Thursday, April 25, 2019

Heroes in Crisis # 8 - The Worst Comic Book I Have Ever Read

Image result for heroes in crisis 8

The first comic book I ever bought was Cosmic Odyssey #1 in a Waldenbooks in 1988. I was soon a regular at my local comic book store. So I have
been a serious comic book reader for over 30 years. I share this with you to emphasize the
gravity of the follow statement:

Heroes in Crisis #8 is the worst comic book I have ever read.

It is a failure on every level as a story.

But it is also a slap in the face to most of the loyal DC fan base.

Back in the mid-1990’s, Hal Jordan’s comic book was not selling well. So DC decided to turn
him into a murderous villain. There were a number of people so upset by this that they actually
called for the writer to be fired. I remember being upset, because I liked Hal, but I didn’t understand
the level of anger that people had.

But I do now.


Writer Tom King began this series by sticking a thumb in the eyes of the fans. He demonstrated
the divide between his readers and himself in that first issue. The difference is this: the readers
care about these characters and Tom King does not.

Mr. King would probably object to this and he would probably claim that he knows these characters
and their histories. But that is not the same as caring about them. He lacks compassion for them
and that is demonstrated by the lack of empathy he has for the readers. We are emotionally tied
to these heroes in ways that King does not understand. That is why he cannot write them well.

That first issue began with the deaths of several heroes including Roy Harper (the original Speedy)
and Wally West (the Flash). I wrote about how horribly this was done in that issue. But things got
so much worse.

The last six issues have been incredibly boring. On top of this, none of the characters act or speak
like themselves. It is a common problem for some writers when they make all of their characters
speak with the author's voice. This is particularly annoying when it comes to Booster and Harley,
who don't ever sound completely human. Tom King is writing dialogue in a way that is supposed
to show off his wit instead of giving opening up a window into the characters. His use of the
"confessions" is a cheap shortcut to this, but it never feels humanly natural.

But the big reveal this issue is what has many fans like myself up in arms: Wally West is the killer.

There are so many problems with this that it is hard to know where to begin.

From a purely marketing standpoint, DC's decision here is quite insane. After the fervor for the
New 52 waned, Geoff Johns initiated the "Rebirth" wave at the company which saw the return of
fan favorite Wally West. The story of his return was so emotional that I found myself choking up
while reading it. Then, it seemed that he was once again dispatched for no reason other than
shock value.

But now it turns out that he is a full-on villain. Since the New 52 erased him from the timeline, i
t also took away his marriage to Linda Park and erased his children. So Wally went to Sanctuary to
get better. This issue we find out what happened. Not only is it a betrayal of the character,
but nothing, and I mean NOTHING about this story makes any sense.

Wally feels like the therapy isn't working. Rather than speaking to Barry Allen or Batman or
someone else, Wally's solution: peep on everyone else's therapy confessions. Since these
conversations are deleted immediately, Wally uses his speed powers to put all of the data back
together and watch the videos. It is watching this that causes Wally to say, "It broke me."

Okay, let's take a breather here before we get to the truly bad parts of the book. First of all, who
would think that listening to other people's confessions would help them with their own problems?
I have never stood in line in Church, waiting for the sacrament of Reconciliation, and thought "
You know, my sins really trouble me. Maybe I should spy on the person confessing now and that
will help me get better." You could argue that Wally is not in his right state of mind. Fair enough,
but to do something this drastic, we have to come up with a compelling reason, and there is none.

Second, there is zero chance that this information would break him. The only way this would work is
if the confessions were so emotionally devastating that Wally couldn't process them. Tom King has
spent the last seven issues showing us these confessions. If any of them made the reader feel
anything, then there might be the slightest chance that this story beat could work. But the
confessions were boring. BORING! There was nothing in them that made an emotional
connection to the reader. I am not alone in this analysis. Not only that, but there is nothing in the
content that could possibly "break" Wally. The heroes confess how they are scared or insecure or
damaged and... that's it. Tom King seems to think that his writing is so good and so emotionally
scarring that if you were to read it all at once instead over the last six months that we would be

We wouldn't.

We aren't.

Now, after being "broken," Wally runs out into the field. The other people there try to help him.
Wally says that every speedster is holding back their lightning energy. But because he was "broken"
he lost control for a moment and shot lighting out around him, killing all the people there to help him.

Again, this makes no sense.

There is nowhere in any of the Flash lore that says that any speedster is holding back this energy.
But even if there was, it makes no sense that this would be the place where he would lose control.
At one point, Wally's unborn children were killed by Zoom. If that moment didn't "break" him and
cause him to lose control, then watching Batgirl show her bullet scar or Arsenal talk about addiction
wouldn't either. This would also mean that Barry Allen is a ticking time bomb that will explode if he
ever gets too stressed. All speedsters should now be considered an immanent threat.

So far, so terrible, but now this is where things get worse. Instead of calling to the Justice League for
help (or even Barry Allen who would understand about the lighting discharge), he decides to cover up
the crime and frame two people.

First, he makes it so that the only two residents he didn't kill, Booster Gold and Harley Quinn, think
that the other person is the killer. Second, he stages the bodies in a way to fool Batman and the
Flash into thinking someone else killed everyone. But the third part of his plan is quite possibly the
dumbest thing I have ever read. To throw suspicion off of himself, Wally time travels 5 days into the
future, kills his future self, and brings the body back to place it among the victims.

Okay, I have a question: if Wally was going to time travel, why didn't he go back in time to stop
himself from exploding or stop himself from putting together the confessions or stop himself from
going to Sanctuary in the first place? You could say that this would mess up the time stream.

Of course, none of this matters to Tom King. Wally West doesn't matter to Tom King.

Tom King had a cool idea for a story: super heroes going through PTSD and one of them breaks.
It didn't matter who. It didn't matter how. It didn't matter why.

Wally was going through an emotional crisis, so he would do. It didn't matter what his crisis was.
Wally was the sacrificial lamb on the altar of Tom King's story. Tom King shows he lacks even the
most basic understanding of the character. It reminds me of what Mark Hamill said to Rian Johnson
when they were filming The Last Jedi: "I fundamentally disagree with your entire take on Luke Skywalker." Tom King just through out thirty years of character development because he thought his idea was cool.

Tom King is currently writing a run on Batman that is alternately amazing and wretched. He has no middle ground. Imagine if someone where to suggest to Tom King that he end his run by having Batman be so enraged at losing Catwoman that he punches Alfred, killing him, and then framing Tim Drake for the crime. Tom King would most likely say, "No. That would ruin everything about the character and it would be impossible to fix." He would be right, too. The difference is that Tom King clearly cares about Batman. Tom King does not care about Wally West.

So many writers in comics do not understand that they do not own these characters. They are stewards of these characters that have been handed to them and one day they will hand them on to others. Again, this isn't about taking characters into a dark place or even killing them. Geoff Johns took the character Connor Kent to an incredibly dark place and then eventually killed him. We were okay with this because Johns understood Connor and the steps that led to this end flowed organically from the character. Aristotle was correct when he said "Plot is character." Tom King says, "Plot is whatever I say it is, even if it is out of character for these characters." (You can see this in other moments in the series, as when Booster callously tells Barry that Wally is dead or Harley defeating Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman).

I once had a group of friends over for a get together. One of them picked up a comic book I had been reading. He pointed to the form-fitting outfit of the super heroine on the cover. He said to someone else, "Look at this smut." He then proceeded to throw the comic across the room, ruining it. Because he was my friend and he was going through stuff, I let it go. But I was hurt because he took something that was important to me and treated it carelessly because it was not important to him.

That is what Tom King has done to Wally West.

The only way Wally can be fixed is if we find out that he was possessed by some outside force like Hal Jordan was by Parallax. Barring that, Wally West is ruined and his legacy is destroyed.

All because Tom King had a cool idea for a story.

The story ruins a character loved by fans.
The story is based on motivations that make no sense.
The story requires an emotional crisis that the confessions cannot provide.
The story invents potentially fatal problem for all speedsters going forward.
The story uses time travel in the least effective way imaginable.
The story fails at all of its goals: logical and emotional.
The story makes me less likely to buy the next issue.
The story makes me less likely to buy more DC comics.
The story makes me less likely to buy anything by Tom King.

Perhaps this article will be dismissed as fanboy rage. I have no control over how this will be received.

But I believe I have laid out the case as to why Heroes in Crisis #8 is the worst comic book I have ever read.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you 100% percent. You wrote the most well-thought out review of this series. I had been a die hard DC fan since I was a child but stopped buying their books since before Flashpoint.