The first two issues of “Heroes In Crisis” showed significant promise. The pacing has been slow, but it’s given time to let the characters shine and reveal themselves, which ultimately seems to be Tom King’s intent with the PTSD-focused story.
This third issue, although it doesn’t directly advance the mystery plot left off in #2, gives us insight into the heroes who were at Sanctuary before their bodies piled up. Specifically, Lagoon Boy, Booster Gold, and the Wally West version of Flash.
Oddly enough, Lagoon Boy is given the most perceptive and disturbing attention of the trio. Heroes are able to do “sessions” at Sanctuary where an A.I. uses its powers to help you through your problems. Well, Lagoon Boy keeps asking to be hit by a laser so eventually it won’t hurt anymore because…Freud, I guess. I won’t spoil the conclusion to his little arc, but it was the most shocking psychological moment of the issue.
What works less well is Wally West’s segment, which entirely consists of him revisiting his past through clichéd visions where he cradles, hugs, and puts his kiddos to sleep. Perhaps if you’re a die-hard West fan you’ll get an emotional resonance from this. But without a fierce love for the character myself, it rang hollow. Having characters go through evocative flashbacks isn’t necessarily bad. However, it didn’t add anything new to the trope to make it stand-out to a non West fanatic.
Despite an extraordinarily irritating take on Booster Gold in “The Travelers,” Tom King is able to give depth and humor to the chipper fellow here. King digs into the fact that Gold uses his optimistic attitude, dare I say it, like a mask to hide an exhausted inner self. By the time he has a Chamber Session, we get the sense he’s got unchecked self-loathing. How that will manifest into the plot is yet to be seen.
Art duties are split between Lee Weeks and Clay Mann–well, “split” is a bit of a generous word. Clay does the first and last page while Weeks tackles the rest. And that’s perfectly fine by me, since I think these two are the best Tom King artistic collaborators (aside from Mitch Gerads of course). While Weeks brought an intoxicating noir aesthetic to “Cold Days,” he can still elicit great art in the golden, sunny land of Sanctuary. Despite the bright colors and supposedly calming environment, we know the tragic outcome (the inciting incident) of the series. Thus, Weeks draws the characters with forlorn, complex faces, alluding to hidden or obvious trauma within these heroes, something Mann is also fantastic at.
I had worried in #2 that the 9-panel grid interview segments would be overused in issues going forward. Luckily this issue only uses them to bookend the comic to impact the pervasive sense of loss.