Heroes in Crisis #4 review

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.

15 thoughts on “Heroes in Crisis #4 review

  1. I’m right with you on this book. For a series that was being pitched as “Tom King wanting to explore how heroes deal with trauma”, we’ve gotten very little “dealing with” in favour of heaping mounds of all kinds of trauma. Never mind the fact that I can’t really believe that there’s much of an audience for the “heroes in therapy” genre.
    And you’re far more charitable to the art team than I am. Clay Mann is most certainly not my cuppa, and I can’t tell how I feel about the colours. The soft tones and pastel palette is off-putting to me and I can’t explain why. This is a series that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It’s certainly not a mystery story. It’s not much of a character piece. And it’s not delving into the trauma/therapy at the heart of this series. Four issues in and we should be getting movement on *one* of those story elements.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so very ready for an old school, straight-down-the-line mass superhero team-up, a Panic in the Sky type of thing, one with a twisty turn plot rather than some Super High Concept that, if actually worked through, is dragged out and on. Obscure plotting does not equal clever storytelling.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you.
    I don’t get where this is going.
    I don’t get the Booster maybe outthinking the lasso.
    I don’t get the many hands of Harley/Babs scene, a scene which should be all emotion but fell sort of flat.
    And I don’t get why we need the cheesecake in this story that is supposed to be oh so serious.

    I feel this is definitely a hiccup for King who so far has dazzled me on Mr. Miracle, Batman, and Vision.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like this series better than most of you. I liked the Harley/Batgirl scene — some of the hands were mirror images, there’s a subtle clue in muted coloring — and I even like the widely panned Batgirl therapy scene, which struck me as an effective new look at that moment, rather than the flashback we always get.

    And I’m not sure I agree that Wonder Woman’s lasso always brings out the absolute truth (although I’m sure in some instances it’s been portrayed that way). But there have been plenty of stories where she’s lassoed someone who doesn’t know the truth, so is unable to tell her. I think that’s what’s going on with Booster — not that he’s outthought the lasso, but that whatever’s going on with his memory has been thorough and prevented him from knowing in a fundamental way.

    But this issue was definitely scattershot, and it doesn’t seem to amount to much more than a gathering of two mini-teams. The lack of progress is getting more and more frustrating (we don’t even see *why* Flash and Batman reach separate conclusions).

    And man, that Lois page. Why the hell was that included? I can’t defend that at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I admit to liking a story exploring inner turmoil and such, but I am starting to wonder if King might need a refresher on how therapy works. Talking to a robot is hardly something useful. The human interaction between a therapist and a patient is extremely important. The therapists looks for and finds clues about the needs of the patient and the patient looks for and finds bits of reassurance and concern from the therapist.

    I don’t quite understand how Sanctuary was actually supposed to help these people? Just throwing someone in a place to talk is not help, it’s removal of a person from sight and is more about the people putting them there than about helping them.

    Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are coming off really badly here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perhaps that is the point – how do you provide therapy & support, who by their very nature must keep secrets ? Then again, they have done little to reveal the full therapy process used. Opening sessions tell the audience nothing about complete process. Unreliable narrators & super powers ranging from magic, through future/time-travel tech, meta-dimensions, to alien….. anything is possible, All dead, never died, revived, temporal rewrite. Not enough information/clues to know if the writer is playing fair or narrative is poorly written/edited.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not everything can be a secret. Given that Batman says that he designed the system to delete all data, it makes no sense for this system to work at all. How does the system know how to treat people if all of its data is deleted?

        I also wonder what gives the Trinity the authority to put people here? Batman is certainly not someone who should be in charge of anyone’s therapy, and Diana, bless her heart, is an immortal Amazon who grew up in a completely different culture from the people this system was intended to help, so she has zero credibility when it comes to a full understanding of the needs of these people.

        Superman is the most normal, but even he has to be a bit jaded by his own physical invulnerability.

        Harley Quinn is probably the only one qualified, and, well, she is a nut case.

        If Doctor Midnight were still in this universe, he might be a good person to create a safe space for these metas to seek help.

        Sorry! I just feel a bit bugged by this.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. They really are. Surely the Amazons have experience in active listening? Bruce Wayne must have seen a fair few therapists growing up. Didn’t the all-wise, sainted Kents’ homespun wisdom rub off on Clark? It’s all so perplexing.

      Is Tom King saying something about the hubris of the Big Three? Since this project was announced I’ve been asking what right and expertise fits them for the Sanctuary project. If King is able to knock them down, it’s only because of the way he’s chosen to set them up.


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