With the current event/mini-series Heroes in Crisis attempting to bring the traditional notion of the DC Universe “Crisis” to a more personal and introspective level, the fallout from the first couple issues has resulted in some high profile deaths and the potential world changing events with the recordings of Superman and Batman’s taped “confessions.” A world with the exposed identities of Superman and Batman would be very different and possibly crippling to these heroes.
DC Comics has almost always used the term Crisis since Crisis on Infinite Earths as the indicator of a series that brings about major changes. Zero Hour: Crisis in Time utilized the concept of Hypertime to explain continuity issues that crept in since Crisis on Infinite Earths. Infinite Crisis brought back the Multiverse to the DC Universe, though a different Multiverse than had existed before. Final Crisis continued to tweak continuity, making sense of all 3 versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes as well as bringing Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash back from comic book limbo via a resurrection from the speed force, something that played directly off his demise in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8.
So what does all this have to do with Heroes in Crisis which has so far shown to be a series about murder at a mental health facility for super-heroes called Sanctuary? It may not have anything at all to do with it, directly. However, when looking at the other major event mini-series running at the same time, Doomsday Clock, things begin to come in to focus. After the first couple issues, the book switched from monthly to bi-monthly publication. While creators Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have stated that the book just requires more time and it’s easier to get the book out on time on a bi-monthly schedule, comparing the projected end of Tom King’s Heroes in Crisis to be just two months before the end of Doomsday Clock, it begs some interesting questions, especially when Heroes in Crisis switched from a 7 issue series to a 9 issue series. This got Heroes in Crisis to end just before Doomsday Clock once it switched to bi-monthly. Was this why Doomsday Clock switched to bi-monthly? So, the end of one series would segue neatly into the end of the other?
Also under consideration is the very nature of Doomsday Clock. From the outset, and before in the DC Universe Rebirth one-shot it’s been insinuated that Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen has manipulated the main DC Universe, eliminating essentially 5 years of time, and more recently it’s been revealed he’s eliminated much more. While it’s seemed all along that Doomsday Clock would result in some continuity cleanup, it’s so far focused on the return of concepts like the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
So what else is going on in the DC Universe that appears to have continuity/ status quo problems. Let’s look at that book Lois Lane is writing over in Action Comics. It’s called “My Life With Superman” and it seems to be hard to imagine Lois writing this type of book with out revealing that she’s married to him, thus also revealing that Superman is Clark Kent. Superman seems to be facing the same possible situation in Heroes in Crisis. Lois has already received Arsenal’s confession with the promise of more to come, and issue #2 featured both Superman and Batman’s confessions. If whoever sent Arsenal’s to Lois, it stands to reason that Superman’s and Batman’s may not be far behind. This would literally cripple their effectiveness and completely change the landscape of the DC Universe. It also shows why Lois might feel the need to write a book about her life with Superman. Action Comics #1004 did a very poor job of reuniting the super-couple with only the flimsiest of reasons that read awkwardly and is laced with lies and deception. If Lois somehow already knew she would need to have a testament of support for her husband, it would go a long way in explaining why Lois acted the way she did. Maybe, Lois got that tape of Arsenal’s confession before she left for space and knew that Clark had also been to Sanctuary. There’s no clear sense of the order of events in where Bendis’ Superman stories take place or how Doomsday Clock fits in with the rest of the events of the DC Universe. The stories in Superman and Action comics are clearly not taking place concurrently, the Earth can’t be in the Phantom Zone at the same time Superman is trying to solve the case of the fires around Metropolis as well as figuring out where his wife is hiding from him.
Nightwing is experiencing his own trouble as well. He’s suffered brain damage and is undergoing a personality reboot as he tries to figure out who he is. He’s forgotten everything about his life since his parents died- no life with Bruce and Alfred, no Robin, no Nightwing, no Titans…. Whoever emerges on the other side of this tribulation will most likely not be the same Dick Grayson we’ve always know. Heck, he’s already chosen the new and cringe-worthy name, “Ric.”
While we haven’t seen it just yet, there appears to be another personality replacement on the way for a DC character. The advertising for the upcoming run on Aquaman by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha seems to put Arthur Curry in almost the same position as Dick Grayson. “He’s lost his memory, he’s lost his kingdom, can he find the hero within?” It’s either classic bait-and-switch or Arthur Curry will emerge from this storyline with a different personality. Perhaps, one that aligns more with the upcoming movie? Trailers have shown that Mamoa’s Aquaman is not the same version as we’ve come to know in the comics. Nothing a little amnesia can’t cure, I guess!
Perhaps, the loudest complaints are over the deaths of the aforementioned Arsenal (Roy Harper) and his Titans’ teammate, Wally West, the Flash from the inaugural issue of Heroes in Crisis. King claims that these deaths are permanent. What that means exactly is unclear. It could mean they aren’t coming back in Heroes in Crisis or it could mean that they are intended as permanent deaths in the DC Universe for years to come.
That’s a lot of change underway in the DC Universe, and all approached from “in-story” developments. Doomsday Clock, however, seems to promise some changes. From the DC Rebirth one-shot, it appeared that the end of this long storyline would restore some hope and classic elements to the DC Universe that fans had missed during “The New 52.” Johns even made statements as such at the time. A lot of time has passed since then and one wonders if that is still the plan. Because, in the ensuing two and a half years, a lot of things have transpired that seem to indicate that’s not what’s going to happen, unless all of these events are part of a large set up. Could DC have told their writers and editors, “do what you want, Doomsday Clock is changing everything anyway.” These are all quite extreme changes to the status quo in the mainstream DC Universe. How long can it support these changes? The opening of Doomsday Clock did seem to suggest that the world is in a state and distrustful of super-heroes, and it feel quite dark and hopeless, something that is thematically connected to the opening of Watchmen.
If Doomsday Clock delivers on what it’s been teasing, there is not only one possible result. If the JSA and Legion of Super-Heroes are reinserted back into continuity, where does that leave the dead heroes from Heroes in Crisis? Will Superman and Batman’s identities have been revealed by then or is that just a big tease? Do Nightwing and Aquaman experience a permanent change of personality? If so, does it stick? The general tone of Heroes in Crisis and its aftermath and the brain damaged Dick Grayson do not paint a DC Universe on the verge of hope, which is what Doomsday Clock has supposedly been leading to since back in the DC Rebirth one-shot.
It seems clear that the DC Universe is in a state of flux, but it’s unclear which way it’s going. DC can use Doomsday Clock to set these new status quos through a cosmic reset and also indicate how they happened in-story, perhaps trying to show that it’s not really another reboot. Or, they can deliver on the teased promises of DC Rebirth and Doomsday Clock and roll it all back to a happier time with a living Wally and Roy and recognizable Dick Grayson and Arthur Curry. And, at the same time get Superman and Lois back to something resembling a stable marriage. But, don’t let anyone tell you that Heroes in Crisis is not leading to something larger than the mental health angle implied. Perhaps, we’ve already seen the first post-Doomsday Clock book, earlier this month Grant Morrison’s The Green Lantern #1 featured a Hal Jordan significantly different from where he was left at the end of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #50. This issue finished with an emotional reunion with Carol Ferris. While it may be easy to explain that due to the nature of Jordan’s character he’s already ruined things with Carol Ferris again, it doesn’t explain why he would need a lantern to charge his ring, when he hasn’t needed a lantern since he created his own ring at the beginning of DC Rebirth and his power comes from within…