[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Clay Mann & Mitch Gerads
Colorists: Mitch Gerads & Tomeu Morey
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. This special issue reunites the Eisner Award-winning MISTER MIRACLE team of writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads!
The cover is fine. It’s well drawn. The image is not that interesting but it looks good.
The interior art is good. Mitch Gerads is stylistically different from what Clay Mann has been doing but it still works. It’s less detailed in a way but has more of a texture. The shading adds a lot here and it looks great.
Wally West has been the only captivating element of this story so far. This is another flashback issue that is focusing on Wally’s trauma as opposed to the mystery. Wally’s depression is interesting. There’s a level of meta commentary through it as well. Wally suffers this horrific event and when he is able to escape, his family is gone. That combined with every character expecting to him to be the way he was before adds a lot stress. This is how the audience and creators are. These stories always tend to revert to the status quo without consequence because comic audiences tend to resist major change so Wally has to be the happy smart mouth full of hope we know him as. I love that King is adding a real consequence to Rebirth. Wally isn’t that man anymore; he can’t be. He has to find a way forward but doesn’t know how.
Similarly, Harley is given some pathos here. Like Wally, she wants a way forward but her past isn’t easy to escape. This retroactively makes the New 52 reboot idea of her skin being bleached just like Joker’s a lot more interesting. She can’t look in the mirror without seeing Joker and what he did to her. This is combined with another meta idea. Can Harley exist without Joker? All you have to do is look at her and you know she has a direct relation. She is a product of that character and DC has been actively trying to break her away from that for years due to her popularity. I like that King is playing with that idea in universe.
Plot wise, this issue stops the story dead in its tracks. There are more vague hints but it’s hard to trust anything we see. A previous issue flat out showed Harley as the killer so there’s clearly some unreliable narrator element to all of this. I think the story would have been better if these flashback issues had come first to create more emotional stakes for the murder mystery rather constantly stopping the mystery to try and add pathos. It’s a little too late for this.
On its own, this is a great issue. This is a wonderful script. King is hyper focused on the characters’ psychology, good and bad. The work he does with Wally and Harley is really impressive. And combined with Gerads’ art, I really enjoyed this. However, in the context of this series, it feels too little too late. Structurally, it kills the momentum of the mystery while also telling a much more captivating story than what the main plot of this is supposed to be.