Identity Crisis

identity-crisisBy Brad Meltzer (W) and Rags Morales (A)

Published by DC Comics. Cover price $14.99/24.99 (softcover/hardcover). Originally printed as Identity Crisis 1-7.

The Plot: Long-kept secrets of the Justice League are revealed when Sue Dibny, the wife of the Elongated Man, is murdered, and the superheroes of the DC Universe race to find the person responsible before they go after another hero’s family.

The Positives: Identity Crisis is a really good murder mystery. There are plenty of clues along the way as to who committed the crimes, although you never really have enough information to figure it out on your own. There are plenty of red herrings along the way that bridge into other interesting stories and build anticipation for when the red herrings eventually stop and the killer is revealed. When you find out who did it, all the clues fall into place and the actions and motives of the killer make perfect sense. Well, perfect sense for a crazy person.

Over the course of the story, Brad Meltzer introduces a number of interesting concepts to the DC Universe. Of course, first and foremost are the mind wipes, which would help divide the Justice League during Infinite Crisis. Identity Crisis also set up the Calculator as the anti-Oracle, a character who has been put to very good use since then. The story also revitalized Dr. Light as a major villain and set up a Green Arrow/Deathstroke feud that would continue past One Year Later. All of these ideas would make for great stories…

The Negatives: …but Meltzer doesn’t follow up on any of them. Nor, I think, did he ever have any intention to follow up on them. It seems like those plot points were left dangling specifically so other writers would pick them up, so as to make Identity Crisis seem more important for influencing other stories. But these extra plot points actually hurt the enjoyment of Identity Crisis as a stand-alone story. Two issues probably could have been cut out to tell a better-paced, more concise mystery if everything with the mind wipes was just left out.

Meltzer also has a nasty habit of having things happen for no reason, or giving a very poor explanation as to why something happened. Did the ret-conned rape of Sue Dibny really need to be brought into the story? Did that make the story better? I don’t think it did. And why was Firestorm killed off, only to have everyone in the story ignore his death? The most annoying part was how the Flash found out about the “Secret League” mind-wiping Batman: he saw Dr. Light’s memories. That’s the best Meltzer could come up with? How does the Flash even see someone’s memories? Wouldn’t it have just made more sense to have one of the seven JLAers involved slip up a little and mention something about Batman being there? Did the Flash even need to find out that Batman had been mind-wiped? I don’t recall it ever being brought up again until Batman himself remembered. All of these questions were rattling around in the head when I was reading the story, when the only questions I should have been asking were “Who did it?” and “Why?”

The Neutral: The art provided by Rags Morales in the book, while always acceptable, is never spectacular. He’s a great example of one of DC’s stable of artists who are reasonably talented and can keep a deadline, as opposed to the bulk of Marvel’s artists who generally produce better work at a much slower rate. Morales’ art doesn’t take away from the story, but it doesn’t add anything either, which is a real shame.

The Grade: C+. Stripped to its core, Identity Crisis is a great whodunit. The story works better if you’re new to the DC Universe, which I was the first time I read it. After immersing myself in the DC Universe for two years, the liberties Meltzer took with certain characters and events stand out and lessen the story. And quite frankly it’s hard for any story to shine amidst the brightness of Infinite Crisis.