Heroes In Crisis #8
Written by Tom King
Art by Mitch Gerads and Travis Moore
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC Comics
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Heroes In Crisis is a perfect distillation of the trend in modern cape comics towards the serious. It’s a rough and gritty exploration of the weight of being a superhero in a world of folks who may or may not be able to defend themselves against you, not to mention the collateral damage you might cause - a more emotive and maybe kinder Watchmen in its own way, a series of tragedies and convoluted relationships and misunderstandings building up towards a shocking reveal that finally lays the grim truth bare.
Heroes In Crisis #8 is the full story of that grim truth, illustrated beautifully by Mitch Gerads with slightly less powerful writing from Tom King, as we witness Wally West’s full confession of the massacre at Sanctuary, the somewhat stilted and fraught monologue of someone who can't articulate what they’ve done because they're can't articulate what was wrong with them.
This issue is almost exclusively monologue, opening with a shot of Wally West against the backdrop of a bloody and broken Sanctuary wall as he walks readers methodically through the events of the series from his perspective as the man behind it all. From his arrival at Sanctuary through the final moments of his paradox clone’s life, Wally discusses the emotional trauma that prompted the Speed Force outburst that killed the other heroes and his efforts to cover his own tracks, and through Wally, King solves the mysteries of the series with methodical precision.
It’s this framing device that does such a profound disservice to the issue; King hits all the notes of the previous issues’ mysteries with the unfaltering rhythm of the final pages of a cozy mystery, but it feels almost lifeless. The most emotionally compelling moments are the opening pages of Wally attempting to find the words for what brought him to Sanctuary - moments elevated by artist Mitch Gerads’ harried, grave portrayal of Wally, and the distant spots of blood that catch your eye in the background to remind you of what’s happened.
Too soon, though, Wally’s understandably faltering dialogue gives way to King using Wally as a proxy to check off all the boxes of his own narrative loose ends. Some of the beats don’t make much sense - why go to the trouble of faking his own murder in two separate ways before traveling to the future (as teased in the previous issue) and having to do it again? And as a newly minted super-speed hacker, is there anything Wally can't do in the holographic setting of Sanctuary? - and the rote presentation of the rest makes it feel as discomfitingly contrived as finding ways to drop the title of the series straight into the dialogue.
Wally, rightfully, feels a profound guilt for what he’s done, but what could have been a story about a man working through his grief and finding some measure of hope through the help of others is instead a story about a man who now not only bears the burden of a lost family but of countless murders, and whose final act will likely be confessing a heinous crime. There’s only one issue left; that doesn’t promise much time for Wally West to find any sort of real redemption or personal peace, if there’s any for him to find.
Heroes In Crisis #8 is a murder mystery denouement filtered through a half-finished PSA - in its efforts to perhaps elevate the genre’s exploration of grief and the hero’s burden through the framework of a more traditional caped crimefighter tale, it winds up being half of both, and neither as satisfying as a team like King and Gerads are capable of delivering.