Review – Heroes in Crisis #5: Superman Goes Live, Batgirl Goes Rogue

Comic Books DC This Week
Heroes in Crisis #5
Heroes in Crisis #5 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Heroes in Crisis #5 – Tom King, Writer; Clay Mann, Artist; Tomeu Morey, Colorist


Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Where to Start?


Ray: Heroes in Crisis remains one of the most divisive and up-and-down series on the stands. Coming on the heels of last month’s incredibly controversial issue, Heroes in Crisis #5 pulls things together nicely and emphasizes the story’s human strengths without any of the bizarre and gratuitous T&A moments of the previous installment – but is still occasionally dogged by some iffy characterization from major players. The best thing about this installment is its emphasis on Booster and Beetle, who King previously wrote together in Mister Miracle. Booster’s incredibly traumatized mind – emphasized in the opening nine-page grid in disturbing fashion – seems a bit more at ease when he and Ted are holed up in their hideaway, and they begin making serious headway in the mystery. I also thought King did a better job with the Lois and Clark partnership this issue – I’m still not sure about Lois making the decision to out Sanctuary, but from her perspective of a friendly writer doing it first, it makes sense.

What works REALLY well this issue is Superman’s speech as he addresses the rumors relating to Sanctuary and delivers an address that reminds me of exactly what King initially wanted this series to be about before it became an elaborate murder mystery. It’s a brilliant scene, but it’s undercut by a lot of the stuff surrounding it. I do not get King’s take on Batgirl at all – her whole partnership with Harley Quinn here, and their decision to apparently torture Skeets for information seems part of an effort to make Barbara “the dark and edgy Bat” because of her past trauma, and it feels wildly out of step with what Mairghread Scott has done with Barbara in her own title. I’m also not a big fan of constantly seeing obscure, often young heroes explore their camera only to be reminded that all these cult favorites are dead. The ending delivers a massive clue as to the culprit’s identity, and to say it’s going to be controversial will be putting it lightly. But this issue is definitely a big improvement.

Heroes In Crisis #5
Booster is not in a good place. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: I disagree with Ray on at least two points. One, there were at least two Harley gratuitous butt shots this issue, though far less than the last issue. Two, Superman’s speech didn’t work at all for me. Granted, the reason is subjective, but I’ll get to why in a minute.

Where we do agree is that Batgirl’s characterization, decent enough last issue, goes off the rails in this one.

But I want to start with the art. There was a great deal of discussion of the T&A in the last issue. My objection is that over-sexualized women’s bodies have zero place in a book that wants to be about trauma and heroes either rising above or failing to overcome trauma.

As a comparison, I’ll pull out King’s brilliant Omega Men, with art by Barnaby Bagenda. That story’s theme is the cost of using terrorism to fight back against an evil oppressive force. The Omega Men of the title descend into something akin to madness because they feel the consequences of failure are so dire. Bagenda’s art has a surreal edge, especially in depicting Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, who’s trapped in the middle of a war that seems to have no end and, sometimes, no purpose. Art carries a comic book–the art form is all about the images–and Bagenda’s images perfectly reflect that mindset of the characters.

Mann’s art in Heroes in Crisis, however, is more of the photo-realistic bent. The characters in this series are the walking wounded and yet, the art is bright and cheerful. That might work as a contrast except for the art also showcases women’s bodies in a sexual manner, over several issues now. In a comic meant as action-adventure or humor, I might not love it but I wouldn’t find it so objectionable as using sexualized images in a story about trauma. (I have the same issue with The Killing Joke. Everyone loves Bolland’s art but that book should have been drawn by someone with a style like Bill Sienkiewicz, or Sienkiewicz himself. Look at how effectively Sienkiewicz’s version of Wilson Fisk is used in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.)

There is a point where the art does work this issue: the various shades of blue and gold used in the early scenes with Booster and Beetle, and the shadows given to them. The rest of it is not that subtle.

Heroes in Crisis is a book that calls out for a noir style, not an epic heroic style. And that impacts in how dissonant the story has become.

Lastly, Superman’s speech. To quote: “That you have accepted me, an alien, as your friend is the greatest joy of my life.”

I have a fundamental issue with this quote, in that Clark Kent does not see himself as an alien. Clark Kent sees himself as the son of Jonathan and Martha Kent, as Smallville, not an alien interloper. As for the rest of the speech, it can be read as a plea from a former soldier/warrior, as King was in reality, to civilians to understand trauma. And I hear that. It’s too bad that the overall story he’s telling isn’t working toward that goal.

As for Batgirl, yeah, Ray covered what I wanted to say. “You rock?” What? And a deep sigh for how DC continues to use Lois.

But I suspect after this issue, I’ll be joined in my complaints by the legion of fans of Wally West.

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

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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