Okay, friends. Strap in, because I have some feelings about HEROES IN CRISIS #8.

If you’ve been reading my reviews of the series thus far, you have seen my descent into pure dread as I realize that HEROES IN CRISIS is a complete letdown. The mere concept of the series is flawed. The team is attempting to create a narrative around mental health, but that narrative is repeatedly overshadowed by a murder mystery plot that no one wanted or asked for. It is not good, people, no matter how many shining character moments writer Tom King introduced or how great the art team is at their jobs. No art can save this arc.

And I hate to hate on things. I enjoy comics — particularly DC Comics and the work of these creators — and I love talking about how much I enjoy them. (Just check out how excited I get about DC’s Young Animal for proof.) But I can not ignore when talented people make things that are not good.

All of the issues I have with the series continue in HEROES IN CRISIS #8. We finally have some clear answers, but all the reveals in the world can not save this sinking ship. (Yes, I know I’m being harsh. I’m fine with it.) Major spoilers ahead.

HEROES IN CRISIS #8 Has Answers

I’ve said before that the Sanctuary confessionals are the best part of HEROES IN CRISIS. Well, this entire issue is one big confessional sequence. And I hate it.

HEROES IN CRISIS #8 belongs to Wally West and his very literal confession. Neither Harley Quinn or Booster Gold committed mass murder at Sanctuary. It was Wally. It was not an act of evil or villainy, but a total loss of control that killed a bunch of heroes who were just trying to deal with their trauma.

HEROES IN CRISIS #8
HEROES IN CRISIS #8 page 1. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Wally tells the reader directly that he felt alone and isolated in his trauma, unsure that anything or anyone could make him better. The void left inside him when his family forgot him was just too vast. He tried to cope, but couldn’t. Even at Sanctuary, he felt completely alone: “I felt like … this pain can’t be in others, or I’d know. I’d see it on them,” he says. (I’m going to unpack that mess of a line momentarily.)

Then, paranoia set in. He thought Sanctuary was a trap. He questioned why it was anonymous. (That’s a fair point that I’ll get to.) He used his super speed to watch every single confession video and take in the program. He calls it a moment of weakness, I call it just a dick move, but Wally and I can disagree. The experience had quite an effect on him. Tom King wrote it better than I can explain it: “In an instant I experienced the totality of a thousand heroes in crisis. And for an instant … I wasn’t alone. It broke me.”

The Tragic Moment

Wally stepped out for a bit of air. He, ironically, wanted to be alone. But his actions tripped an alarm, which sent all the Sanctuary participants outside. He lost control from the stress, sending the power of the Speed Force throughout the area like a sonic wave. This is what killed everyone.

Wally then used Sanctuary virtual reality tech to show the survivors — Booster and Harley — images of the other one on a murder rampage. He also used Booster’s tech to travel five days in the future, find and kill himself, then plant the body in the wreckage. Wally used his familiarity with Batman and Barry Allen to leave just the right clues at the scene — ones that would point at both Harley and Booster.

He did all this, he says, because he wanted time to confess. And with that, HEROES IN CRISIS #8 leaves us with answers, and one question left: Where on earth do we need to go in issue 9?

The Good

Okay, I’ll start with the few highlights of HEROES IN CRISIS #8. I had no idea this was coming, so that’s a plus in one sense.

The prose is excellent, which is why I’ve quoted it twice here. We truly feel Wally’s pain and understand where he was in each moment.

The art team has also done a phenomenal job, as per usual. Mitch Gerads especially shines, with unbelievable acting work on Wally. It’s similar to the caliber of MISTER MIRACLE, while being wholly different in style. It’s still clearly Gerads, but he’s found a way to make it work for HEROES IN CRISIS in particular.

HEROES IN CRISIS #8
HEROES IN CRISIS #8 page 4. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Mental Health Problems

But here’s what sucks. The portrayal of mental health in HEROES IN CRISIS #8 is at best poor and at worst problematic. Yes, King shows that it is complex and confusing even for the people in it. And that is great. However, even though the book has shown that it’s not the case, having someone who struggles with mental health insinuate that this is anything other than an invisible disease is baffling. I have anxiety. Do you know how you know that? Because I just told you. You can’t see it. Which is exactly where the stigma around mental health comes from. It’s why some very misinformed people don’t see it as a real disease that we grapple with.

Now, can I recognize it in other people once I get to know them? Yes. And that makes it easier to deal with my own issues. I know I’m not alone. Which is why the anonymity of Sanctuary is its downfall. (This is another good point by King, I’ll give him that.) If Wally was able to connect with the other participants and hear their stories like we have, he’d see he’s not alone. That opportunity is denied him. The issue is that I’m not sure why Sanctuary needs to be anonymous inside its own walls. It feels like a logic hurdle that King needed to insert for this very moment in HEROES IN CRISIS #8.

My biggest problem in regards to mental health is that Wally is shown to be the killer in the same breath we see the scope of his trauma. This implies (though probably not intentionally) that people suffering from trauma or mental illness are inherently dangerous whether they intend to be or not. Wally is not malicious, but his mental issues trigger him to kill a vast number of people. Mental illness is often brought up in regards to mass shooters and the like, even though we know people with these conditions are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. HEROES IN CRISIS #8 inadvertently conflates the two. And it’s hard to see past it.

Telling, Not Showing, in HEROES IN CRISIS #8

In any writing seminar, one of the first things you’ll hear is, “Show, don’t tell.” In other words, don’t spoon-feed your readers. If a character is angry, don’t say, “They were angry.” You show them clenching their jaw, talking through gritted teeth, glaring, walking away without a word, or whatever other action is appropriate for the character.

HEROES IN CRISIS #8
HEROES IN CRISIS #8 page 5. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

HEROES IN CRISIS #8 is almost completely telling and not showing. We have an entire 20 pages of the character talking to the reader, saying, “This is what I did and why.” We have no inkling that this character is the culprit (of manslaughter, not murder) until this issue, as he tells us. This is the one time I could do without the Sanctuary confessional. It’s the one time it doesn’t work. Yes, we need some confessional time to truly understand how isolated Wally feels. But instead of him telling us that he manipulated the case and seeing little bits of it under his narration, I wanted to see the entire experience play out. The art team is good enough to get the point across with minimal narration or dialogue. We’d all get it. Just show us what happened, for goodness sake.

No Hope Left for HEROES

I was hoping that HEROES IN CRISIS #8 could help to save the series. But it did not. And that means that nothing can. There’s only one issue left, and I truly don’t know what it will entail. While that’s great in other series, it just makes me tired here. It’s truly a shame because this team is unbelievably talented.

I want to reiterate that I’m a huge fan of Tom King, and I think he’s a brilliant writer. That’s why I’m being so hard on his work here. I know these problems are not just his fault, too. It’s an editorial problem because the very concept of the series falls short. But the execution could still be better. I know that because of how good King is. I want to be able to focus on the art more because it’s truly excellent. But I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t shine a light on all the issues in the story and writing.

HEROES IN CRISIS could have been great, if they hadn’t killed off all those heroes in crisis.

HEROES IN CRISIS #8 by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, Travis Moore, Clayton Cowles
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
It really hurts me to say how much I don't like HEROES IN CRISIS. This is the epitome of telling and not showing, and it does a disservice to readers. There are some problematic ideas about mental health being violent here, as well. And while the art is great, I almost have no time to talk about it because the writing falls so short. (Sorry, Tom King, I still adore you.)
53 %
Missed Opportunity (Again)

2 Comments

  1. Omar Kamel (@OmarKamel)

    April 24, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Heroes in Crisis #8 is a massive slap in the face for every @DCComics fan who spent years waiting for Wally West to return then cheered when he made it back in Rebirth. If this were an ‘else-worlds’ story, we could ignore how bad it is, but as cannon it’s non-salvageable.

    Reply

    • Jared Scott

      April 24, 2019 at 8:51 pm

      Bye Bye DC been a great 40 years. Make mine Marvel.

      Reply

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