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DC Comics’ next Crisis is a heavier drama than any before

‘Heroes in Crisis’ is about a veterans crisis center — but for superheroes

The cover of Heroes in Crisis #1, DC Comics (2018), with correct colors. Clay Mann/DC Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

DC Comics has announced Heroes in Crisis, a project from star writer Tom King and star artist Clay Mann. The series will focus on Sanctuary, a mental health crisis center for the super-powered people of the DC Universe, then show what happens when it fails.

“I feel a duty to talk about what violence does to a society through the comics I’m creating,” King said in a press release, and it’s certainly a common theme in his work. Omega Men and Sheriff of Babylon dug into very different war-torn settings, while his Mister Miracle and Batman series both examine their main characters through the lens of trauma.

But for King, who is a former counterterrorism officer for the CIA, there’s more to the idea of normalizing superheroes who struggle — and want to help those that struggle — with mental health.

“I feel like I’m part of a rolling generation of people who spent their twenties overseas fighting terrorism,” King explained in the press release. “Millions of people cycle through that machine and come home to America. And I think that sort of experience of violence is shaping who we are as a culture, and as a country. And I want to talk about that. I want to talk about that experience, the experience of what violence can do to a person, to a community, to a nation, to a world.”

At a Jan. 2018 panel called “The Aftermath: Battle & Trauma in Comics” at DC Comics’ DC in D.C. event, King teased a new concept he would pepper throughout his books. Modeled on the idea of veterans’ crisis centers, it was called “Sanctuary.”

“When it’s too much, and it’s often too much, heroes go to Sanctuary — created by Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman — to find a moment of safety before returning to a universe of violence,” says DC’s Heroes in Crisis press release.

So far, we know that Poison Ivy went to Sanctuary after taking over the minds of nearly everyone in the world in King’s Batman #41-43, and many have guessed that Booster Gold would be headed there after breaking down in Batman #47 following a harrowing trip through time.

Batman and Catwoman discuss Ivy’s rehabilitation in Batman #43, DC Comics (2018)
Batman and Catwoman discuss Ivy’s rehabilitation.
Tom King, Mikel Janin/DC Comics

Heroes in Crisis will bring Sanctuary into the light, possibly when its safety is threatened. The comic will be about “a murder mystery involving Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Booster Gold, and the rest of the World’s Greatest Super Heroes.”

It’s not the typical way that DC Comics does a storyline with “crisis” in the title — that usually means cosmic threats and multiverse-hopping adventures. But what King’s doing might turn out to be just as special.

“We’re creating a place superheroes can go that mimics the good work people are doing for veterans around the world,” King said when he announced the idea of Sanctuary. “So that your greatest heroes, who are inspiring our children, can say proudly: ‘Yes, I’ve had some mental difficulties, and yes, working with people has helped me through them.’ And we don’t hide behind that.”

Here’s the full cover of Heroes in Crisis #1, available on Sep. 26, 2018.

The cover of Heroes in Crisis #1, DC Comics (2018), with correct colors. Clay Mann/DC Comics

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