HEROES IN CRISIS #4 by Tom King, Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles
This is a great issue. There's a surprising plot, phenomenal art (including a great lettering moment), and impressive character work. Yet HEROES IN CRISIS could be so much more, which shows in the Sanctuary interview pages.
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Something's Missing

As we approach the midpoint of this series, the plot of HEROES IN CRISIS #4 ramps up with some pretty incredible twists and turns. Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and others try to find out who’s responsible for all the deaths at Sanctuary — a safe haven for heroes to recover from trauma. Yet the answer to this mystery still alludes them. More heroes join the story as we delve deeper into the Sanctuary’s inner workings. While some characters are certain they know who’s behind the murders, others are not yet convinced. Meanwhile, one decides to reveal everything to the public.

Warning, potential spoilers for HEROES IN CRISIS #4 are below!

HEROES IN CRISIS #4: The Cat’s Out of the Bag

When HEROES IN CRISIS #4 begins, Batman is convinced Harley Quinn is the murderer. Yet Flash is certain Booster Gold is the culprit. Wonder Woman interrogates Booster, using her Golden Perfect — the fool-proof lie detector. Even though Booster insists he didn’t kill the other heroes, Wonder Woman explains that all this proves is he believes this to be the case. Booster could be wrong, even if he isn’t lying. Booster discusses this with Blue Beetle, who decides to help his friend escape.

HEROES IN CRISIS #4 page 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Meanwhile, Batgirl searches for Harley Quinn. The Clown Princess defends herself at first, but Batgirl explains she just wants to help. She feels a kinship with Harley, saying that the Joker hurt both of them. She also says that Batman sees them both as broken girls because of this. Babs wants to prove him wrong, and help Harley at the same time. They embrace in a truly touching, beautiful moment.

In the Batcave, Superman tells Batman and Wonder Woman that Lois has tapes from Sanctuary. Presumably, these are the confession tapes that readers have been seeing single pages of throughout issues #1-4. Batman explains that this should be impossible. Superman proves him wrong as Lois publishes the tapes in a story, exposing Sanctuary to the world.

Babs informs Harley once she sees the story, saying that it’ll change the world. HEROES IN CRISIS #4 ends with a pretty poignant comment from Harley: “&@$$ the world. It needs to change.”

Interview With a Superhero

The nine-panel Sanctuary interview pages are perhaps the highlight of HEROES IN CRISIS #4, just as they are in each previous issue. This is the place where both Clay Mann and Tom King can do some incredible character work.

HEROES IN CRISIS #4 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

For example, Donna Troy’s page in this issue works on multiple levels. She discusses the mystery of the ancient city of Troy. She says there isn’t actually evidence that it ever existed, just myth and legend. This can be a metaphor for a lack of confidence in herself (she and the city share a name). Or, it can be a parallel for the mystery of the murder. Maybe none of the evidence we’ve seen actually points to the right killer. Maybe there’s evidence we’re not seeing. We still don’t know the whole story.

Batgirl’s interview page reveals that her shooting still affects her deeply. Black Canary’s shows her apathy. Blue Beetle’s reinforces his relationship with Booster.

Shining Art Moments

All the while, the art of Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles lets these heroes’ personalities shine through. That’s quite an accomplishment when a character has to stay put, facing the audience, for nine panels.

Speaking of art, I also wanted to point out a great lettering moment from Cowles. As Blue Beetle and Booster are discussing their situation, the speech bubbles are arranged in a point. Beetle’s bubbles go from left to right, descending a little bit. When they meet Booster’s, they start reading from right to left — the opposite direction they typically go in. Though this sounds confusing, it’s not. The reader will have no trouble reading these bubbles in the proper order. It also shows how in-sync these two characters are.

Cowles has found an innovative way to compose this panel that’s still reader-friendly, which is the pinnacle of great lettering.

HEROES IN CRISIS #4 page 6. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

A Great Issue, But Missing the Point

HEROES IN CRISIS #4 is a great issue is a strong series, but I think it’s important to acknowledge what this book could be.

When HEROES IN CRISIS was announced, I was thrilled. Finally, a series that will deal with the absolutely atrocious trauma that these characters have to endure. Yes, some books touch on it, but a whole series dedicated to the subject? That’s a clear winner. As we saw with titles like ETERNITY GIRL, mental health is an important and worthwhile subject.

King is the perfect person to write it, due to his experience in the CIA (which definitely happened, by the way. Why is anyone questioning this?). Though we don’t have the details of his time with the organization, we do know that he probably saw a lot of insane, difficult things, as did the people around him. He has real-world experience that can inform the treatment of traumatized characters.

We get to see a little bit of that in those Sanctuary interviews — again, the strongest part of the series, including HEROES IN CRISIS #4. Yet, as we’re nearly halfway through the series, it’s clear that the concept has devolved into a murder mystery. While that’s entertaining and good, it’s not what it could have been.

HEROES IN CRISIS could be a book that helps people better understand trauma. Now, that concept feels like an afterthought. And that’s a shame.

One Comment

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