We’re less than a week away from Heroes in Crisis #1 hitting shelves. DC and series creative team Tom King and Clay Mann have been sprinkling bits and bobs of information for the past few months, both officially with items in three of the first four issues of the free DC Nation magazine and a cult-like panel at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, and unofficially via a retailer preview whose details leaked nearly immediately. That said, there’s a lot that’s still unknown — or at the very least, uncertain — about the series. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we do know and see what we can extrapolate from there.
Note: the following will contain discussion of events that are known to take place within Heroes in Crisis #1 based both on official public releases from DC as well as from the leaked retailer preview. We will also mention some rumors that have circulated about the series, so if you wish to go in completely fresh, it’s probably best to walk away now.
What We Know
Let’s start with the highest level of what we know about the plot of Heroes in Crisis: there’s a mass shooting at a superhero crisis center called Sanctuary, leaving many heroes dead and Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to try to determine who did it. Harley Quinn and Booster Gold become prime suspects, and the two go on the run as a result. As far as the story goes, the series will explore the effects of trauma on the heroes of the DC Universe. If you read any interview with Tom King about Heroes in Crisis, that’s likely what you would take away from it, among other things that have been explored elsewhere on this site.
What else do we know? For starters, we know of a few characters who are currently residing at Sanctuary:
- Poison Ivy, after briefly taking over the world, was taken there at the end of Batman #43
- The original recipe Wally West regained the memories of his lost family during the “Flash War” storyline and voluntarily checked himself into Sanctuary in Flash #51
- A recovering alcoholic and drug addict, Arsenal also chose to check himself into Sanctuary in Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2
We also know, or at least it was implied in Batman #47, that Booster Gold spent some time there himself in the past, though he is not a current resident.
These are plot pieces that are known to the general public, either based on in-story events or what DC has released into the world. But there’s more that we know based on the retailer preview. That preview included the first seventeen pages of Heroes in Crisis #1, or just over half of the issue’s 32 pages, and it sets a tone for the series pretty quickly.
The issue takes place after the shooting event at Sanctuary, with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman racing to the scene to survey the carnage. Meanwhile Booster Gold and Harley Quinn have an encounter at a diner that turns violent. Interspersed between the scenes are nine-panel flashback pages showing different characters in therapy at Sanctuary. Booster and Harley are among those characters, as are Blue Jay, a winged shrinking hero created in the ’70s as an analog of Marvel’s Yellowjacket, and Hot Spot, a former Teen Titan with heat-based powers.
The preview also confirms several of the casualties of the shooting, including both Blue Jay and Hot Spot. Others shown dead are Lagoon Boy, Citizen Steel, as well as a partial shot of a character with a Green Lantern logo on their costume, though it’s not clear who that might be (again, it’s only the first 17 pages, so that’s likely shown later in the issue).
What We Can Speculate
Now let’s look at what DC has released in terms of promotional material for the series, as well as a few other sources of information. Based on these items we can make some educated guesses about what may or may not happen in the the latter half of Heroes in Crisis #1 and the rest of the series.
Issue 2 of the DC Nation magazine included this spread of character headshots, along with three questions:
- Which three of these characters will be accused of murder?
- Which two of these characters will be murdered?
- Which one of these characters will be revealed as a murderer?
Let’s take this question-by-question.
Which three characters will be accused of murder?
We already know that Booster Gold and Harley Quinn are two of the three, and at this point I’m not sure we have enough information to speculate as to who the third will be. The list does include some notable known murderers like The Riddler, Deathstroke, and Lex Luthor, and a few characters we can pretty easily rule out like Superman and Wonder Woman. The list also includes Poison Ivy, who we know is currently at Sanctuary, and who has done some unsavory things in the past. If anyone’s likely the third, it’s her.
Which two characters will be murdered?
DC Nation #4 featured this cover:
This helps us narrow down the answer to at least part of this question considerably. So who will the first victim be? It’s been reported elsewhere but not confirmed at this point that the major name casualty in the first issue is Arsenal. In-story we know that he’s currently at Sanctuary. From a practical standpoint, he’s a non-headlining character who’s not currently featured in an ongoing series, so killing him off wouldn’t interrupt DC’s publishing schedule too greatly. Plus, Green Arrow #45 has been solicited as a Heroes in Crisis tie-in — the only such solicited tie-in thus far. The solicit for the issue mentions members of the Justice League and the Titans stopping by, so it seems likely that Ollie will be reacting to the passing of his former sidekick in the issue.
So that’s one down in the first issue. Who will the second death be before the series is over? This one is harder to suss, but not impossible. When DC revealed their variant covers for Heroes in Crisis #1, they outlined a string of variants by Ryan Sook that will focus on key traumatic events in the lives of DC’s characters. Of the seven issues, six of those events were specifically named, while the variant cover for issue 7 was said only to feature Harley Quinn and an unnamed event. Harley and current Sanctuary resident Poison Ivy’s relationship is well-documented, and Harley was even key in helping Batman talk Ivy down from world domination back in Batman #43, which ultimately led to Ivy being taken to Sanctuary. If something Harley did led to a person she loves being killed, I’d say that qualifies as a traumatic event. Unfortunately that means it looks like Poison Ivy is likely the second character to die before the series is over.
Or it could be Damage. Does he still have a series?
Which character will be revealed as a murderer?
This is probably the most difficult question to answer right now. Again, there are known murderers on this list, and but that seems too easy. It’s likely to be one of the heroes, but none of them makes sense.
There’s a rumor floating around that Wally West is the Sanctuary shooter. I know not what that rumor is based on, and frankly, I hate it. I hate it as a fan who calls Wally West his favorite character in comics, and I hate it as a person who enjoys logic. The lynchpin of DC’s Rebirth initiative has been the return of Wally West, and DC just devoted a ton of time and marketing to “Flash War,” a storyline focused on restoring Wally’s family, as well as the larger Flash Family, to the DCU. Are they really going to completely assassinate his character after all of that? Plus, from a character standpoint…what? It makes no sense for Wally West to do anything like that. None. And a speedster using guns to kill people? Again, no sense.
But it got me thinking.
One of the key images in the marketing for Heroes in Crisis has been the gold mask. During the SDCC boat event, it was stated that everyone who goes to Sanctuary wears a robe and a gold mask to protect their anonymity. It’s also been stated that, while there is a resemblance, the masks are not the Medusa Mask worn by the emotion-manipulating Psycho-Pirate. So okay, sure, they’re not all the Medusa Mask. But what if just one of them is?
The cover to issue 3 of the series features Batman and The Flash examining one of the masks. What if that specific mask is the Medusa Mask, and it was used to manipulate one of the heroes in Sanctuary into committing murder? Or, alternately, Psycho-Pirate himself could have slipped into Sanctuary wearing the Medusa Mask and a robe, and done the manipulating that way. It wouldn’t be the first time Psycho-Pirate has used his powers to control a Flash, either — he did it to Barry Allen way back in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
This is definitely the wildest speculation yet, but it makes sense to me, and it’s the only way I can justify the idea that the killer might be Wally West (or any of the heroes, for that matter). I’m not willing to commit to that guess yet, but if it is Wally, that’s a theory on how it’ll play out.
When all’s said and done on what we know and what we can guess about Heroes in Crisis, what’s ultimately left is a lot of uncertainty, both about how the story’s going to go and, perhaps more interestingly, how people are going to react to it. The choice to do a story about gun violence within a healing space is a bold one to say the least, and hopefully not an ill-advised one given the frequency and severity of mass shootings in the past couple of years.
If reaction from readers is still unknown, what’s slightly more known is how retailers are responding. Rumor has it that retailer reaction to the preview was overwhelmingly negative, to the point that DC had to shut down discussion of the issue. Along those lines, there have also been reports that order numbers for Heroes in Crisis #1 have not met DC’s expectations. One wonders if perhaps there’s still a bit of backlash from how the Bat-wedding played out; King fooled retailers once, and they won’t get fooled again.
Or perhaps the nature of the story is what’s keeping retailers from embracing the series. Heroes in Crisis is certainly a far cry from DC’s other most recent event, Dark Nights: Metal, a series with a cosmic scale and insane visuals at every turn. Heroes in Crisis is shaping up to be a much more intimate story, and seems to be unlike nearly every other Crisis event that DC has published, save perhaps for one: Identity Crisis, the 2005 murder mystery that was a critical and commercial success at the time, but whose reputation has soured in the intervening years as the DCU became a darker, dirtier place in the story’s aftermath. Could retailers be anticipating a similar backlash against Heroes in Crisis?
One thing’s for certain: we won’t have to wait long to find out.
Heroes in Crisis #1 hits stores on September 26th.
Joe Grunenwald is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s taller than a lot of people but not as tall as some people.