by Michael Sangiacomo
There is one thing that critics should not do – judge a movie, book or comic based on how they personally would have handled it.
A critic’s job is to look at the work and judge it on its own merits. He should also wait until the entire story is finished before rushing to judgment.
Taking all that into account, I can honestly say that Heroes in Crisis is a failure.
Tom King’s writing jumps all over the place. Out of sequence panels, difficulty in determining who is talking and a general sloppiness hurts what could have been an interesting series.
His biggest sin was that he failed to examine the core concept of the book – superheroes who are overwhelmed and need a place to go for counseling. I love that idea, but it is not fully addressed in the series.
The single panel confessions of various characters talking about their biggest fears and weaknesses were the best part of the series. The opinions of the many current and former Robins were brilliant. That is the stuff of a series I would want to read.
Instead, Heroes in Crisis was an exercise in bloodletting at the expense of a beloved character, Wally West. It was bad enough when DC introduced a second Wally West as Kid Flash in a bow to the television show, but the treatment of the original Wally in King’s limited series is pointless and regrettable.
Below there be spoilers, proceed at your own risk.
Seriously. Spoilers ahead.
One last warning, just in case you think we’re only kidding.
I understand, though disagree, with the idea that sometimes publishers need to cull the herd and kill off characters. This is usually done without much thought (see the villain massacre by Scourge over at Marvel in the 80’s) or consequences.
A character’s demise should be meaningful, otherwise just let the character lay fallow until another writer has a different idea for the character.
Wally’s accidental discharge of the speed force, which killed his fellow heroes, was tragic but forgivable. More troubling was King’s seeming lack of understanding of Wally West’s character and how he would have dealt with his mistake.
Perhaps worse than the accident was the cover-up and Wally’s framing of Booster Gold and Harley Quinn for the crime. Those actions were just not in keeping with Wally’s character as established in the early 1960s and throughout his career.
It would be like Batman suddenly torturing the Joker to death or Superman heat-visioning Lex Luthor into a pile of ash. You can’t do that without a logical set-up.
Most of the characters killed in Heroes in Crisis will not be missed. Lagoon Boy, Blue Jay, Kid Devil, Gunfire, Gnarrk (really? How many ever heard of him?), the Protector, Commander Steel and the rest, were C and D level characters. But they could have been killed off more dramatically.
Worse yet, they were killed off-panel in an event unseen until almost the end of the series. Even then it was a “Poof, you’re dead” demise.
Of them all, Roy Harper (Green Arrow’s former sidekick, Speedy, aka Arsenal) deserved better. He was the comic book poster child for the effects of drug abuse and subsequent bad decisions. His death should have been more dramatic and meaningful.
The one positive thing about the series was the resolution that Wally is alive and in prison. That leaves the character open for other storylines and rehabilitation.
Now that’s a story I want to read.
Michael Sangiacomo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.