you can sum up all of the new content and plot progression in Heroes in Crisis #5 in just one sentence. Wally West’s corpse is only five days old. Done. That is it. That is the sum total of all the new content and plot progression in Heroes in Crisis #5. Everything else is just window dressing, recycling dialogue we have already gotten, and recycling themes that we have already seen in this story. This is easily the most egregious example of gross decompression that I have ever seen in a comic book.
Look, I love Geoff Johns but we all know that he is guilty of delivering decompressed single issue floppies and clearly writing for the trade format instead of the monthly single issue format. However, there is writing for trade and then there is simply mailing it in and taking the reader’s money and giving them nothing in return. And DC wonders why people do not by single issue floppies at the rate as they used to back in earlier decades.
All of the same defects and problems that plagued Heroes in Crisis #1, #2, #3, and #4 rear their ugly heads again with Heroes in Crisis #5. I just do not have the energy to go into again. Just read our prior reviews. It is wash, rinse and repeat with Heroes in Crisis #5. King just keeps making the same mistakes over and over.
Heroes In Crisis #5 continues to deliver a shallow read. There is still no depth or complexity to this story. King rolls out the appropriate buzz words and has the trappings of a “serious” story, but it is all hollow. There is no heart to this story. There is no soul to this story. It is just a fancy facade meant to put a serious face on a story that is completely empty inside.
It seems like King loves the sound of his own words regardless if he is actually saying anything or not. This reminds me of some seminars that I have been to in the past. You get a speaker who thinks they are incredibly intelligent and profound and they drone on and on using key buzzwords and platitudes, but there never say anything of actual substance or importance. That is how King’s writing comes across in Heroes in Crisis #5.
Superman’s speech is a good example of that type of writing. I see exactly what King is trying to do with this speech. King is trying to deliver some commentary on the state of mental health care and treatment for military members who suffer from PTSD and depression after coming home from combat missions. It is a serious problem. These soldiers deserve the proper mental treatment.
King is also trying to deliver some commentary on the general public’s view of mental therapy and the stigma that mental therapy is something for weak people or crazy people. Mental therapy is valuable medical care and is vitally important and good for nearly every person on this planet. There should be no stigma to it.
So, I totally agree with both points that King is trying to make. The only problem is that King tries to make these points in a dull and repetitive fashion. King also only makes these points in the most shallow manner. And, on top of it all, King tries to make these two points in the most long-winded and unnecessarily decompressed manner over the course of six pages. It is simply too shallow, too uncreative, and goes on for way too long.
The dialogue and the character work continues to be a disappointment. The dialogue and character work is pedestrian at best. King continues to stick with caricatures or bland personalities for the various characters in the story.
Booster Gold and Harley Quinn are nothing more than simple caricatures of how King thinks those characters should act and speak. Neither character feels well-developed or posses a unique external voice. King continues to operate as if Booster never experienced any of his vital character growth around the time of 52. And Harley Quinn is as basic a version of this character as possible. In fact, King’s Harley Quinn is completely unlikable and annoying. She is both shallow and stupid.
The remaining characters in Batgirl, Superman, Lois and Blue Beetle are delivered in the most bland and generic way possible. None of those characters have well-developed personalities or unique external voices. Outside of Team Blue and Gold, there is zero chemistry between the characters. These character dutifully move through each scene like automatons.
King’s use of the d-list dead characters talking to the Sanctuary camera continue to be a failing technique that come across as pointless insertions into the story. There are numerous reasons for this. First, King made a mistake of killing these characters off before Heroes in Crisis began. And many of them died off panel in the flashback scenes in later issues. This robbed the deaths of any impact on the reader.
Second, the deaths are just cases of fridging. They are simple plot devices to get our heroes into a mindset for revenge. There is no substance or meaning behind the deaths.
Third, since all the characters were dead before the story began the reader never got a good sense of these characters. King never fleshed out these characters into real fully developed individuals. King never made the reader invested in these characters on a personal level. Therefore, the reader has zero connection to these D-list characters in these scenes.
Fourth, these characters remain one-dimensional characters that come across as pathetic losers that engender little interest or sympathy from the reader. These characters are so one-dimensional that their “problems” tend to come off as a bit cartoonish and they seem more like parody characters that elicit unintentional laughs from the reader because they seem so cartoonishly pathetic.
What also hurts these scenes with the D-list characters talking to the Sanctuary camera is the fact that King does not know how to properly employ the small nine panel page format. It is obvious that King is trying to mimic what Alan Moore did with this format in Watchmen. The big difference is that Moore understood the format far better than King and implemented the format in a far superior fashion. King uses the format in a creatively lazy modern indie style to mimic “realistic” scenes. The result is that these scenes come across as boring and repetitive. What might work for reality TV does not work in the medium of comic books.
Overall: Heroes in Crisis #5 is an utterly vapid read. This is the absolute low point for this already slow, dull, and shallow “big event.” DC’s editorial staff deserves some blame for this title. If DC’s editorial staff did not decide to force the name “Crisis” onto the title of this comic and decide to promote this title as a “big event” story then expectations for this story would have been so much lower. DC should have never made this title a “Crisis event” and just let it stand by itself as Tom King’s small passion project. Because that is what it is.
Heroes in Crisis #5 costs $4.00. That is a lot of money given what readers’ entertainment dollars can purchase with all the various video streaming services, music streaming services, apps, and games. Setting your $4.00 on fire and watching the pretty flames dance together would offer up more entertainment value than what King offers in Heroes in Crisis #5.
I would only recommend Heroes in Crisis #5 to the most die-hard Tom King fans. Everyone else should skip this issue. In fact, this story is so dull and lacking in content and plot progression that I do not even think it will be a good read in trade format.