Heroes in Crisis has been an unpredictable ride, to say the least. Coming into conversation with the conceit of Sanctuary, a very well-received idea, the series then revealed its premise as a murder mystery. What was an almost unanimously well-received concept turned to a more mixed affair as popular characters fell one after another. On a issue to issue basis, it’s a curious book. One might blow the reader away, the other might do the precise opposite and another might leave one in the middle. It’s a mixed bag of ingredients with some solid highs, some low lows and a few questionable choices. In a lot of ways, this issue, preceding the penultimate chapter, is the most representative of that feature of the book. Boasting both the highs and lows and the places in between, it’s in some ways the most Heroes in Crisis issue yet.Right out the gate, the book runs with the reveal from #5, with #6 having been a flashback and a mirror to #3, with the mysterious red hand and the reveal of a Wally’s corpse being five days older. Opening on poetry, with King has a penchant for, the book reveals that Wally West is still in fact alive and kicking, as implied by the body reveal, which hit at the notion of temporal intervention. He uses the flower Harley dropped into the river, which he grabbed in #5, to regrow Poison Ivy via the speed force. The scene is colored gorgeously by the ever fantastic Tomeu Morey, who uses lush colors and grants the work a bright sheen and texture that makes everything pop. Clay Mann’s artwork is also standout in this opening as he’s given the room to set the scene and be stylish. Right after the 6-panel page 1 which is zoomed in on the flowers and from the perspective of Wally, he smacks the reader with a powerful and visually engaging double-page spread of Wally in a field of flowers, which are all meticulously put together to spell out the event’s title, with effort put in to ensure that it doesn’t look too unnatural in doing it.
Beyond Mann, the book also boasts two other artists on the title. Travis Moore, who’s worked on it prior, and Jorge Fornes, who hasn’t. Moore’s work is consistent with what one expects of him at this point. With clean details and sharp storytelling, he portrays his attractive heroes and villains with great flair and personality in every panel and page. He’s an artist who feels perfect for a big superhero comic, pulling off the smaller moments of banter with all the big action beats one expects from a superhero title. Fornes, who’s very much a rising star and one to watch, has a strong showing here. Contrasting Moore’s detail with elegant simplicity and a minimalistic style, he’s very much an artist in the tradition of Alex Toth, David Mazuchelli and Chris Samnee. From a seated Batman to a running Flash, he makes it all feel believable and tangible in a powerful way and humanizes the characters while simultaneously emphasizing their super-humanity by contrasting it with the mundane, or the relative mundane they’re surrounded by. It can be a kitchen or a Batcave and it works all the same.
Morey, who has to work with all these great artists and set the consistent tone for the entire book without taking away from each collaborators’ strengths and sensibilities has a tough job here and nails it. His work with Fornes is gorgeous and stands out really well, but even still, his work with Moore and Mann is just as visually striking and pretty.
Clayton Cowles also continues to be terrific here, nailing every effect and using a wide array of choices to punctuate key moments or ideas. From the chubby BANG to the kinetic and uneven KRASH or the inspired decision of snappy FLASH effect accompanying the Flash running (and it being reversed to read HSALF when he’s running right to left rather than left to right, which is how an American comic is read) to announce his arrival, it’s all rock-solid comic storytelling and he’s very much a star. His CRAKKK effect with the Speed Force, to indicate both its power and Wally snapping his finger, is another one worth mentioning and praising here, as the white and blue letters really elevate the panel.
Now, the narrative itself revolves around three segments. Harley Quinn, Batgirl, Booster Quinn and Blue Beetle’s conflict and union, Batman and Flash’s investigation of the former crew and Wally West regrowing Ivy in a distant field. Each progresses until a critical point and then comes to a halt, leaving things for the next installment. The former crew decides to make its move, Batman and Flash go out to face them and Wally succeeds in bringing Ivy back to life. King makes this issue very much a bridge story, which raises more questions rather than answer them definitively. That task is saved for the next issue, which boasts a cover of the entire West family, whom Wally West no longer has.The book is definitely, in general, stronger when it’s centered on things and this issue, after the previous, returns to split the focus a bit more on a wider array of characters and that certainly dilutes it. Harley and Booster are key characters, but they’re not exactly the strong points of the story, with King doing much better on Wally West himself, when he’s able to write him, especially in flashbacks. Beetle is solid in the book but doesn’t get enough to do, which is a bit of a shame. The finale of the issue culminates with the arrival of another Wally West and the omen of his supposed death that is meant to occur, which is a bit of a bizarre sequence. It makes sense for the story being told, but as it things stand, the arrival of the other Wally comes across more as confusion than a moment of surprise or foreboding impact. It’s hard to make sense of since things are held so close to the chest in the story and the setup’s been so minimal that it doesn’t really land the way the story intends it to, being a mystery.
Heroes In Crisis has a lot to deliver on going into the next issue and one can only hope it does.