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.