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Heroes in Crisis: Fear Itself

Heroes in Crisis: Fear Itself

By Meg Downey Thursday, January 31st, 2019

HEROES IN CRISIS is a miniseries that asks an essential question—what is the mental toll of being a superhero? In this series of columns, Meg Downey breaks down each new issue, examining the events and themes, and discussing what it all means for our favorite heroes and villains.

We're officially over the halfway point here with HEROES IN CRISIS #5, which means the need to fish out clues and piece together answers is becoming...well, not to be alarmist or anything, but pretty dire. We've only got four more issues left. The clock is ticking.

The good news is, with the end of the story approaching, we're starting to get some very pointed hints as to what, exactly, went down in Sanctuary. The bad news is that so is everyone else in the DC Universe. The secret of Sanctuary is officially out there, everyone knows, and the repercussions of that truth are unexpected to say the least.

Last month for issue #4, I came away thinking that maybe having Sanctuary's cover blown would actually be a net positive for everyone involved once the dust settled a bit. After all, secrets this big rarely do anything but blow up in everyone's faces, right? Sometimes you just need to pull the band aid off, and honestly, at the end of the day maybe the general public knowing that superheroes were paying a real emotional price for their lifestyles would be a good thing. This week, though...I have to say, I might be changing my mind.

Clark brought something to my attention here that I'd really never considered. The whole point of a world populated by superheroes is the feeling of security, right? Sure, there might be constant cosmic threats and world-ending catastrophes looming every other day, but that's okay because there are people—superhuman people—out there who can handle it and keep handling it. Yeah, a super-heroic world might be dangerous, but it's also comforting. Who doesn't want to go to bed knowing that if something were to happen, Superman was always just a cry for help away?

But that sense of security starts to crumble the moment you realize that maybe, just maybe, Superman could be having a bad day. Maybe you'll cry out for help and he won't be able to come help you because he's trying to deal with something in his own personal life that is taking up too much of his time or energy.

Maybe knowing that superheroes can be laid low by their own emotions is actually more dangerous than knowing they can be hurt, killed or brainwashed into being villains. External threats like lasers or bullets or mad men with doomsday devices can be punched and locked away. Internal threats like trauma...can't.

So, does that knowledge -- the idea that these heroes are fallible in ways that can't be literally fought -- mean that a world full of heroes is inherently failing at its mission of safety and security? Is it possible for anyone to feel safe ever again knowing what they know now?

I honestly don't know. I don't think anyone does, really, and I think that's kind of the point. I'm hesitant to assign any real "thesis" to Heroes in Crisis with four issues still remaining, but I feel like this is the question that is really at the event's core. Where does the responsibility of superheroes start and stop in a world that is relying on them so heavily? Who are they obligated to save first? Themselves or the people around them?

Meanwhile, the mystery is getting even more complicated as Booster uncovered a critical, and totally unexpected, clue that just might be the first real glimmer of hope since the massacre itself. Someone might be manipulating the time stream. The corpse of Wally West is wrong. It's five days too old. Someone has done something to change things here, but we can't be sure why or to what end.

There are only a couple people in the DCU who have the ability to time travel like that, which makes things even more mysterious—though, I guess it should be noted that Wally may very well be one of those people, so there's certainly the potential that Wally's corpse is too old because of something that only affected him and not the other victims.

I'm going to try not thinking about it too hard just yet. There are just too many variables left unknown at this time and it'll only make me more anxious in the long run. Oh, and speaking of Wally—if you're trying to get the full Heroes in Crisis experience as it happens, make sure you don't miss THE FLASH ANNUAL #2, which also hit shelves this week, for an even more in depth look at just what the Flash Family is doing in the wake of the Sanctuary catastrophe. It's not an official tie-in, but it is totally a tie-in. Trust me.
 

HEROES IN CRISIS #5 by Tom King, Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey is now available in print and as a digital download.

Meg Downey covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com, and writes about Batman each month in her column, "Gotham Gazette." She's also a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Follow her on Twitter at @rustypolished.