In less than a month, DC will launch its newest "Crisis,” but this one won’t have a planet-consuming supervillain or a universe-shattering threat.
Heroes in Crisis, the September limited series by Tom King, Clay Mann, and Mitch Gerads will instead focus on how superheroes process those events, all set against the backdrop of a murder mystery that shakes the DCU in a said-to-be surprisingly personal way.
Since the event was first announced earlier this year, DC has been revealing more and more details about Heroes in Crisis. As the series approaches (and the publisher’s hype hits full force), Newsarama takes a look what we know so far about Heroes in Crisis.
What are the basics?
The story centers around a place called Sanctuary, a mental health treatment center where heroes (and villains) in the DCU can heal from traumatic experiences.
As the story begins, there’s a mass shooting at Sanctuary and around a dozen heroes are killed by an unknown assailant. A murder investigation takes place as characters process the tragedy.
What inspired the story?
Tom King is pretty knowledgeable about the subject of violence and how people process trauma, having served as a counter-terrorism agent in the CIA for seven years (including service in war-torn areas like Iraq, Pakistan, andAfghanistan).
King has also publicly shared that, along with the inner strength he’s displayed by preventing terrorist attacks, he has also suffered from a psychological breakdown, needing help from people who understand the after-effects of trauma (and needing love from his family and friends). So he’s bringing all that personal experience to the story.
Who runs Sanctuary?
Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman created Sanctuary. There are AI caretakers who are inspired by Wonder Woman’s compassion and are loosely modeled after Ma and Pa Kent and Lana Lang.
Where in the DCU is Sanctuary?
Its entrance is through a farmhouse in rural Nebraska (based on the home of King’s grandmother), but underneath the house are chambers that give DC characters the therapy they need.
Who are the patients at Sanctuary?
Many heroes and villains of the DCU are either currently at Sanctuary or have visited in the past, according to King. Confirmed patients at Sanctuary during the events of Heroes in Crisis are Booster Gold, Wally West/The Flash, Roy Harper/Arsenal, and Poison Ivy. Harley Quinn is also a patient (or perhaps visiting her friend Ivy) when Heroes in Crisis takes place.
The Heroes in Crisis #1 cover also implied that some long-unseen characters, like Commander Steel, Power Girl, and Captain Atom are involved with Sanctuary somehow, maybe as patients or maybe as friends or family of patients. And King has mentioned Firestorm and Mr. Miracle as other probable patients.
Some of the trauma experienced by current patients was shown in recent stories. For example, Booster Gold went through a time travel mission in Batman that left him scarred, and in The Flash Wally West has been remembering another timeline where he had relationships with a wife and children that no longer exist.
How do characters get to Sanctuary?
There have been three methods revealed for characters to become patients at Sanctuary:
1) They can check themselves in. Roy Harper is willingly going to “rehab” at Sanctuary, as he told both Oliver Queen (in Green Arrow #43) and Jason Todd (in Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2).
2) Patients can be recommended for a visit, like Batman did for Poison Ivy (in Batman #43). It wasn’t clear if Batman forced Ivy to go or if she willingly went, but the latter was implied. ("Ivy's arrived safely at Sanctuary," Bruce told his then-fiancé Catwoman in the issue. "They'll do what they do.”)
3) Patients can be forced to go to Sanctuary, as Batman tried to do to Ace Masterson/Human Dynamo in Deathstroke #32. The character was so mentally troubled and suicidal that Batman triggered the Justice League transporter to force him to Sanctuary, where Batman said he planned to put Masterson into cryogenic stasis until a cure for his ailment could be found. (Side note: Masterson resisted, then Deathstroke killed him before he could be transported. So he’s not among the patients.)
How are they treated?
King has described a treatment that uses Kryptonian technology combined with Amazonian mysticism (while Bruce Wayne provided the funding, of course).
Patients wear gold masks, keeping their identities secure, and white robes that have been featured on the covers for Heroes in Crisis. They have access to hologram suites that help them create environments and holographic people that help them work through issues.
At the end of the treatment, patients remove their masks and go through a confession process that’s meant to help them use their pain as a strength.
(During the event, several DC books will actually feature one-page confessions of well-known heroes to emphasize that even the strongest people sometimes have mental health struggles.)
Graduates of the Sanctuary treatment receive pins that have a Superman-type “S” logo (for “Sanctuary”). The pin also features three hands that symbolize the Trinity and the friendship of the superhero community. (These pins will also show up in other books, on various characters.)
Who’s going to die?
As stated above, King has used the word “dozen” to indicate the number of people killed during the mass shooting. But some of those people might be characters most people have never heard of.
But at least two major characters will die, according to DC advertisements for the events, and one of them will be from the following list: Arsenal, Booster Gold, Cyborg, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Harley Quinn and Red Robin. (See our analysis of the list for the most likely casualty.)
A version of Tattooed Man is also probably going to die, because Doomsday Clock #6, which takes place in the future of the DCU, mentioned that something bad happened to Tattooed Man in Sanctuary.
There’s also something significant happening with Wally West, who’s a patient at Sanctuary when Heroes in Crisis takes place. In fact, it’s possible he will be one of the casualties, since King dropped the hint in July that “you can’t have a Crisis without killing a Flash.”
Any other hints revealed?
DC ran an advertisement with images of 21 different DC characters that said the following:
- “Two of these characters will be murdered”
- “Three of these characters will be accused of murder”
- “One of these characters will be revealed as a murderer”
The images shown included: Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Booster Gold, Deathstroke, Nightwing, Kyle Rayner, Tim Drake, Green Arrow, Arsenal, Cyborg, Poison Ivy, Superman, Lex Luthor, Flash/Wally West, The Riddler, John Constantine, The Atom, Damage, Mr. Terrific, Beast Boy, Harley Quinn.
So… one of those characters did it, two of them will die, and three of them will be accused. (DC has already revealed that Harley and Booster will be among the accused.)
According to King, Heroes in Crisis will not only show that physically strong people can also be mentally weak sometimes (and that it’s OK), but it also serves as a metaphor for the trauma experienced by his generation — and the oft-thwarted effort to find safety in post-9/11 America.
And although that’s not the usual set-up for a comic book crisis, King is hoping it reflects a similar effort toward healing in the real world, although he isn’t willing to promise any happy ending for Heroes in Crisis.