DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as
Young Animal, Wildstorm, Wonder Comics, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what our team is here to help with, every Wednesday, with the DC Round-Up!
THIS WEEK: Heroes in Crisis is finally starting to come together.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Heroes in Crisis #4
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
I was wondering what this book was about.
Heroes in Crisis had been hyped as a look at how the heroes deal with the overwhelming catastrophes that they witness on a regular basis, but for the first few issues it was difficult to get a grip on which direction it was headed. Was this a murder mystery in the vein of Identity Crisis? Were we going to see merging timelines and explore the multiverse, or was this a Justice League save-the-world kind of thing? After the opening issue it seemed like we had learned more from the marketing around the book than from the actual story exposition itself.
One of the difficulties in the opening issue was that the crime had already been committed before page one and the characters weren’t discussing it directly. There were several dead heroes, murdered off screen under unknown circumstances. We as readers weren’t told some of the most basic details — the reason for the crime, the cause of death, or even a full list of the deceased. We just knew that something terrible had happened and there was a murder mystery underway, but we weren’t invited to review the evidence as in the typical mystery story. We were forced to wonder what Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were looking at as they surveyed the crime scene, and over a third of the issue was spent on Booster and Harley fighting for some unknown reason. It was frankly unsatisfying.
It was a bit of a winding and disjointed path to get here but with issue #4, the pieces are starting to click into place and the book has found its tone. I feel like this is finally the core story that King & company wanted to write. Heck, maybe the Beetle & Booster fistbump scene was the entire reason for the series. Now it’s a little bit clearer that Heroes in Crisis is a story about friendship amidst trauma.
I’m honestly not sure if there was a better path into this story. It’s a tall order. The creative team had a specific narrative they wanted to tell and so many pieces of the DCU needed to be moved in order to get us to the starting point.
There would need to be crisis, not just “oh god the skies are turning red and I think I’m being erased from existence” kind of crisis. No, the real stuff. The “I’m crying on the bathroom floor and only one person in the world understands me well enough to possibly help me” type. The two main characters who are experiencing that kind of particularly bad day here are Booster Gold and Harley Quinn. Now it makes sense why the story opened on Booster and Harley fighting in that diner.
This week we see that Booster is in custody, suspected of murdering several heroes and villains (some still frustratingly unidentified). Who better to cheer him up than his old buddy Blue Beetle? Harley is on the run, suspected of this same crime and mourning a lost love. When Batgirl catches up with her it takes a little bit of convincing to help Harley realize that she’s come as a friend. Both of theses scenes are very touching and highlight a big strength of the DC line in 2019. These characters have relationships that feel real.
It wasn’t always this way, unfortunately. Iris getting annoyed by Barry’s tardiness is about as personal as comic relationships used to get. Aquaman and Mera would reflect briefly on how they cannot be together, Superman would hide his identity from Lois with some funny gag. Typical shallow comic book relationships. Even in the group books — Heroes would show up to Justice League duty with a “Greetings, colleague. What dastardly crime are battling today?” It’s been like that for a long time.
I’ve been saying this for a while (to myself, at least) – I really like the direction DC Comics have been going in lately. This series is emblematic of the tonal shift going on across the line of making the relationships feel real. Superman and Batman can barely hide their distrust of each other and the frustration at having to deal with their vastly different personalities. Donna Troy is carrying a drunk Tempest home from the bar and Wonder Woman is just punching things out of grief. The characters finally have…character. One of the best narrative devices that Heroes in Crisis uses to display this is the nine-panel ‘confessional’ interviews. We get rare glimpses into the unguarded personal thoughts of our heroes and they feel authentic.
It’s not a perfect book, but now that it’s settling in this one just got moved from a Browse to a Buy.
- Another thing I’ve noticed in the post-Rebirth DC creative direction is a deliberate return to old stories that worked. You can’t read Justice League without noticing how heavily it borrows from Grant Morrison’s JLA run, for instance. Another example is this week’s Justice League Odyssey, which is a clear nod to Jim Starlin’s Cosmic Odyssey from the late 80’s. As in that classic space opera, we again see Darkseid joining forces with Starfire and other heroes to battle a cosmic threat from another universe. Start placing bets on which planet Green Lantern’s going to blow up in this one.
- Speaking of blasts from the past, Kyle Rayner rejoined the Titans in Titans #32. He’s fighting Brother Blood with Donna Troy and the gang like the last twenty years never happened. Ah, memories.
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