Harley Quinn is the hero we deserve.
Tom King and Clay Mann’s Heroes in Crisis is a kind of experiment. It was obvious the minute he told press at SDCC dressed in white on a boat designed to be like the Sanctuary in the comics. It presumes an invention was created to help heroes in crisis deal with their issues in a private way. It suggests heroes are as susceptible to PTSD and other stresses of the job just like anybody else. In this second issue, these elements continue as we attempt to determine who killed a whole slew of heroes.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Suspected of murder, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] find themselves on the run from the super-hospital called Sanctuary –with each thinking the other one is the real killer! It’s up to Batman to solve this heinous crime, but suspicion falls on him when Superman and Wonder Woman ponder just how much Sanctuary’s A.I. is telling them. Meanwhile, [REDACTED] tries to make a shady deal to hide from the Trinity, while [REDACTED] searches out an old friend to help him out of this mess–and only gets deeper in trouble.
Why does this matter?
The series is also narratively different than most, using a first-person narrative of each hero talking to the camera (and thus the audience). These ideas combined with a mystery of real heroes dying makes this miniseries an intriguing superhero reading experience.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue has crowd-pleaser written all over it for two very big reasons. The first is how it continues to depict Harley Quinn as a hero and how she’s very capable of holding her own, even against the DC trinity. The other is getting a snippet of the big three heroes (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) via their confessionals at Sanctuary. It’s these two elements that define the issue and reveal at its core what it is about and where it is going. King seems to be suggesting it requires a traditionally insane character like Harley Quinn to reveal the truth of what our heroes are going through. It’s also taking the heroes down a peg, humanizing them in ways we don’t normally see.
Among these thought-provoking elements, there’s also the issue with Booster Gold, who continues to be another core element but is much harder to pin down. It’s clear at this point he is an unreliable character who doesn’t even know if he can trust himself. At the same time though, he continues to truck on, attempting to solve the mystery even if he is the culprit. It makes for a wacky setup since every story motif suggests we should root for him even when a character like Flash is punching him in the face.
This issue is drawn by Clay Mann with Travis Moore (on two pages) and is colored by Tomeu Morey and Arif Prianto. It’s immediately obvious why Mann’s style works for the book since his hyper-realistic detailed work further grounds the story in reality. The confessional pages, always 9-panel grid layouts, are intimately drawn, drawing you into the characters as they speak directly to us. There’s very subtle character acting going on that Mann nails every time like a subtle look down, or the way a character takes off their glasses. It makes the reading memorable as you attempt to decipher body language and internal struggle.
It can’t be perfect can it?
It’s difficult to believe all these heroes (and a villain revealed in this issue) are actually dead — we’re told they are dead by unreliable characters and never actually see the bodies (though we saw a few last issues). That deflates the drama of lost life and puts you in a confounding situation. Do you get emotional over these losses, or do you wait it out to find out if they are really dead or not? The problem is the big mystery driving the story loses its impact, leaving you with emotionally charged confessionals that hang on by a thread. It’s easy to feel duped when you’ve read comics for ages since characters never truly die, but it is compounded even more here since it’s not even clear if death is real in the narrative itself.
If you’re expecting major progress in regards to the mystery you may want to hold back your expectations. There’s a clue revealed, and another death, but the progress is slim at best.
Is it good?
I liked this issue, as it further utilizes the confessional storytelling mechanic to draw you into the characters. It’s also one of the most pro-Harley stories I’ve ever read, furthering the character’s turn as a hero in an interesting way. Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe any of the deaths revealed will matter, and we also get very little new information about the mystery.