Heroes in Crisis is one of the most interesting blockbuster comics to come along in a very long time. Plot-wise, it’s almost a bog-standard superhero whodunit. There were a series of impossible murders. Something about the evidence doesn’t make sense. The capes investigate. The superheroes find their attacker. The story is advanced. But if you look even a centimeter deeper than that, it is maybe the most deconstructive superhero comic since Watchmen.
Ever since 1986, superhero books and their associated media have been obsessed with asking “What if superheroes were real!?!?!?!?!?!?” For the most part, the answers those books came up with involved shouting BOOBS at the reader while someone was bloodily murdered in the background (I’m looking at you for probably only the second time, Kick-Ass). Some people were exceptionally successful at using deconstruction to tell better stories – Brian Michael Bendis and Warren Ellis spring to mind – but too often these books just slapped a veneer of what they thought passed as mature content on slowed down versions of the same comics that had been coming out for decades, and the end product was forgettable shelf filler.
Heroes in Crisis, on the other hand, works because it’s not asking “What would happen if superheroes really existed?” It’s asking “What would happen to the superheroes if they were people really living this life?” It’s a comic about how nobility can break you. About the very real psychological cost created by trying to be the best of people by dealing with the worst of them. And about the self-perpetuating pressure that heroing places on a person.
The speech from Superman in issue #5 is probably the key bit of dialogue to understanding the story, but the fact that we spend so much time with z-listers in treatment at Sanctuary is where we really see it. Getting inside the heads of Commander Steel or Solstice or even a joke like Gunfire even for a second opens up the whole world of superheroics and the different ways to respond to them. Commander Steel’s hopelessness when talking about his many resurrections is heartbreaking. Also, what cruel gods are we that we can’t just let him fade into limbo when he’s done being used in a comic, but instead he has to be resurrected and re-killed every time.
Heroes In Crisis also works so well because Clay Mann is unbelievable. The sequence when Superman was giving his speech in #5, while we kept jumping to different heroes, was hands down the best art I’ve seen in a comic so far this year. The Shining Knight page was epic, and the page before it with Batgirl and Harley Quinn sprinting and jumping off of a roof in Gotham was literally breathtaking – I started breathing faster when I read it because it felt like I was running with them.
Issue 7 is apparently where we’re going to find out who attacked Sanctuary. Here’s what DC has to say about it:
HEROES IN CRISIS #7 written by TOM KINGart and cover by CLAY MANNvariant cover by RYAN SOOKThe Trinity may have uncovered the true killer responsible for the deaths at Sanctuary, but the artificial intelligence that ran the institution is the one thing standing between them and the culprit. Now Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman must face off with their own creation—and face the consequences for what they created. Also, as the truth is uncovered, Booster and Harley go from being enemies to allies.
Here are the preview pages we got from DC. They are, I will remind you, so good. For more on Heroes in Crisis or any of the other Bloodlines characters, stick with Den of Geek!