A crisis is coming to DC Comics this fall, but it's an event unlike the DC Universe has ever seen before. Instead of cosmic entities and alternate universes, Tom King, Clay Mann and Mitch Gerads' Heroes in Crisis will be far more grounded in reality. Hoping to take on a real-world issue, the series will attempt to tackle gun violence following a mass shooting inside Sanctuary, a crisis center for superheroes. The only question will be how the events within the series will actually be handled.
Tom King has been very vocal about his desire to explore and address the trauma that superheroes face on a regular basis. He developed the concept of Sanctuary as an in-universe shelter from the violence they deal with every day. However, despite several name drops in recent months, we have yet to see the actual facility in question, and now Heroes in Crisis — where the whole thing goes terribly wrong — is almost here.
Seemingly in opposition to how King talks about the project, DC marketing has placed all its focus on the murders that will take place at the beginning of the story. While King describes the concept as a means to discuss real issues, DC really wants you to know that one of your favorite superheroes is going to die, with house ads in DC Nation, the publisher's industry magazine, focusing on the tease. One ad giving you a lineup of characters and saying three of them are accused of murder. Another ad claims two of the assembled heroes WILL DIE.
The question then becomes what is the actual focus of this series. Will it be a thoughtful exploration of gun violence and trauma or a whodunnit capped off with a double homicide involving your favorite DC heroes? But what about the characters whose lives hang in the balance? Death in comics may not mean what it once did, but for two characters to be shot down in such a violent and graphic way leaves a certain kind of permanence to it all. Of course, it's not as easy to come back from a gunshot wound as it may be from an explosion or cosmic incursion event.
If DC really plans to kill two major characters, will their deaths be worth it? Can their deaths ever be worth it? When you kill off a character, you lose the ability to market them and tell new stories. At this point, DC and its readers have narrowed things down to three prime candidates for the meat grinder: Tim Drake aka Red Robin, Roy Harper aka Arsenal, and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. The publisher seems to be focusing its attention on characters who aren't the focus of an ongoing series. But DC doesn't have to kill these characters; it doesn't have to kill anyone, and there are many reasons why.