WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Heroes In Crisis #1 by Tom King, Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
In the weeks and months ahead, there will be plenty of articles speculating about the identity of the Sanctuary killer, the unknown guest of a trauma facility for superheroes who murdered most of the other patients as well as the caretakers. This feature isn’t that, and I won’t be naming a suspect here (though I have a few ideas). Rather, it starts from two questions about Heroes In Crisis‘ story itself, and seeks to compile the main clues — as well as several scenes that could be clues — to take a different tack on who the killer might be.
The first question is, is Tom King the sort of writer who would structure a story such that, if a reader could piece together the clues in just the right way, it would be possible to solve the mystery after the first issue?
And then there’s the second question: Is Heroes in Crisis even that kind of mystery?
The questions are interrelated. Heroes in Crisis has been described as a mass shooting in the superhero community, and the first issue is very much structured to reveal information in drips and drabs, with a lot of uncertainty, as is the case with news reports in an active shooter situation. Taken in this context, HiC is not properly a mystery at all, but rather something more like a procedural. The suspect will eventually be brought to justice, but his or her identity is beside the point.
But as a piece of serialized narrative fiction, what everybody’s asking is, Who killed Sanctuary’s patients? And this question is foregrounded at the end of the issue, when Harley Quinn and Booster Gold accuse each other of the crime.
If this is a mystery, it seems possible that King put all the clues here in issue #1, if only we can see them from the right perspective.
So what do we have?
“Yeah, there’s going to be a fight.”
The first scene takes place in a diner in Gordon, Nebraska. Booster Gold sits down to have a cup of coffee, as the waitress remarks they “don’t get too many super heroes here.” Then, surprise! Along comes Harley Quinn, peering in the window before making her way inside.
There are a number of strange things about this scene. The first and most palpable is how slowly and casually it unfolds, both for the restaurant staff and the heroes. There is tension, but no urgency. If, as we learn later, Booster and Harley each believe the other has just committed mass murder, how do they feel comfortable enough to sit down next to each other for a bite to eat? And why are the folks in the restaurant utterly unconcerned about the fight that is now pretty much guaranteed to happen?
The most likely explanation for Booster and Harley’s truce, especially given their interactions later in the issue, is that they have formed some sort of close relationship at Sanctuary. Not necessarily romantic, but a bond deep enough where each might see themselves as a lifeline for the other.
And the restaurant? Despite the waitress’s opening line, it seems to be part of Sanctuary. There’s a “Robin-1” license plate above the bathroom door, the name of the town — Gordon — can be seen to once again reference Gotham’s familiar faces. The man’s newspaper headline is cut off, but it might say “Perry,” which would be another nod to someone close to the trio of heroes responsible for establishing Sanctuary.
If the restaurant is part of Sanctuary, that provides another reason for Harley and Booster to be here — each fears the other is going to finish the job by killing the restaurant staff, as well.
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