Although Tom King has been talking for a while now about the idea behind DC's Sanctuary, Wednesday's announcement of a new series exploring a story surrounding the location adds a mysterious twist.
The debut of Heroes in Crisis in September, the new seven-issue event by King and Clay Mann, will involve the Sanctuary in a murder mystery that also explores the trauma that superheroes can experience within their violent world.
So what have we already learned, and what does Wednesday's announcement tell us?
The Sanctuary is a place where DC characters are being helped with the trauma of constantly dealing with violence. But some recent in-comic hints offer a few other clues about the nature of Sanctuary.
The most recent clue about Sanctuary came from the Deathstroke #32. In the recent issue, Batman was trying to help an adversary, the Human Dynamo a.k.a. Ace Masterson.
In the story, Ace admitted that he was losing his sanity, something that made him want to die at the hands of Deathstroke.
But Batman said Ace didn't have to die. His mental problems could be treated.
"I've triggered the Justice League transporter," Batman says, "taking you to our Sanctuary, where we will suspend you in cryogenic stasis until a cure can be found."
Before that, in Batman #43, the Caped Crusader had arranged for Poison Ivy to go to the Sanctuary after she was suffering from the mental after-effects of the events in the "Everyone Loves Ivy" storyline.
"Ivy's arrived safely at Sanctuary," Bruce said. "They'll do what they do."
The two scenes revealed a few clues about the nature of the Sanctuary. There's probably some some type of staff who works at the Sanctuary (the "they" mentioned by Batman).
And some characters who are housed there are suspended in cryogenic stasis.
King has also clarified in public statements that the Trinity in particular are behind the Sanctuary.
"The DCU has a bunch of superheroes and all they do is fight, every time, and that must have a psychological effect on them, right?" King said in January at the DC in D.C. event (via CBR). "You can’t live a life of violence and not feel that violence deep in your heart—and we also have a group of superheroes, the Trinity, who care about these other heroes."
King said Sanctuary was set up by the Trinity and was modeled on veterans' crisis centers. And King has a unique insight into the after-effects of violence because of his time in the CIA.
The writer spent seven years in counter-terrorism for the CIA, working in the Iraq and the Pakistan-Afghanistan areas. As King detailed in the announcement of Heroes in Crisis, his experience fighting terrorism is informing the event.
Who's Involved - the Cover Clues
Wednesday's announcement also included an image of a cover for Heroes in Crisis #1. As the announcement promised, Harley Quinn and Booster Gold are featured as up-front characters - alongside the core DC Trinity of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman.
Harley's involvement is may be tied to her connection with mental illness, both as a former psychologist and as a character who's usually portrayed as being a little off-kilter.
But Booster's involvement almost certainly relates to his recent appearance in Batman. In the conclusion of Booster's team-up with Batman, a storyline that required some pretty traumatic choices, Booster was in need of some counseling.
So it's possible that Booster will be a resident or patient at Sanctuary when the murder mystery kicks off in September.
Other things on the cover that might offer hints about Sanctuary? There's a mask in Superman's hands that looks a lot like Psycho-Pirate's Medusa Mask, something that featured largely in Tom King's first few storylines of Batman, the ones that often concentrated on the mental well-being of Gotham Girl.
A similar mask appears to be worn by several characters on the covers, all of them robed in white. Could these be the "they" who treat patients at Sanctuary? Or the patients themselves? Psycho-Pirate's mask has been linked to the ability to project emotions onto other people. Could these masks be part of the treatment?
Big Barda and Mister Miracle from King's Mister Miracle are featured on the cover, and that series delves into themes of mental trauma. Kiteman is also on the cover, a character whose trauma and loss was featured in King's Batman run as well. Were these some of the characters present at Sanctuary when a murder occurred? Is the murder linked to the mask Superman's holding? Was someone who worked or was being treated at Sanctuary murdered? Or did one of the staff members or patients commit the murder?
Whatever the answers, Heroes in Crisis appears to involve many of the leading characters of the DCU. And with a word like "Crisis" in the title, it's sure to feature some explosive moments, although the comic's psychological subject matter should offer a different perspective on costumed characters of the DCU.
Heroes in Crisis #1 is scheduled to be released September 26.