There is a certain weight the word “Crisis” carries in the world of DC Comics; the weight of decades of comic storytelling and mythology. Fans are inundated with crossovers and event books arguably too frequently, but a “Crisis” title still feels special. The stories told in these books often contain pretty high stakes. Sometimes, they’re huge, world redefining events designed to leave the DC pantheon changed forever by having timelines and realities folded in on one another and massive character deaths. But other “Crisis” stories are more nuanced. They’re personal, and the ramifications they create are more emotional.
It appears Heroes in Crisis #1 might blend these two ends of the storytelling spectrum.
DC Comics has always been willing to embrace its legacy, no matter how silly some of the exploits of yesteryear may be. There is no hero too ridiculous or villain too gimmicky. The publisher leans into that history even when retconning it or meticulously weaving it into the now. One of the writers in DC’s current stable who fully champions the ostentatious past of superheroes and villains and humanizes them is Tom King, who, pound for pound and page for page might be the best writer currently working in comics. (No, seriously; go read The Vision and tell us otherwise.)
King is not a writer with as many irons in the fire compared to some of his peers, instead generating a more focused output. His work on Batman has been stellar, exploring aspects of the Dark Knight that have never been seen before, which is a massive achievement for a character who has existed in the cultural zeitgeist for nearly a century. His writing on Mister Miracle is second to none in how smart and engaging each issue is. King tells his stories with intent. There are never wasted words on the page, as he allows the artwork to do its job in conveying the story instead of relying on massive exposition dumps, something that even the best of comic writers are often guilty of. His work on Heroes in Crisis #1 is continuing this trend.
The issue begins with a confrontation between Booster Gold and Harley Quinn in a diner, as ordinary a scene as you’ll find in fiction. Their exchange feels like something out of a Western, where a lawman and an outlaw acknowledge what’s about to go down outside the saloon as they down their warm beers. Chaos is rapping at their door, and this moment of levity is the sweet solace they need before it gets ripped right off the hinges. From there, the issue follows Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman surveying several slain heroes. Their discoveries are inter-spliced with confessionals of some of the victims. At its core, Heroes in Crisis is shaping up to be a murder mystery, but if King’s track record is any indication, there is much more to be revealed.
But enough gushing over Tom King. How’s the art? In a word: amazing.
Clay Mann’s linework defies the traditional constrains of the graphic medium. His character facial feature are grounded in reality in their thin, crisp lines and sketchy highlights. His art has reminiscent of artists like Steve McNiven and Jim Cheung at the top of their games. He can tell as much story in a character’s expression than a million caption panels. Tomeu Morey’s color palette only adds to the depth of each panel, bringing a natural element to each page that demands the reader’s attention. Crisis books are often stacked with high caliber talent. Heroes in Crisis is no different.
It might sound a touch hyperbolic, considering we are only an issue into this miniseries, but all the moving parts to make this the event of the year are at play. Heroes in Crisis #1 is nothing short of astounding. From the tight writing, gorgeous artwork, and provocative setup, this is a book to add to your stack right away. The end of the issue with have you chomping at the bit for the next entry, and if that isn’t praise of the highest order, we don’t know what is.