Heroes In Crisis may share an ominous word with some of DC Comics’ most high-concept continuity reshuffles, but it’s a different kind of story all together. Inspired by writer Tom King’s time in the CIA and the psychological stressors people in that line of work can be confronted with, Heroes In Crisis is said to be a more analytical look at what makes superheroes tick and remind us that they need help too.
It’s also described as a murder mystery involving the patients at Sanctuary, the psychological treatment center for superheroes. But while King has a proven track record of balancing thoughtful reflections on the human condition with the wants and needs of a superhero story, Heroes In Crisis sounds awfully similar to one of the most controversial events of the 2000s: Identity Crisis.
Identity Crisis was a seven issue series released in 2004 by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, Michael Bair, Alex Sinclair and Ken Lopez. The main crux of Identity Crisis is that all those happy, carefree superhero stories of the 1970s were actually as bleak and morally gray as the tales spun in the '90s and 2000s. The inciting event of the series is the murder of a pregnant Sue Dibny, the non-superpowered wife of the Elongated Man, who is attacked in her own home and set on fire, leaving the goofy and loveable stretchy sleuth to cradle the love of his life’s burnt husk in one of the series’ many upsetting and lasting images.
Over the course of the series, it’s revealed that during Elongated Man’s tenure in the Justice League of America, the Teen Titans villain Doctor Light gained access to the JLA Satellite and brutally raped Sue, which again is portrayed in the most upsetting way possible while maintaining Comics Code standards. The heroes are then divided on whether or not to mindwipe Doctor Light and are caught in the act by Batman, who is also mindwiped by his teammates.
There are more murders and attacks; The Atom’s ex-wife Jean Loring is saved from a hanging, Firestorm is accidentally stabbed and forced to sacrifice himself by flying into the sky and exploding, and Captain Boomerang and Robin’s father Jack Drake kill each other in a standoff. Ultimately, it’s revealed that Loring was Sue Dibny’s murderer, having used The Atom’s size-changing belt enter Sue’s brain and give her a fatal stroke. Her plan was to scare Ray Palmer back into her arms, with Sue's death being an unfortunate side effect, and the series ends with her being admitted to Arkham Asylum while The Atom abandons his team and enters the microverse.