Heroes In Crisis #1 // Review
Heroes In Crisis is a new 8-issue DC Comics mini-series written by ex-C.I.A.-operative/comics writer Tom King. Artist Clay Mann renders the visuals with colorist Tomeu Morey. Clayton Cowles is letterer. King draws inspiration from a cleverly simple idea: where might superheroes go to be treated for PTSD? The first issue manages the rather tricky balance between action and drama with brisk pacing.
“Part One: I’m Just Warming Up” alternates through three different narratives. The issue opens with Harley Quinn tracking down Booster Gold in a quaint, little diner in Gordon, Nebraska. Harley casually has peach pie, a cup of coffee before literally taking a stab at Booster, who is sitting on the next stool. Things get ugly from there.
A second narrative has Superman arriving to investigate an incident at a tiny farmhouse that serves as the entrance to Sanctuary: an ultra-secret place where heroes go for PTSD treatment. There are a whole lot of dead people at the house. It’s up to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to figure out what went wrong.
The third narrative introduces the cast of characters via first-person monologue. Characters take turns talking about their problems while directly facing readers in single 9-panel pages that are dispersed throughout the issue. Booster Gold and Harley Quinn and a few others are introduced. As it turns out, they’re all talking to Sanctuary: a robot therapist built with Kryptonian technology that’s been infused with what Booster Gold describes as “the will of Batman! The compassion of Wonder Woman! And of course the honor of Superman!” What could possibly go wrong? Judging from the first issue’s steady pacing in triplicate, it’s going to take all 8 issues to find out.
King takes an interesting idea, and throws it at the reader with a very sharply-rendered moodiness. The tension between Harley and Booster at the counter of the diner has a stylish listlessness about it until the violence erupts. Elsewhere, you can almost hear the stress in Clark’s voice as he arrives on the scene and surveys the death at the entrance to Sanctuary. King manages this without excessive dialogue. It all sounds very natural. There’s even subtlety in the scenes between the heroes and Sanctuary...a sense of the darkness around the edges of life under the mask. King’s subtlety of characterization delivers a very visceral drama that feels almost more compelling than the actual physical action in the first issue.
Clay Mann is excellently paired with this script. He’s get a really good grasp for intricacy of emotion across a human face. The action doesn’t feel quite as kinetic as it needs to be, but that’s really not a problem as the horror, the drama, and the mood more than make up for a little stiffness of action. His treatment of the Wonder Woman/Superman/Batman trinity’s investigation has a great solemnity about it. Nowhere is Mann’s grasp of drama more apparent than in the Sanctuary pages. It’s a tough thing for any artist to take 9 consecutive head shots of a character and make them look...not just interesting, but compelling. His rendering of Harley’s nine panels is absolutely heartbreaking.
Overall, this is a great first eighth of a story. A tremendous amount of plot is delivered in 28 pages. If King and Mann can maintain the right balance, mood and pacing for the next 7 issues, this could be a very taut superhero drama with a heavy emphasis on the drama.