When it comes to superhero comics, fans often get absorbed in the glitz and glam of caped vigilantes fighting off evildoers, and rightfully so. Escapism is what the medium's for at the end of the day, a means of stepping away from the fatigue and drama of the real world, if only for a short while. But beneath the surface of these pages, if you burrow down below the spectacle, there isn't just a physical toll being inflicted on heroes and villains, but a mental one as well.
Which is where Tom King's Sanctuary comes in, an avenue for both parties to undergo therapy in an attempt to assuage concerns of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Will it rehabilitate or cure them? Well, that remains to be seen, but we all know this isn't an exact science. What we do know, though, is that Sanctuary is an intriguing and much needed concept for treating distressed heroes, because it does them the humane favor of treating them like, well, people.
This is something King has been doing from the start of his tenure at DC Comics. Geoff Johns got the ball rolling with DC Universe: Rebirth by ramping back up the nostalgia, but since then, King has taken the baton up by embedding a sense of humanity into his writing which hasn't just revitalized certain titles or characters, it's revolutionized them.
King is no stranger to the DNA of what makes heroic characters relatable. At Marvel, he and artist Gabriel Walta touched on marriage issues, divorce, teenage angst, depression and suicide with the Vision and his family. But just before that Eisner Award winning run, King dealt with turbulent human emotions in his and Mitch Gerads' 2015 Vertigo title, The Sheriff of Babylon. There, King refined what he learned as a CIA analyst and sculpted a terrorism story which actually held America in a revered light. He and Gerads portrayed soldiers occupying the Middle East as 'gods' so to speak, only to then break down the reality of the situation: These 'saviors' were just as flawed, and in need of saving as those they were there to rescue.
By the time he got to DC, it came as no surprise that whether King was penning robots, aliens or gods, he'd continue writing about basic human instincts. And he achieves all this by instilling compassion in his characters and overall plots, allowing us to empathize, whether it's with a hero or villain. His and Mikel Janin's "I Am Suicide" arc shocked Batman fans by revealing a young Bruce Wayne tried to kill himself after his parents' death. Kings' scripts humanized characters like Kite Man, a lost soul; Riddler, a desperate, lonely shell of a person looking for purpose; and even the Joker, a petulant but jealous narcissist. Most importantly, the strands of humanity he's put into the title are set to culminate with the impending nuptials between Batman and Catwoman. After all, what's more relatable than love and marriage?