Heroes in Crisis #1

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Review by Michael Farris, Jr.

Heroes in Crisis #1 dumps us right in the middle of an unimaginable murder scene. Mostly because all of the dead are superheroes. It begins in a roadside diner located in small-town Nebraska, where Booster Gold is sitting down for a nice cup of coffee. In walks Harley Quinn looking for some sweet American pie. Both of them are scratched and beat up, but that doesn’t compare to the beat-down they’re about to put on each other. Meanwhile, Superman has arrived on the scene of Sanctuary, where superheroes go to receive counseling and therapy for the trauma they must endure. However, Sanctuary is anything but as bodies are strewn everywhere. And as Harley and Booster fight to the death, neither of them knows who actually committed the massacre.

Let me get this out of the way right now: I loved Heroes in Crisis. Everything about this book was as close to perfection as you can get. When I say everything, I mean everything.

Right from the beginning with the tension building between Booster and Harley, you can tell that this is going to be a heavy read that relies on a character-driven narrative. One of the aspects that I appreciated was that as Harley is talking to Booster before their battle in the sky, you get a lot of glimpses of the woman she had been before. Most every comic we read with Harley goes full-in on the crazy bimbo side of her, but in this one—from quoting Freud to confessing she hates a certain dessert-food-turned-pet-name-she-constantly-uses—we see her cracking in a way that almost makes her seem sane. She even references her time as a psychologist and laments the folly of all of humanity’s perceived problems.

If you want to sum up this comic in one word, that word would be “vulnerability.” And if you want to pick one character who encapsulates that vulnerability—even though arguably everyone you see could match that description—that character would be Superman. The Sanctuary was his way of helping his fellow superheroes, and, when he arrives on the scene, you can feel the shock he experiences. His stuttering, his inability to remember catchphrases of the now-deceased, the way he goes through the carnage without being able to comprehend…it all begins to feel like the trauma that Superman set out to heal.

Interspersed through the two narratives of Harley, Booster, and Superman are interviews with various heroes—some famous, some minor—as they are laying out their feelings of why they are seeking help at Sanctuary. The comic transitions smoothly with all of the scene changes, and the interview breaks not only help with the transitions but they also add depth to the narrative. One of the heroes sums up brilliantly the psyche of these heroes when he describes how heroes are bad at sharing their fears and doubts because they’re “all trying to be somebody.” I was stuck on that page for a while after reading that just because of how cleverly these real-world problems are presented in a superhero story.

One of the more unsettling aspects of this book are the opposing forces that exist within the setting. Morey and Mann do a brilliant job with the artwork when it comes to capturing middle America. You can almost hear the wind blowing through acres of tall glass. The golden sunsets and the big sky give you peace that towering structures and blaring cars cannot. Contradicting this all are the dead bodies strewn through the otherwise idealistic setting. Every character is drawn in a way that makes you think you’ve seen them somewhere, which makes coming across the murder scene very close to being the real thing.

Verdict: Buy it.

I finished Heroes in Crisis #1 before I was ready to be done, and it’s frustrating to know that the trade wasn’t available yesterday. Tom King might have written one of the best comics of the year. If you wanted to read a story about how the Justice League solves their ultimate problem, be prepared to encounter yourself.

Michael Farris Jr.
Michael is a Virginia-born Idaho convert (stuck in Georgia) and a huge fan of sci-fi. He took time off from comics and sci-fi during the dark years of being a teenager and trying to impress girls, but has since married an amazing woman with whom he regularly can geek out and be himself. He's also a drummer, loves metal music, and can always be found in a melancholy state while watching all things DC sports.

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