Review – Heroes in Crisis #4: Sanctuary Exposed?

Comic Books DC This Week
Heroes in Crisis #4 cover, via DC Comics.

Heroes in Crisis #4 – Tom King, Writer; Clay Mann, Artist; Tomeu Morey, Colorist


Ray – 6/10

Corrina: ::deep sigh:

Ray: Heroes in Crisis is probably the most frustrating series on the stands right now, balancing brilliant character-based moments with a narrative that rarely makes much sense and constantly zig-zags away from the most compelling parts of the story. For instance, the issue opens with Donna Troy rescuing a drunk Tempest from a bar where he’s drinking away his sorrows over their lost friend, followed by a Donna Troy confessional at Sanctuary. Neither of these characters appears again or plays any role in the issue. As Barry and Batman investigate, they come to a standstill – both of the detectives are convinced that a different suspect out of Harley and Booster is responsible. Booster seems to have cleared himself due to a session with Wonder Woman’s lasso, but no one is exactly clear just how much he knows or if he’d be able to fool it – including himself. King’s Booster is probably the best character in this story, adding just the right tone of confused horror that it needs.

I just wish other things in this series worked as well. King wrote a great Lois in Batman in a few guest appearances, but her scenes here are a mess. Why is her first appearance a pin-up shot of her in a Superman t-shirt with exposed panties? Why is her journalistic approach to casually expose the existence of Sanctuary? I get that she’s an investigative journalist, but the story seems to be forcing her into an antagonistic role that she doesn’t deserve. Batgirl’s role in this issue is interesting – I could have done without the gratuitous shots of her bullet wound scars, but her determination to find Harley before Batman does is very much in character. Black Canary threatening to kill both Harley and Booster and let God sort it out is…not good. The issue briefly comes to life when Blue Beetle – the original – shows up to rescue Booster from prison so they can get some answers, but overall we get no closer to them this issue. It’s just a bunch of scattered character moments, some which work and some which very much do not.

Corrina: I have other questions than Ray. The biggest one: why are the women so sexualized in a series about trauma?  There’s no question Mann draws a lovely Lois Lane. But why the pinup? Then there’s the crotch shot of Black Canary, and, even worse, there’s the lovely butt shot of Batgirl, so she can show off the bullet wound in her spine, but it simply looks like an excuse for a sexualized butt-shot. (I stopped counting Harley Quinn butt close-ups at three.)

You add that to the proposed cover below with dead Poison Ivy, in which it looks like she’s ready for a porn movie, and I can only conclude that this is a systemic problem of how DC editorial and the creative team view women, even in stories like this, i.e. as little more than sexualized pin-ups. (Only Donna Troy seems to escape this. WW also has a butt shot but it’s not egregious.)

So, while Tom King said on Twitter that the pulled Poison Ivy cover was inappropriate, why was he and the rest of the creative team blind to what’s inappropriate in this issue?

As for the story, it seems to exist more for King to explore whatever philosophy he wants and put that in the words of certain characters. I imagine Donna Troy meant to say war is inevitable or something and….my frustration continues that DC took an essentially optimistic and hopeful Donna–despite her past tragedies–and made her this figure of trauma and darkness.

Who is the murderer? Well, the pulled cover provides the big clue and fits with spoilers that have been out for weeks. But I can imagine that’s not going to sit well with fans who may otherwise dismiss other complaints about the series.

Years ago, I said the new 52 was the anti-Corrina reboot, meaning the direction took everything I loved about DC Comics and flipped it. Rebirth was much more my style but there have been signs we’re going back to a new 52 sensibility for over a year now. More darkness, more angst, less friendship, more crumbling legacies. I’d have to say that, so far, Heroes is Crisis is right up there with Identity Crisis as the most anti-Corrina of crossovers events.

Identity Crisis made the basis of the DC Universe a horrific murder of a pregnant woman, then retroactively revealed her rape, all the while giving her no characterization. Then it tossed in the “crazy” girlfriend trope for good measure. Heroes in Crisis is based on the brutal murder of heroes, including one of DC’s main lesbian characters, and the over-sexualization of much of the female cast. I fully expect the killer to be revealed as a traumatized now “mentally unstable” person, so toss in a mischaracterization of mental illness for good measure.

In a way, that would make HiC worse than Identity Crisis because at least the latter wasn’t sold to us as any kind of realistic exploration of trauma.

Note: Ray is who I consider the proto-typical DC reader and you can see that in the different ways we react to certain comics. While his complaints about the series may not be the same as mine, if HiC is losing Ray, then it’s doing something horribly wrong.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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