During this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Heroes in Crisis collaborators Tom King and Mitch Gerads made a point of addressing the intense wave of backlash that followed the series’ finale. To put their response simply: they’re more than aware of some of the reasons why the series threw people for a loop, but they stand by the choice to end the book on such a surprising note.
A large part of why Heroes in Crisis was a difficult series to follow along with was the near-unrelenting existential darkness that was baked into the premise and jumped off the page from the very first issues. Though the book focused on a core group of DC’s heroes and villains dealing with their emotional issues, it was also about those characters attempting to figure out who committed a mass murder in what was believed to be one of the safest places on the planet.
While those two elements of Heroes in Crisis’ story were meant interwoven and complimentary, at times they felt somewhat at odds with one another, and after months of following along with the series’ mystery, many readers weren’t just shocked to learn who the culprit was, they were flat-out pissed.
Ultimately, it turns out the deaths at Santuary — the Trinity’s center where metahumans can go without judgment to work through their psychological trauma — were accidentally caused by a distraught Wally West when he unleashed a burst of energy from the Speed Force.
Rather than reaching out the people who love him for help in that moment, Wally instead decided to make it appear as if either Harley Quinn or Booster Gold were responsible for the killings as part of his larger plan to not only expose Sanctuary and his secret identity, but also to kill himself. There’s also some time travel and cloning thrown in for good measure, which is to say that Heroes in Crisis’ ending was... a lot.
Speaking at his spotlight panel at San Diego Comic-Con this week, King was frank about readers’ response, and was quick to note that he understood where his critics were coming from because Wally West is a character near and dear to him:
People fucking hated it so much. I’d never written something everyone hated, so that was a new experience. I loved [Heroes in Crisis]. The art is beautiful and I got across the message that I wanted to get across which is that we’re all suffering and none of us are alone. I think a killer Wally was a tough hill for people to climb.
Wally was my Flash growing up. He was the Peter Parker of the DCU. It was tough on him because it was like the symbol of Rebirth killing people. First of all, Wally doesn’t murder anyone, that doesn’t happen. There’s heroism in being vulnerable. To always say I’m strong is not to be strong, it’s to be arrogant.
Gerads echoed King’s sentiments about Heroes in Crisis feeling like a break from form for a number of its characters, but he also reasoned that it’s one of the core parts to a story about people being so pushed to their limits, that they fall apart in devastating ways:
If someone says that they hate something, it means that someone else loves it. When bad things happen to characters, it’s earned, in a way. When I read that script, I was like ‘oh we have to do this.’ This is what Wally would do, and this is how Wally broke.
A lot of people were like ‘oh, [Wally] would never break like that,’ but that’s kind of the point of the story. When you break, you do it out of character. That’s what breaking is. People don’t break in character.
Though King and Gerads’ points about Wally’s break in character were well made, they didn’t quite address the heart of many critics’ issue with Heroes in Crisis, which was that the series didn’t spend enough time unpacking the depths of Wally’s mental space.
By the time you learn that he’s the killer, the series is at a point where there isn’t quite enough time to do the necessary character work to make the revelation feel “earned,” as Gerads put it.
As is always the case with comics, though, these things are a matter of perspective and like it or not, Heroes in Crisis is the story that it is.