So, what’s happening in DC’s big event? The first three issues told of how a bunch of superheroes were slaughtered at metahuman therapy centre Sanctuary and pointed towards Booster Gold and Harley Quinn as the likeliest of suspects.
Here we get:
One page of Tempest getting drunk in Hatton Corners, where Aqualad, Speedy and Robin first teamed up several continuities ago, and a double page spread of Donna Troy carrying him away.
A nine-panel grid page of Donna at Sanctuary, presumably prior to the killings, wittering on about whether Troy existed.
A page of Batman and Flash disagreeing as to who the killer is.
A page of Wonder Woman questioning Booster about what happened.
A full page of Lois posing in her knickers and a Superman t-shirt, followed by a few panels of her dithering to Superman, in only his mighty tighty whities, over whether to base a story on Sanctuary on anonymous video clips.
A nine-panel grid page of Batgirl pre-Sanctuary slayings, stripping back her super-tight costume to show her Joker wounds, which look awfully raw given how old they are.
Four pages of Batgirl fighting an on-the-run Harley Quinn and bonding with her over terrible controlling men.
A page of Green Arrow, holding the Ultimate Anti-JLA Oojamaflip given to him by Martian Manhunter, apparently on the phone to Batman or Flash and wanting the Booster/Harley business sorted. Black Canary is by his side.
She’s also on the next page, in nine-panel-grid land, and I am so with her sentiments.
Two pages of a detained Booster at the Hall of Justice, talking to a visiting Blue Beetle, who breaks him out.
One page of Beetle doing the Watchmen panels thing, talking about what Booster means to him.
Three pages of stressed Batman and Wonder Woman before Superman, in a very blatant Watchmen homage, reveals that Lois has indeed hit Send on the Sanctuary story.
One page showing the story on a tablet.
And a page of Batgirl and Harley swinging through Gotham, pondering the revelation of Sanctuary to the world.
OK, that wasn’t the most elegant of recaps, but this isn’t the most elegant of issues, being terribly bitty in its presentation of linked scenes, none of which move the main mystery on, particularly… or did I miss I some clue as to the identity of the killer? The nine-panel-grid scenes have me ever more convinced that Sanctuary was a waste of space, being a place where traumatised types could blather on about nothing rather than experience any guided therapy. The Now scenes with Booster and Harley shed no light on their guilt or innocence, while sex kitten Lois (‘what do you want me to do?’) and Batgirl, made to display her scarred body, left me feeling uncomfortable.
Then there are Lois’ Bizarro journalist ethics… she feels she has to tell the world about Sanctuary because of some sacred bond with a source? Wouldn’t that only be relevant were the authorities asking her to give said source up? So far as we know, she doesn’t even know who her tipster is. And it’s insanely hypocritical for the woman secretly married to Superman to decide she has to give up the secrets of other heroes, even if they’re not being named.
Moan, moan, moan… sorry, I just feel this book should be a lot better. Sure, Tom King’s scripts aren’t always my cup of tea, most of his Batman run, for instance, but I really enjoyed and/or appreciated the Omega Men, Vision and Mr Miracle. He’s proven a more than capable plotter but this story is all over the place, with this issue feeling like pure padding. Maybe the Tempest cameo will be relevant down the line, but Heroes in Crisis is being sold in instalments and every issue should be a small packet of satisfaction; as it is, with two original Teen Titans dead and another shot in the head, it felt like King rubbing it in.
And why can’t a goddess with the Lasso of Truth, a man who can fly into the time barrier and the World’s Greatest Detective work our what happened? That bit about Booster maybe subverting the lasso’s power because ‘I just believe I didn’t do it’? Bunk. The lasso brings forth the absolute truth, bypassing any mental meddling. Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman know telepaths, scientists and magic users galore, and this is a story built on the power and possibility of the DC Universe… they should be able to glean the truth in ten seconds flat.
As for a pin-up of Sexy Lois, what are we, 13? And the ‘35 seconds ago’ bit echoing Adrian Veidt’s ‘I did it 35 minutes ago’ in Watchmen, that’s too obvious a homage… Heroes in Crisis should be making its own magic. Plus, that bit of meta-commentary on the heroine formerly known as Wonder Girl was a tad annoying – it’s all too, too knowing.
I did like Blue Beetle’s therapy scene; it speaks to established characterisations and relationships, and makes the ‘bros before heroes’ bit work. I like the art by illustrator Clay Mann and colourist Tomeu Morey a lot, it’s expressive and sharp. I don’t like the random sweariness of the heroes – even the title of HiC #4 includes some profanity or other – I get it, these gentlemen and women are under immense pressure, but a little more grace would be appreciated; we’re meant to be dealing with DC’s finest.
I think there are five issues of this series to go; if next issue leaves me as bad-tempered as this one, I may not make it… then again, Heroes in Crisis may eat itself before then, this is a book that seems really pleased with itself.