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Review: Heroes in Crisis #9

Heroes in Crisis #9

Heroes in Crisis #9 wraps up what has been a mess of a miniseries. It never quite nailed down what it wanted to be and took too many side tours that didn’t focus on what was promised. Beyond the controversial reveal of who caused the deaths at Sanctuary, it’s also a series that seemed to have gone over too many people’s heads.

At its heart, what Heroes in Crisis was supposed to be was a focus on the trauma heroes experience and the impact. In the real world, soldiers, police, first responders, so many are impacted negatively from the good they do. The results can be PTSD, outbursts, and worse, and this series attempted to look at that. Though these heroes may seem calm on the outside, inside they’re struggling. Writer Tom King wanted to explore that and in some ways he did and in other ways he didn’t.

The event turned into a “whodunnit” as other heroes put the puzzle pieces together and suspects ran. Threads involving Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash were left dangling or not needed while latter issues congealed around a tight knit group of characters.

Then there’s the murder, Wally West.

West is one of the characters who represents “hope” in the DC Universe. His return in DC Rebirth represented the positive nature of heroes and slowly over time we’ve seen him realized the sacrifice he’s made. He discovered his family was taken away from him. He discovered his memories were taken away from him. And eventually he lost control resulting in the deaths of Sanctuary.

In Heroes in Crisis #9, King explores that hope. It’s talked about and danced around in some ways but that seems to be the point he’s making. Though some of those good heroes may eventually do damage, don’t give up on the hope. You need to keep on doing good yourself. That seems to be the point. You recognize the heavy nature of the positive you’re doing. You recognize the trauma. And you still try to do good and you move forward. That’s the conclusion King comes to.

The art by Clay Mann with color by Tomeu Morey is fantastic as expected. There’s some truly breathtaking spreads and pages. Mann has an amazing eye for dynamic positions of characters in panels with intriguing and eye catching perspectives. Morey’s colors make it all pop. Clayton Cowles‘ lettering too catches the mood and inflection as the story moves along. So much of the emotion is driven by a simple change in font and placement of dialogue or boxes.

Heroes in Crisis wasn’t perfect. There were massive issues that some editing and better focus would have corrected. Tom King explored a topic that was far overdue and one the public largely ignores. It did, with issues, what entertainment is supposed to, use allegory to explore our condition and world.

Story: Tom King Art: Clay Mann
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.65 Overall: 7.15 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: DC’s Year of the Villain #1

DC's Year of the Villain #1

Evil is winning! Lex Luthor and The Legion of Doom conspire with Cosmic Gods, bending mankind toward a dark destiny. Elsewhere, the scourge of Leviathan spreads unchecked, seizing power in every corner of the world. And all the while the Batman Who Laughs busies himself in the shadows, aligned with no one-yet with sinister plans for all.

The carnage starts here as the badguys take center stage in “The Year of the Villain,” the most treacherous event in DC Comics history. Some act with united goals, others with plans selfish and secret, every one of them on a monstrous collision course against Batman, Superman and the heroes of the DC Universe. And our heroes will fail us.

For just 25 cents, is there really any reason to not get this comic? Your only excuse is if you think it’ll be give away by your shop for Free Comic Book Day.

DC’s Year of the Villain is a teaser comic featuring three stories and lots of back material setting up major storylines either beginning or already started in various DC Comics. For 25 cents, there really isn’t much to quibble about when it comes to the price and what you get and each story has its strengths and weaknesses.

I myself have paid half attention as to what’s going on in the various series this comic touches upon and was able to follow pretty well what was being set up but overall I’m not sure how much this sampler (not sure if that’s the best description) will suck in a new reader as say a full story comic for Free Comic Book Day. If nothing else, it’s a solid marketing idea that more publishers should try and see how it does.

Doom” by writer Scott Snyder, artist Jim Cheung, colorist Tomeu Morey, and letterer Tom Napolitano focuses on the storyline building over in Justice League as Lex Luthor has been gathering is Legion of Doom.

The story is over the top in its brazen action delivering a Luthor that you have to wonder how he can ever go back to being the industrialist enemy of Superman in the future (though there’ll always be some way for that to happen). The visuals are amazing as Luthor lays out his vision of what must happen to Brainiac delivering an ending that’s shocking and unexpected.

Leviathan” by Brian Michael Bendis, artist Alex Maleev, and letterer Joshua Reed focuses on the ongoing Superman story that has a mysterious organization that’s taking on the “black-ops” like organizations that pervade the DC Universe. Focusing on Batgirl and Green Arrow, the story is interesting in what it hints at and where it eventually goes. Maleev’s art is the draw here and it makes me long for him to draw a Green Arrow series.

Justice” is the third story by writer James Tynion IV, Francis Manapul on art, and Tom Napolitano on lettering. This focus is on the Source Wall storyline that has taken the DC Universe in whole new directions with their cosmic end of things. It’s the end chapter of this trilogy of stories bringing them all together into something rather interesting.

This teaser comic is interesting in that each separate story is just ok but once it’s clear how each ties together it’s something so much more. There’s clearly a lot of thought being put into this upcoming year at DC and it shows within this comic. Not to mention the amount of extra material to get you more interested. The comic also acts as a guide as to what you should read next and what you might want to go back and read.

It’s hard to say overall how good this comic really is. It has me both interested and not in what’s coming and while each individual chapter is interesting none really have me excited for what’s next. Still, for only 25 cents it’s hard to argue to not get it.

Story: Scott Snyder, Brian Michael Bendis, James Tynion IV
Art: Jim Cheung, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Tom Napolitano, Joshua Reed
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.75 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Heroes in Crisis #7

Heroes in Crisis #7

Heroes in Crisis has been up and down in quality delivering a comic that at times nails its concept of heroes dealing with PTSD and at other times coming close to torture porn. Heroes in Crisis #7 gets things a bit back on track as the series begins to wrap up with an issue that focuses a bit on exactly what happened but also the trauma of three characters, Wally West, Booster Gold, and Harley Quinn.

Writer Tom King focuses the issue a bit revolving around those three characters at it explores each of their trauma while also driving the story forward. It’s what the series was pitched as and much more of what I expected.

Through various segments we see Wally West discuss his issues and dealing with them in a way using his powers. The empathy towards him builds until that final page where it’s hard to not feel sadness for his experience, especially about his possible death. I say possible as the issue touches on the time difference in bodies though doesn’t explain it yet. We also get some interesting things concerning Poison Ivy which points to the obvious that not everything we’ve witnessed in this series is as it seems and some of the deaths will be “undone” when things wrap up.

The rest of the comic mostly has to do with Booster Gold and Blue Beetle and Batgirl and Harley Quinn who have clashed as Harley and Booster battle each other. That too is cathartic in numerous ways as the two characters have their own breakdowns before getting their act together to eventually save the day. The highlight though is Batgirl and Blue Beetle who chat as Harley and Booster battle.

The art is split between Clay Mann, Travis Moore, and Jorge Fornes with color by Tomeu Morey and lettering by Clayton Cowles. Despite three different artists, the issue is smooth as far as look and there is some very solid pages and panels that’ll have you linger. Small artistic details add to the story enhancing the enjoyment and the emotional connection.

The issue gets back to basics in some ways exploring the emotional issues these three characters have due to their heroic nature and at the same time drives the murder mystery story. If only every issue was like this, the series would stand out more than it has and possibly have avoided its ups and downs in quality and focus.

Story: Tom King Art: Clay Mann, Travis Moore, Jorge Fornes
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.75 Art: 8.15 Overall: 7.85 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Heroes in Crisis #6

Heroes in Crisis #6

Get a deeper look into the inner workings of Sanctuary. When heroes visited the facility, they relived their trauma through virtual reality, contending with the events that brought them there in the hope of reaching a meaningful resolution. That is, until the trauma took over and escalated these personal events into a full-blown crisis! Find out what pushed one of the superheroes over the edge and how it broke the machine.

For five issues we’ve gotten fake outs and twists and turns teasing us as to who the killer is and Heroes in Crisis #6 seems to deliver us the answer… which clearly isn’t the answer.

Written by Tom King, Heroes in Crisis #6 is an issue focused on three characters dealing with their trauma showing us how Sanctuary treats individuals using virtual reality. It’s something we’ve seen before and feels like a filler issue used because a few elements couldn’t be filled in elsewhere. It’s the first issue where I don’t feel like it adds much to the story beyond two things. The tragedy is shallow, the empathy little, and the fakeouts obvious.

The issue seems to finally answer who killed those staying at the facility which we know isn’t the answer and feels like yet another fakeout. It also points to who I’ve thought was the killer from the beginning and if it is, the event will feel more hollow than thoughtful.

Heroes in Crisis started with interesting promise of the exploration of exploring PTSD in heroes but at this point it feels like a dragged out murder mystery forgetting the tragedy we saw in those first few issues. Instead we get the same played out experiences as if we ourselves are placed in Sanctuary to experience trauma ourselves. And maybe that’s the point? But still, there’s something missing in this issue in both its presentation and what it lacks in adding to the overall narrative. It feels like we’ve seen most of this with different characters. When it comes to the exploration of Sanctuary it doesn’t add anything new.

The art mainly by Mitch Gerads is good. Gerads is always fantastic in that way and with some pages by Clay Mann the art is the most interesting thing about the comic begging us to look for visual hints and clues. Unfortunately that’s mostly blunt in many ways lacking finesse that has delivered for the previous five issues.

Heroes in Crisis #6 feels like a bad detour as the series drifts further away from the concept of heroes dealing with trauma. As a piece of the greater narrative the issue is fine but as we see in a few panels, the torture porn aspect of it all is emphasized here. It shifts from an attempt at empathy to an Eli Roth film.

We’ll see where the next few issues take us but this feels like a distraction. An added on issue that in the end it’s unsure as to what exactly to do with. It’s bloat that shifts the tone and focus of the story and not for the better.

Story: Tom King Art: Clay Mann, Mitch Gerads
Color: Mitch Gerads, Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 5.0 Art: 7.75 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Flash #64


The two greatest detectives in the DC Universe take on the one cold case that will tear them apart! As chief architect of the Sanctuary program that cost so much for so many, especially Wally West, Batman will be held accountable… by the Flash! A cold case from the Justice League’s past has mysteriously re-opened, and Batman and the Flash — the only two heroes who stand a chance of cracking the case — are at each other’s throats! Our heroes must combat a demon from the past while burying their own inner demons in the process… and neither the World’s Greatest Detective nor the Fastest Man Alive will ever be the same again! But who is really pulling the strings here? And how does Gotham Girl fit into all this? Friendships will be tested and blood will be spilled in this titanic crossover event…

Review: Heroes in Crisis #4

Heroes in Crisis #4

Booster Gold is captured by Wonder Woman. Harley is still on the run. Batman and The Flash are attempting to figure out who did it and Superman has a confession. There’s a lot packed into the fourth issue of Heroes in Crisis and it’s both good and bad making for rather mixed issue.

Writer Tom King continues his murder mystery with pages dedicated to the confessions from Sanctuary interspersed throughout. This exploration of the trauma heroes experience is some of the most interesting aspects of the maxi-series as it reminds us, the readers, that these giants are very much human. Heroes in Crisis #4 has some interesting ones, including Batgirl who references a certain infamous and controversial storyline, Blue Beetle who gives us some bromance, and Black Canary who… well it’s just solid in how it’s presented.

While the topic of PTSD runs throughout the four issues, the series is more focused on the murder mystery, who butchered the heroes in Sanctuary? This issue drops some hints as both the prime suspects, Booster and Harley, have their moments that point to their innocence… and maybe their guilt?

It’s an intriguing issue that really hints as to who may be behind it all with one aspect really being emphasized. Superman’s duality is explored as Lois has been receiving videos of the confessions from the medical facility (hello HIPAA violation). Videos that Batman claims have been erased. That’s clearly not the case pointing to the prime suspect, Sanctuary itself. Yes, there’s a chance that the program behind the facility is the actual murder and if that’s the case, this maxi-series may wind up being more eye roll than anything else. But, there’s a lot still to go in the story and things may still weave and change.

But, out of the four issues, there’s some things here that fans of DC Comics will want to see, primarily Booster Gold and Blue Beetle back together again. Why does that duo work so well? Beetle explains in the comic for those who might not “get it.” It’s some fantastic artwork and has me hoping for a Clay Mann Booster/Beetle series down the road. The presentation is solid and out of all of the moments, that’s the one that really stands out.

The art by Clay Mann is fantastic and the real draw to this issue (no pun intended). Along with Tomeu Morey on color and Clayton Cowles on lettering, the art is solid. There’s a proper focus and a few pages that really stand out. There’s the Batgirl confessional whose visuals tell you everything you need to know. There’s the pages of Booster and Beetle together which by the end will have you saying “f#!k yeah!” Then, there’s a 21 panel page between Batgirl and Harley Quinn that’s actually a little daring in how it’s told. But, there’s also some issues like a page spread of Lois Lane that’s a little too sexy to make sense at all as presented. It’s a bit pin-up and takes you out of the story.

There’s a lot to like about the issue with some humor breaking up the seriousness of the series and moments that have you looking forward to what comes next. Then there’s other moments like the Lois pin-up and a few scenes where it’s hard to tell when they happen that makes things a bit disjointed in flow and tone. It’s a mixed-bag of an issue for an otherwise intriguing event series and for a writer who generally nails these things. Hopefully it’s more a bump in the journey than a sign up things to come.

Story: Tom King Art: Clay Mann
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Heroes in Crisis #3

Tragedies deepen as more secrets behind the “superhero hospital” called Sanctuary are revealed! What compelled Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to create it in the first place? How was it built? And if the hospital truly is alive via A.I., who – or what – is the brain of “Sanctuary?”

What is Sanctuary? We know this is the location heroes can go if they need help to deal with the issues they experience. It’s a hospital of sorts but up to this point, we don’t know much about it. This issue changes that as we learn how it all works and the more we learn, the more heartbreaking the series is.

Writer Tom King has delivered an issue that’s hard to not reflect upon and come out the other end rather depressed. Through various patients of the facility, we learn how Sanctuary works. We also learn those individuals’ pain. Why was Wally West there? What about Lagoon Boy? How about Booster Gold? King dives into them in various ways and reveals how much they hurt, each in their own way. And, that makes their deaths even more tragic and sad.

King reveals more regarding that as well as who the killer might be. But, the issue also throws up some flags that all might not be what it seems. I left it pondering if there’s not more going on and there still isn’t a rabbit hole for us readers to go through.

The art by Clay Mann and Lee Weeks with color by Tomeu Morey and lettering by Clayton Cowles is as fantastic as expected. It’s top notch work that has you focusing in on the details to enhance the emotional ride. The look on a character’s face or their body language says as much about what’s going on or how they feel as the words that King puts on the page.

This is a hell of a downer of an issue but it makes the story so far even more tragic. We’ve gone past the shock of it all to the point of realization of what has happened and who it has happened to. The team presents heroes not cut down in battle protecting the world but individuals murdered at their most vulnerable.

Story: Tom King Art: Clay Mann, Lee Weeks
Color: Tomeu Morey Lettering: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Heroes in Crisis #2

Suspected of murder, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] find themselves on the run from the super-hospital called Sanctuary -with each thinking the other one is the real killer! It’s up to Batman to solve this heinous crime, but suspicion falls on him when Superman and Wonder Woman ponder just how much Sanctuary’s A.I. is telling them. Meanwhile, [REDACTED] tries to make a shady deal to hide from the Trinity, while [REDACTED] searches out an old friend to help him out of this mess-and only gets deeper in trouble.

That’s a whole lot of “redacted” in that description and going into this comic with as little information as possible is helpful. Heroes in Crisis #2 not only deals with the fallout of the murder of an unknown amount of individuals, but also peels back more about Sanctuary and those that have visited it.

Writer Tom King balances a lot in this issue with a few tracks along the way. Harley is on the run both wanting to get caught and not at the same time. Her actions as presented make her a prime suspect as to the massacre at Sanctuary. The trio of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are on the hunt for her and it’s not the eventual confrontation that is the key moment, it’s what it reveals. King intelligently adds a wrinkle to the situation with that reveal, one that will make relationships rocky going forward.

But what of our other suspect? Booster is on the run as well deciding what to do and his decision is simple, try to find the killer. That also might mean him. Unfortunately, he’s kind of rambling and while we can say it’s the trauma of the situation, he’s not off the hook. His intentions make it seem like he might be but again King gives us just enough to leave him as a suspect. It also expands the story bringing in another hero impacted by the events.

While all of that would be more than enough to enjoy, King uses confessionals to dive deeper into our heroes. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, are all explored showing each have deep trauma. No matter how much we think of them as together, they’re not. They have flaws and while brief, it’ll make you think of each of them and how their confessions add to their characters.

There’s also revelations of more murdered individuals, with one being a shocker. That leads to the most touching moment as one character mourns their loss. What’s said is sweet and beautiful in a way and gives us an emotional punch beyond the shock and anger we’ve seen.

Artists Clay Mann and Travis Moore, along with colorists Tomeu Morey and Arif Prianto, and letterer Clayton Cowles deliver a beautiful comic. It looks great on every level and a high profile comic like this deserves art like this. The characters are solid with much of the emotion delivered through their facial expressions. Teasing just enough for us to get the situation and where they’re at. There’s also solid transitions between scenes as the comic might go from a fight to a quieter moment in a page. And the art helps deliver those highs and lows of emotion from a high octane fight to mourning. What details are focused on add to the narrative.

The first issue was solid and second continues the pattern. This is an event you’ll likely either love or hate and I’m enjoying it as it explores layers we rarely see discussed when it comes to superheroes and all of that is wrapped up in a nice murder mystery.

Story: Tom King Art: Clay Mann, Travis Moore
Color: Tomeu Morey, Arif Prianto Lettering: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.15 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Heroes in Crisis #1

Heroes in Crisis is the next big DC event and it kicks off today! It’s Wednesday which means it’s new comic book day with new releases hitting shelves, both physical and digital, all across the world. This is one you don’t want to miss and is sure to sell out.

Heroes in Crisis #1 is by Tom King, Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey, Clayton Cowles, Jamie S. Rich, and Brittany Holzherr.

Get your copy in comic shops today. To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon/Kindle/comiXology or TFAW


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Review: Heroes in Crisis #1

Heroes in Crisis #1 coverHeroes in Crisis #1 delivers a first issue that’s an emotional punch and continues writer Tom King‘s streak of delivering an emotional and personal experience. Inspired by the real world issue of how our soldiers handle PTSD, Heroes in Crisis ponders how does the superhero community handle it?

Enter Sanctuary, an ultra-secret place to help superheroes who’ve been traumatized by their experiences in protecting the world and fighting evil. But, what happens when this safe space is violated? Something goes wrong and heroes are dead with two individuals as the prime suspects. While the comic is a murder mystery, it’s as much about the failures of Sanctuary. There was safety. There was security. But something has gone horribly wrong and ripped that away.

King has had a knack of delivering an emotional and personal spin to his comics that have included The Omega Men, Batman, Sheriff of Babylon, and Mister Miracle. As a former CIA counterterrorism operative post-911 it’s clear that King is working through his experiences through entertainment. Each of these series seems to have a different aspect of what he’s internalized whether it’s trauma, tough decisions, or one’s role in the world. Heroes in Crisis is about heroes who have to live through violence to save the world, something that King himself most likely has experienced himself.

That personal spin to it all is one of the things that makes this stand out. The issue is split between or initial suspects who are together in a cafe and also DC trilogy of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman. While the suspects talk and have pie, the three heroes come across the scene of the crime. And King makes sure to deliver their emotional response. That feels like it jumps off of the page. All three are shaken no matter how stoic, cool, calm, and collected we generally think of them.

The stakes are raised as well with the suspects and who is murdered. There’s some high profile characters and some lesser knowns as well. That too ups the tension of it all as we the reader realize the impact that will reverberate throughout the DC Universe.

Clay Mann provides art, Tomeu Morey on colors, and Clayton Cowles with lettering and it’s fantastic. This wouldn’t work with another artist. There’s both a beauty and horror to it all with Mann delivering just enough detail but not over the top gore. Small details like a tear tell us so much as to what happens. We piece together the horrific events through the details much like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman do.

The comic is interwoven with “single camera confessionals.” Their body language delivers as much as their words. Mann’s focus on the movement of a head or hand is key in that sense. Morey’s colors too add so much to the storytelling. There’s just a tranquil aspect to it that hides the horror within. Some panels that are just amazing to look at put together and there’s a beauty to it all. Cowles’ lettering too is spot on with extra care taken, it seems, to use as little bubbles as possible. There’s just great placement to it all that helps frames some of the scenes driving one’s eye to the center of the action. A perfect example is scenes involving Booster Gold and Harley Quinn which combine the penciling, coloring, and lettering together for a near perfect artistic experience.

While we all claim we dislike comic events, Heroes in Crisis shows that there’s little reason to stop them. They deliver a break in story that can’t be told in any one series. They can also be of a quality that entertains, shocks, and has a deeper emotional impact all at once. And, they can be personal. Heroes in Crisis shows that even event comics can be more. If King has taught us anything from his past works, it’s that we’re in for a hell of a ride.

Story: Tom King Art: Clay Mann
Color: Tomeu Morey Lettering: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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