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‘Heroes in Crisis #2’ (review)

Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Clay Mann
Published by DC Comics

 

“I’ve learned a thing or two in all my years of fighting the crime. For example, if you’re in a tricky situation, you just have to ask yourself… What would Batman do?”

Solve the Mystery.

That’s the idea. That’s what this is, after all. More than anything else, that’s what Tom King has laid out for us. A mystery. A murder mystery.

Like any good murder mystery, the lead-in has been grizzly. We’re not dealing with Captain Cold and the Riddler robbing a bank. This is death – hard, cold, and shocking. And at quite a scale to boot.

Also, like any good mystery, just two chapters in, and we’ve got a few too many more questions than answers. That’s to be expected. Can’t make things easy. And you have to set the scene.

Tom King’s done just that, with a string of the sort of brief, colorful vignettes that have become his stock-in-trade. They are alternately insightful, dramatic, and outrageous, and altogether a pretty good mash-up of the classic superhero and detective pulp genres. We have the set-up. We have the suspects. We have the players. We have more than a little dramatic tension. And we’ve got… lots of clues.

So many clues! Like all those herrings on the Penguin’s plate.

So, what are we to think?

Well first of all, it’s pretty clear that Booster’s not OK. Tom King demonstrated this already over in the pages of Batman – that he does a very good rendition of cracked Booster. That continues in this issue, with the return of Skeets as the perfect Jiminy Cricket conscience for Booster’s more-than-questionable thought processes and running dialogue. And sure, Booster’s acting distinctly certifiable. But his heart sure seems in the right place…

We also see that in King’s hands, Harley Quinn is, simply put, wicked smart, with no plans at all to be anyone’s patsy. She appears to be acting on conviction. But then the psychotic is notorious for acting on false convictions. And if Harley does know more than she’s let on so far, she’s smart enough to be keeping hands off for now…

There’s a backstory there with Poison Ivy, one of our murdered Sanctuary clients, and more than one suggestive reference to the Joker’s involvement in this whole affair. But then, M.O.’s can be copied, if someone knows what they want others to find…

Then there’s Sanctuary itself, and that’s a mystery we’ll see delved into over the next several issues, as Batman and Barry Allen put on their detective hats and get to work. There’s a question of tapes, because lordy, that would certainly help with any investigation. But that prospect raises an important element of doubt, and King rather slyly leaves an open question about that doubt, which may yet sow seeds of distrust just as our heroes need to trust each other the most…

All of this leads us to motivation. And capability. I mean, who exactly has what it takes to pull off a crime of this magnitude, with so much firepower on the opposing side to prevent it? That, perhaps, is the biggest mystery of all at this point.

Sure, Harley Quinn is deceptively capable, and Booster is more formidable than most would give him credit. But against so many? So conclusively? With only a handful of mixed up and conflicting memories between them, and two great big targets left on both their backs?

That smacks of something more on the order of manipulation. And given the direction in which our story turns during the final pages of this issue, that possibility seems all the more likely…

Clay Mann turns in yet another stellar effort this issue to match the fantastic tale King is spinning. It’s worth noting that in addition to the covers he’s submitted for our first issues, there are a series of alternate covers that Ryan Sook has drawn as well. Covers which provide glimpses into the most tragic episodes in the lives of the Big Three, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman

They are striking glimpses into the sort of files one would imagine Sanctuary would be keeping on the long list of its famous patients… presuming Sanctuary were to keep such records that is.

They grab the attention, as much because they suggest why the Trinity have considered the Sanctuary project to be so important, but also because it highlights their involvement in this affair now, as this issue makes an even greater effort to do as well.

For Superman, not surprisingly, that event is his death.

Which makes sense, because this is Superman of New Earth right? The Superman from before the 2011 DC Rebirth that’s left us with the Prime Multiverse… right?

And then there’s Bane and Batman. That’s the alternate cover of this issue, the one where Bane is breaking Batman’s back. Interestingly, if you’ve been following Tom King’s current run on Batman, you know that Bane is running what looks to be a very similar play right now in Batman’s life. One that is exactly intended, as Bane has stated explicitly, to break the Bat.

That leaves Wonder Woman, and the alternate cover that interests me the most. I’ll leave that for next month. Except to say that it involves a very significant episode in the life of our favorite Amazonian Princess.

Or does it?

I mean at first glance it certainly seems to. But then, when you think about it, the picture on that file maybe raises a few more questions than it answers.

Like, what the heck is going on here exactly?

Maybe Booster knows. Somewhere, up in all that grey matter, that appears to have been so well scrambled through all of space and time…

Next time: “Tell me son, where’d you get that Flight Ring?”

 

 

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