Heroes in Crisis #1
“Part 1: I’m Just Warming Up”
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Mann (regular)/J.G. Jones, Francesco Mattina, Mark Brooks & Ryan Sook
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US
In a short time, I’ve come to have incredible respect and faith in the writing abilities of Tom King, but even more than that, I know that when editor Jamie S. Rich is involved in a project, it’s one that’s worthy of my attention, one that will entertain and even challenge me. Unfortunately, I fear they stumbled a bit with this opening chapter, which focuses far too much on keeping the reader guessing what’s going on rather than telling a story. It also relies heavily on the gimmick of killing off heroes — both obscure and a little better known. Mind you, while King’s script has confused me, it’s also intrigued me, and my disappointment with this disjointed first issue is tempered by my hope for clarity and inventive plotting from a proven creative team.
Heroes are turning up dead… in Nebraska of all places. Blue Jay. Hot Spot. Lagoon Boy. Citizen Steel, and more. All lying dead in a wheat field, and the icons of heroism — Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — rush to the scene, located near what seems to be an non-descript farmhouse. In reality, it’s Sanctuary, meant to be a place of healing for heroes, but clearly, someone turned that secret against the champions it was meant to help and protect.
Speaking of Harley, she’s clearly a key player in this drama, and I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, she’s a hugely popular character right now — both in and outside of comics — and it feels a little like she’s been shoehorned in to capitalize on that popularity. On the other hand, the story seems to flow from a facility designed to help heroes recover from scars, both physical and psychological, and Harley Quinn’s background as a psychiatrist and status as a shattered soul of sorts works in that context.
King instills a wholly nebulous tone in the script for this first issue, and while I appreciate mystery in storytelling, he definitely shaved too much exposition off here. By the end of the issue, I had a stronger sense of what Sanctuary is, but its similar appearance to Superman’s childhood home in Kansas and Superman’s prominence in the story added to my confusion for a spell.
The other aspect of the story that left me feeling divided over it was the return to the trope of deaths to bring a sense of urgency and importance to this super-hero drama. Sure, DC’s long history offers a plethora of forgotten characters just waiting to be used as fodder, but it still feels like a cheap trick at times. On the other, there has to be something at stake, and a world of action with no consequences for the warriors within it will lose its luster.
What most interests me is the concept of the Sanctuary; that’s what’s going to get me coming back for subsequent issues. The notion of a safe place for super-heroes is a natural one, but it’s also a thoughtful and a mature one. It builds on the notion of the Trinity — Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — and its special place in this world. It suggests a sense of community and connection, and I’m confident in King’s ability to explore those ideas and to build on them in an organic, believable way. 6/10