It’s therapy session time at Sanctuary. Time-tossed Teen Titan Gnarrk, mentally malfunctioning ‘villainess’ Harley Quinn and reality-ripped Flash Wally West are, separately, considering the same question. How many people have they saved?
Why the resident AI at the refuge set up by Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman wants to know this, isn’t clear. Still, off they go into computer simulations in this chapter, which is set prior to the wholesale slaughter which preceded the first issue.
Gnarrk thinks of simpler times, but he’s long since lost the peace of a Neanderthal.
Wally considers his life since he escaped an inter-realities prison.
Harley tells fellow patient Poison Ivy that she’s in need of excitement.
And so it goes in the latest issue of Heroes in Crisis. Writer Tom King establishes his model early on and sticks with it like glue from a super-horse, but the predictability of the format is offset by some interesting insights.
Gnarrk‘s peace of mind has been destroyed by education.
Wally can’t buy into his friends’ joy at his return because his family is lost to him.
And Harley… I have no idea. She’s a personality who just doesn’t work in serious stories, imposing psychological depth on her breaks the character. Harley works as a comedy foil, or the bemused star of Ambush Bug-style strips. Stick her in a tale about mental anguish and she’s an encumbrance… how can I care about Harley when she has no set personality? The Harley in her own comic isn’t the gal in Suicide Squad and she’s certainly not the one from early appearances in Batman stories.
Maybe this is King heading somewhere, using a character famously out of touch with reality as an anti-touchstone in his graphic dissertation of post-traumatic stress. We shall see.
While this Gnarrk doesn’t fit recent depictions in the about-to-be-cancelled Titans comic – there he speaks in regular sentences – me love caveman talk, it reminds me of Superbaby. So sue me. And the idea that Gnarrk knows that having his mind opened by great thinkers has destroyed his inner peace, but he doesn’t regret it, is fascinating.
Wally, I’m simply sad for, he misses his wife and kids so much. Worse yet, we see more of what happened on the day of the massacre, and it doesn’t look good for one of the series’ main suspects – still, there’s more than one way to read a comic book page.
There’s one panel which may contain a clue – Wally has been reading Strange Adventures #45, one of an awful lot of gorilla-themed covers the series had back in DC’s Silver Age – could this be a pointer that Wally’s telepathic foe Gorilla Grodd is behind the whole thing? That might explain the sheer, primal violence of Gnarrk and Harley’s simulations… aren’t these things meant to help the patients? But it’s likely just an Easter egg lain by artist Mitch Gerads, like the nearby Post-It note, or New Teen Titans #1 cover nod.
Speaking of Gerads, he does a bang-up job illustrating all but the first and last pages in full colour (they’re by regular artist Clay Mann and colourist Tomeu Morey). He’s utterly in synch with Sheriff of Babylon/Mister Miracle collaborator King, bringing the writer’s thoughts to life and adding extra emotional depth. Have you ever, for example, seen such a powerful page of hugging?
He also knows when to metaphorically step away, sparing us the sight of a pile of eviscerated Jokers in close-up.
Also deserving of a big shout-out is letterer Clayton Cowles. See for yourself.
I’m not sure why King is giving us his New Avengers-period Brian Michael Bendis, but it doesn’t make for an enticing page. If he’s trying to tell us Harley’s head is full of, as we say in Scotland, mince, i knee that already. Maybe it’s just fun for the Harley/Ivy shippers.
I’m not keen on Gerads’ cover – it’s cleverly conceived, well-executed, but overall, rather too unpleasant for breakfast time on a Wednesday. Still, Heroes in Crisis #6 is another issue that’s much better than the earliest few. Now I’m convinced everyone – not just big names Wally and Arsenal, but the members of Justice League Redshirts who populate the final page – will be back sooner rather than later, I can simply enjoy the character work and the mystery of the killer’s identity.
How about you?