DC’s Heroes in Crisis Ending Isn’t About Superheroics

DC’s big spring event book is one of the oddest mysteries in superhero comics history. We break down the ending for you.

DC Heroes in Crisis Ending

Heroes in Crisis is the latest DC event comic to bear the Crisis-moniker. But unlike most of the previous Crises, this one wasn’t centered around the collapse or rebirth of the DC multiverse. Instead, it was about much more personal crises and in some ways showed off the DC Universe at its most heroic. But it’s also a book that featured a dead, time travelling Flash and a mystery about his death, so it certainly had some trappings of a traditional Crisis.

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Like any good mystery, the final chapter answered some questions and left some ambiguous. Thankfully, Den of Geek is here to answer ALL your questions about Heroes In Crisis – what happened, when it happened, and where it leaves all of our heroes.

Obviously, the rest of this article contains massive spoilers for Heroes in Crisis. Tread warily, friends.

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THE ROAD TO HEROES IN CRISIS

Wally West was the original Kid Flash who, after Barry Allen’s death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, became the most prominent sidekick to make good as a legacy hero in comics. He grew into the role as the Flash and built a life for himself – a wife, kids, a place as a beloved friend in the greater superhero community. That was all erased when time was reset in the New 52 – legacy Wally was retconned out of existence.

However, he and only he was brought back from the Speed Force in DC Rebirth. He puttered around the DCU post-Rebirth, eventually remembering his past life and family, getting manipulated by Hunter Zolomon into breaking the Speed Force, and admitting he needed help working through the trauma of losing his loved ones.

He was brought to Sanctuary, a retreat of sorts set up by Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman for heroes who needed psychological help.

WHAT HAPPENED IN SANCTUARY?

A whole mess of killin, that’s what.

Something attacked Sanctuary, killed a dozen plus minor to mid-level heroes (including Poison Ivy, Arsenal, Wally, Tattooed Man, Gnaark, and Nemesis, among others) who were in treatment there, and then started releasing supposedly deleted recordings of confessional statements made by prominent heroes out to the media for wide distribution. This had all the hallmarks of a devastating attack, and all the forensic evidence pointed towards either Booster Gold or Harley Quinn, both patients at Sanctuary at the time.

It turns out that both were framed.

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We discover late in the series that the actual killer was Wally West. Struggling with his trauma, Wally accesses the deleted confessionals to convince himself he’s not alone. The act of absorbing that much trauma that fast (he’s watching them at super-speed) causes him to lose control of the Speed Force, and the resulting explosion killed all the victims except himself. He panics and tries to find a way to fix his mistake by running five days into the future, killing his future self, then travelling back to his present to plant the body and rig the crime scene to frame Harley and Booster. Then he starts releasing confessionals to the press to show other heroes working through trauma that they’re not alone.

HOLY SHIT, THAT’S PRETTY DARK

Yeah, but fortunately that’s not where it ended. Booster and Harley teamed up with Blue Beetle and Batgirl and eventually solved the murder and the mystery of why Wally’s body was five days older than it should have been. They show up in time to see future Wally talk his past self out of killing himself and offer assistance in the form of a trip to the future for a spare clone body to plant at the scene, and then Wally heads into custody for more work on his grief.

THE HEROES IN CRISIS ENDING

While it feels weirdly anticlimactic for what was billed as such a consequential crossover, but that’s only if you’re looking at the plot and not the message.

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What happens in Heroes In Crisis is largely immaterial. If you were here looking for NOTHING IN THE DC UNIVERSE TO EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN then you’re almost certainly furious with the time and money you invested in the book. What you got was a time travel murder mystery with a few really neat character beats (like Barry Allen’s ex-sidekick knowing how to stage a crime scene so the world’s best detectives would be fooled).

The most important thing about Heroes in Crisis is the why. This was a story about processing grief and trauma and working through mental health problems even through setbacks and mistakes. It took these heroes and projected our problems onto them to use them as iconic exemplars of the human condition, something superhero books (and the heroes of the DC Universe especially) are particularly designed to do. And if you stuck around Heroes in Crisis for that, you got more than your money’s worth.

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The book was almost from the beginning up front about how little the superhero plot trappings mattered: the bulk of every issue was spent getting to know a character or two, learning what caused their trauma and how they were working on it. Poison Ivy is the perfect example of this: her death was literally and consequentially meaningless. She died for no good plot reason and stayed dead for a grand total of about 150 pages of story before being resurrected at the climax of the series. Her death did not matter to the plot, but her pain and her relationship with Harley were of monumental import.

The series wasn’t about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman solving a murder while fighting off one of their greatest villains assaulting their secret identities. It was about Blue Beetle grabbing a beer with Booster, standing by his friend even though he was making what appeared to be bad decisions. It was about Batgirl reaching out to Harley when she was in a moment of crisis to try and help her use her grief for something not-self-destructive. It was about Wally seeing how the pain of dozens of other heroes helped him take the first steps towards coming to grips with his own, sharing that knowledge that he wasn’t the only one with the rest of the world in the hopes that it might help them, too. And it was about King sharing that knowledge with the reader.