I had been looking forward to Heroes in Crisis for a while now. Tom King is one of the best writers working now. Some of his Batman stories have been nothing short of amazing.
The premise sounds intriguing: a place for super powered people to recover from trauma. It is a fertile ground of story and character to explore idea to explore.
The art by Clay Moore is outstanding. And the set-up pulled me in. We have some interesting dialogue between Harley Quinn and Booster Gold. We have a terrible sense of urgency and tragedy. We have intriguing character monologues. These things kept me interested.
That is until the reveal.
It is not much of a spoiler to say that some famous hero dies in this issue. DC has been hyping this for a while. But the way in which it is handled is just plain awful.
Allow me an analogy:
I used to watch Downton Abbey. One of the strengths of the show was that it got you to care about the status-impacting romances of the upper-class as much as the fight-for-survival struggles of the lower class. But then in one episode, one of the maids is sexually assaulted. At that point, the magic spell of the show is broken. Going forward, I could care less about who wanted to marry who or whose reputation needed saving. A character I cared about went through a trauma so awful that all other storylines seemed trivial.
When they reveal the death in Heroes in Crisis, it makes the entire rest of the story seem trivial. In fact, it makes much of the last year of comics seem wasteful. A beloved character is tossed aside with little care.
I don't think that publishers and producers understand what characters mean to the fans. Not really.
It isn't simply that we enjoy their adventures. We connect to them as persons. We have a real affection for them that, irrational as it may sound, makes us very protective of their wellfare. Rian Johnson thought he was simply taking the old character of Luke Skywalker into some fresh, unpredictable direction. What he didn't understand that to fans, Luke is a friend and Rian did things to him that tarnish him.
Characters that writers did not create are characters that do not belong to them. They are stewards of them and they have a responsibility to take care of them.
Many of the DC characters are friends to us fans. We grew up with them. We care about them. Dare I say without sounding hyperbolic, we love them.
To treat their deaths as pawns in a larger drama is to tell us that you care not about the relationship we have to these characters.
I am not opposed to having characters die, especially when they have meaningful deaths. Identity Crisis #1 and Countdown to Infinite Crisis are great examples of how this can be done. In these stories, beloved characters are horribly killed. And when you read these stories, your heart breaks. The first time I ever cried while reading a comic book was Identity Crisis #1.
But Heroes in Crisis doesn't bother with giving us a cathartic send off. Instead of breaking my heart, the story left me cold and empty. The death is meant to be a catalyst to the story that Tom King wants to tell.
But I don't care about that story because he senselessly killed off my friend.
Who is the killer? Why did they do it?
I don't care.
Just bring my friend back.
If they do not, then it may be that my relationship with DC Comics will be in crisis.