Tom King’s Heroes in Crisis Turns Beloved Hero Into Murderous Villain


I think it was already indicated in prior issues the former Kid Flash was being forcibly turned into the villain of this abominable miniseries, much like Jean Loring was in Identity Crisis 15 years ago, and now, in the eighth issue, to no one’s particular surprise, Wally West has been fully established in a role no real fan wants characters like him to be in:


The murderer is none other than, yes, Wally West, former Kid Flash who now calls himself The Flash, who only recently returned to DC continuity at the beginning of Rebirth.

[…] Wally explains all in his confession, one of the many recorded video transcripts that Wally himself sent to Lois Lane, while identifying himself as “The Puddler.” And his explanation is a complex, tortuous path littered with screw-ups, setups and cover-ups.

In his confession, Wally laments how he’s felt “alone” since his return. Understandable, as his family remains wiped from existence, with no one even to remember them, except him. These tortured memories are what led him to Sanctuary at the end of “Flash War,” but he found no comfort there. He relates how he still felt alone because he didn’t see the same kind of pain in its other residents, and the program’s anonymity only compounded his feelings of isolation.


It goes without saying the whole premise is laughable and illogical, and the editorial mandate that’s obviously led to Linda Park’s expulsion from the cast was offensive to begin with too. And how did Wally kill the other characters in the out-of-nowhere institution? Here’s King’s “explanation”:


…Instead of helping to heal him, the onslaught of emotions broke him. In turn, he momentarily lost control of the powers of the Speed Force contained within him. And in another fateful instant, the powers of the Speed Force were unleashed on the other heroes within Sanctuary, killing them instantly.

When was the Speed Force ever shown in the past to do stuff like that? Regardless, their setup is offensive, and the worst part is that no matter how bad sales are for comics overall now, they won’t care. People so full of hatred for the very mediums they’re working in, they’re willing to go down with the sinking ship. At the end of the article, it says:


With time travel now introduced as an element of the story, almost anything is possible. Might Wally travel back in time before the massacre and prevent it entirely? Or, in his broken state, does he have something more questionable in mind? The story concludes in Heroes in Crisis #9, on sale May 22.


Of course it’s possible they’ll reverse everything. But it still won’t counteract the bad taste the story leaves behind, and anybody still wasting time on the solo Flash title at this point could be rightly repelled to the point they’ll drop it altogether (similarly, they can abandon any Green Arrow series in publication after what was done to Arsenal/Roy Harper). Which would be exactly what DiDio and company would deserve, after all the damage they’ve done over the years, and still are.

Newsarama reviewed the issue, and while their rating is decidedly too high, they at least have the audacity to admit it’s a story doing a horrible disfavor to superheroes, much like Identity Crisis did, if you consider how a goodie was forced into the role of a baddie:


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. […]


“Almost”? Obviously, what we have here is a critic who doesn’t have the courage to condemn the book outright, like how Pauline Kael panned Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away back in the mid-70s. There’s really no reason to hold back. Just call this miniseries out for what it is – an offense to the intellect.


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.


This is reminiscent of the part in Identity Crisis where Jean Loring was strung up in a noose by an unidentified assailant, the difference at the time being that it stood out as unexplained, and thus one of the worst moments there. Heroes in Crisis may not screw up the same way, but it wouldn’t surprise me if King/DiDio came up with their still pathetic storyline as an excuse to pretend they knew how to do things “right” the 2nd time around. Wrong. Because it’s still all done at the expense of past generations’ hard work and dehumanizes the cast of characters.


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.


Umm, judging from the comments I’ve seen even on their site, there’s not many people who consider King “capable” of storytelling. Certainly not anymore. Much like Identity Crisis, this too looks to go down in history as one of the most denigrating tales ever produced by a corporate-owned publisher, no matter what they do at the conclusion.

And it all compounds why it was otherwise a bad omen to bring back Barry Allen as the Flash, since it all led to Wally’s marginalization, for the sake of a “direction” to nowhere, and now, this is the worst result.


Originally published here
Follow Avi Green on Twitter @AviGreen1

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Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1