Heroes in Crisis #5 review

The Sanctuary for distressed superheroes is no more, its promise of peace ruined by a killer. A killer of superheroes and the odd villain – Wally West Flash, Speedy, Poison Ivy and er… oh heck, I can’t remember. D-listers, mainly. The likes of Solstice and Protector – one obscure Teen Titan and a refugee from a non-continuity public information comic.

This issue, Booster Gold, who may or may not have gone crazy and murdered folk, is on the run from his fellow heroes with loyal pal Blue Beetle. As we join them, they’re sitting among one of the cleverest opening pages I’ve ever seen.

There’s no way I’d have spotted the ‘Heroes in Crisis’ title hidden in the artwork had I not known, courtesy of Twitter a few weeks back, to look for it – that’s brilliant stuff.

Anyway, Booster has an idea, and it’s pretty darn good, which is no real surprise as while he sometimes acts the buffoon, the self-imposed 25th century exile is one smart cookie.

Soon, he’s smashing into Barry Allen’s forensic lab. While I’d rather Booster didn’t feel he had to go in all-guns-blazing, pretty much every hero has acted like this at some point in their career; and he does come up with interesting information as regards the deceased Wally West.

Elsewhere, Superman is giving a speech to the world, after his own wife, Lois Lane, revealed the existence of super-secret Sanctuary.

I don’t get this characterisation at all – since when has Superman been like an anxious young parent, desperate to reassure his children that they don’t have to be afraid of the monsters they believe (quite reasonably, in the DC Universe) are out there? He sounds like he’s a presidential candidate – even insisting that, even though they’re Very Sad, the heroes will continue to fight for ‘the American way’… just after noting that not all people at Sanctuary were US types. I suppose this is meant to be the emotional heart of the issue, but apple pie speeches are for Captain America, not Superman.

Harley Quinn is the other main suspect in the killings. For some reason Batgirl isn’t investigating, she’s partnering with the crazy criminal to track down Booster. By issue’s end, they meet

By issue’s end, we’ve also had five more Watchmen-style therapy scenes from, it seems reasonable to assume, before the killings. There’s Booster and Harley, and the aforementioned Solstice (she can’t control her power), Protector (the anti-drugs spokesman was a secret drug user all along, ooh, rad!) and, most intriguingly, Commander Steel.

The first point of interest is that so much of old DC continuity is shovelled back onto the page; it’s safe to say the Justice League that formed at the beginning of the New 52 period has been wiped away and the old stories are back. (I suppose Booster and Beetle’s JLI friendship being plugged back into the DC Universe told us the same thing last month.) Then there’s Steel’s dialogue, it’s oddly archaic, like a guy from World War Two. Either writer Tom King doesn’t realise that the Steel who kept dying was not Hank Heywood from the Big One, but his grandson, Hank Heywood III, from the Eighties – unlikely, as King’s a DC fan of old – or he’s up to something. Is this a clue?

And who’s the owner of that red-gloved hand? A still-living Wally not from five days in the future?

To say this is my favourite issue yet sounds like damning with faint praise as I’ve not really liked any issues to date. But i do see a big improvement here, with real plot movement and interesting character work. Superman’s speech is embarrassing, but I love the tour of the DCU we get while he’s making it – and dig Adam Strange in his classic suit for the first time in years, courtesy of artist Clay Mann! What I’d like to see now would be King ditching the repetitive therapy scenes, which don’t seem to be building towards anything, or dripping clues – we get it, the Heroes are in Crisis – and barrelling towards the conclusion. Solve the mystery and give us something beyond the ‘heroes get PTD’ conceit that was the book’s starting point.

Mann’s work is exemplary throughout, he tells the story with economy and verve, capturing the emotions convincingly. Travis Moore contributes a few pages, and his work is similarly good, it’s hard to spot the join – colourist Tomeu Morey deserves a lot of credit here, his sensitive tones knitting the art together. Clayton Cowles’ lettering has a pleasingly imperfect style that suits what should be a very human drama.

I’m not mad keen on the cover by illustrator Trevor Hairsine and colourist Rain Beredo – it’s decently done but I’m never keen on Superman posed as if he feels he’s above regular folk. And for some reason he’s pointing accusingly at someone.

No one died/‘died’ this issue, the story is beginning to come together… there’s hope at last for Heroes in Crisis.

9 thoughts on “Heroes in Crisis #5 review

  1. See, I’m of the opposite opinion; as I casually look at this unnecessary work of fiction, the interviews are the only parts I like, even if some of them ring false or don’t sound like the heroes who are being interviewed usually sound.
    Poor Steel/Commander Steel. He just knew he wasn’t long for this world, and then King proved him right, and all without Steel having his moment of glory.
    In fact honestly, that’s my main beef, while co-main beef, with this series; the amount of unnecessary deaths. 1, deaths don’t have the impact like they used to since its used and overly relied as a storytelling tool too much, and 2, it’s just a pure waste of characters that could’ve been used elsewhere instead of as simply fodder.

    My other co-beef is how much this series makes a point FOR such a thing as Sanctuary to exist despite telling the story of its demise. Its for the PTSD elements alone, that this is thing that should’ve remained as a viable narrative option rather than introducing it only to get rid of it so quickly.
    Personally, I feel had the Sanctuary concept been allowed to develop and mature organically, and be allowed to tell meaningful and important stories for a good long run, this series would have much more of an emotional impact rather than this short-hand bullshit that forces the reader to have that amount of emotional investment already rather than being completely unearned.

    Other than that, that opening page and the placement of Heroes in Crisis was pretty clever, I’ll give them that.

    And at least the Blue and Gold are reunited…..for now…..

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    1. I think the reason I’m forgetting the deaths is that they’re characters with low profile, but yes, charcaters just need one good spotlight to enter folks’ hearts in a bigger way. And while I hate seeing the likes of Wally bashed to bits even though it’s 99% temporary/a feint, I’m sick of This Kind of Thing. So an issue in which this doesn’t happen makes me happier.

      Great point on Sanctuary as an ongoing story tool, it could have been an interesting DC staple rather than Camp Maguffin.

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  2. I’m warming to it. I think the art in this book is what keeps me coming back. King has really good luck getting artists to work with him who have a knack for beautiful work, the Lois Lane in her undies thing not withstanding.

    I kinda figured there was something wrong here, and the five year thing is a big clue as it was one of the clues to the changes in the New 52. If somehow Doctor Manhattan, or whatever, somehow lifted little bits of time here and there, making slight changes that added up to 5 years in total, could a collapse of those changes be causing this now? The Universe is resetting itself and not in a clean way.

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  3. That is *exactly* how I felt about this issue. Not nearly as terrible as previous issues. I mean, it was a solid “ok”.
    We got some movement on the mystery (including wonky comic book time travel science),we got some nice character moments between Booster & Blue and Harley & Babs and Lois got to put on some clothes and hang around her apartment without being posed like a pinup model.

    Superman’s extended essay was… not my cuppa. Especially the heavy-handed “truth, justice and the American way”. Gag! 🤮

    My biggest question was where the word “Crisis” is located in the title sequence. I see the “c” and the final “s” and a couple of possibilities for “r” but I have no clue where the other “i” and “s” are to be found.

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  4. I liked this one better, too. I’m really intrigued by the clue about Wally.

    I’m still doubting that this book will tie overtly into Doomsday Clock though, and don’t expect any Dr. Manhattan shenanigans. A couple of other suggestions for Wally.

    1) It’s not actually Wally that’s dead, but Walter West, who subbed for Wally as the “Dark Flash” in the late 90s.Maybe he swapped in for Wally sometime during Flash War, and that’s why he immediately dropped out of sight after.

    2) 5 days in the future from the murders, Wally went back in time to prevent them from happening — possibly because he committed them when he wasn’t in his right mind for some reason, and tries to change history in remorse. He wasn’t able to get back all the way, though, and Harley killed him in seeming self-defense (having seen him kill others), but letting the Wally of that day get away.

    Explanation #2 doesn’t make me happy. I don’t want Wally to be a killer. But it’s an explanation that makes a certain amount of sense, given DCU physics.

    And yeah, I love that opening spread! I spotted Heroes immediately, had to find Tom King’s Twitter to see Crisis, and didn’t see “in” until you said it was brilliant and I looked extra hard for it.

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  5. Explanation 2 is convoluted enough to be true! Like you, I hope not. Walter West would be a bit naughty, as he’s so obscure, but again, it’s not like DC doesn’t have form.

    I don’t see Dr Manhattan being involved in this either, but Anj does have a possible sighting of his energy in his review of this week’s Action Comics, over at Supergirl Comic Box Commentsry!

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