[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
There’s a new kind of crisis threatening the heroes of the DC Universe, ripped from real-world headlines by C.I.A.-operative-turned-comics-writer Tom King: How does a superhero handle PTSD?
Welcome to Sanctuary, an ultra-secret hospital for superheroes who’ve been traumatized by crime-fighting and cosmic combat. But something goes inexplicably wrong when many patients wind up dead, with two well-known operators as the prime suspects: Harley Quinn and Booster Gold! It’s up to the DC Trinity of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman to investigate—but can they get the job done in the face of overwhelming opposition?
The cover by Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey is great. It immediately establishes the somber tone of the issue and looks amazing. Beyond the tone, the amount of characters featured shows that this story is important and a must read. It’s a great way to sell the issue.
The interior art is also incredible. Mann draws the characters well. There’s a lot of emotion and detail in the faces. This allows more of an emotional connection with the characters which is necessary for the kind of story King is trying to tell here. But it also just gorgeous work. I hope this issue ends up on the DC Universe streaming service. I would love to see this art blown up on my widescreen TV.
I love the concept of Sanctuary. PTSD has been dealt with in terms of superheroes before but this is a really clever idea. It’s a good way to get deeper into characters but more importantly, I think it’s great for readers. For individuals suffering from PTSD, seeing superheroes try to deal with that in a healthy way could be inspiring and helpful.
Harley Quinn and Booster Gold are strange choices to be focal points of this story. In theory, using the two of the jokiest characters to tell a more somber story about this universe and mental health could have been an interesting subversion of expectations. But it kind of feels awkward. I don’t think King quite has Harley’s voice down. She feels very stiff in this issue and a little generic. She starts singing while trying to stab Booster Gold and that felt a little better but it’s as far as the issue goes. And she doesn’t like pudding. It’s ironic because she calls people puddin.
Using death in a comic book story line, regardless of whether it’s in a comic book or in something based on a comic, feels kind of cheap now. It has for awhile with movies and television only making it worse. I’m not sure why this story tries to use major deaths as a shock value opener. In fairness, I don’t know where King is going with this yet. But this issue is all I have right now and I don’t think the deaths are effective. It feels hollow and cliched. It’s an event so characters have to die.
I’m not all that invested in this story yet. I like Sanctuary as an idea and there’s potential in Harley Quinn and Booster Gold leading an event comic. But the only occasion for story right now is the death of a few characters and that is not enough to pull me in. The art is stunning throughout and I look forward to more of Mann and Morey’s work. Overall, I think the issue is fine. King is a great writer so I am still curious to see where this story goes but this issue only elicited mild indifference from me.