Identity Crisis (DC Comics)

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For the Spider-Man story arc, see Identity Crisis (Marvel Comics).
Identity Crisis
Cover to Identity Crisis #1. Art by Michael Turner.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Schedule Monthly
Format Limited series
Genre
Publication date June – December 2004
Number of issues 7
Main character(s) Justice League
Green Arrow
Batman
Elongated Man
Dr. Light
Jean Loring
Creative team
Writer(s) Brad Meltzer
Penciller(s) Rags Morales
Inker(s) Michael Bair
Letterer(s) Ken Lopez
Colorist(s) Alex Sinclair
Creator(s) Brad Meltzer
Rags Morales
Michael Bair
Editor(s) Mike Carlin
Collected editions
Hardcover ISBN 1-4012-0688-3
Softcover ISBN 1-4012-0458-9

Identity Crisis is a seven-issue comic book limited series published by DC Comics from June to December in 2004. It was created by writer Brad Meltzer and the artistic team of penciler Rags Morales and inker Michael Bair.

Publication history[edit]

One of DC's top-selling series, the first issue was released in June 2004 and was ranked first in comic book sales for that period with pre-order sales of 163,111.[1] The second issue saw a decline in sales and ranked third in comic book sales in July 2004 period with pre-order sales of 129,852.[2] The story also adheres to the continuity changes introduced by Crisis on Infinite Earths, as heroine Wonder Woman was retconned out of the pre-Crisis JLA. In all further references to the JLA's pre-Crisis adventures, including its origin story and the Secret Society incident, Wonder Woman is replaced by Black Canary. Following "Infinite Crisis", however, Wonder Woman is restored as a founding member.

One of the major plot threads — the breakdown of relationships within the Justice League of America — is examined in the storyline "Crisis of Conscience" in JLA #115-119 (August–December 2005). The mini-series is followed by the crossover event "Infinite Crisis".

Plot summary[edit]

Sue Dibny, the wife of superhero Elongated Man, is murdered in their apartment, apparently dying of burns (the Elongated Man was at the time on a stakeout, during which a minor character called Bolt is shot and wounded by criminals). The DC superhero community rallies to find the murderer, with villain Doctor Light being the prime suspect. Green Arrow reveals to the Flash (Wally West) and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) that Light once raped Sue Dibny in the JLA satellite headquarters. To ensure this could not happen again, League members at that time — Atom (Ray Palmer), Black Canary, Hawkman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and a very reluctant Flash (Barry Allen) — allowed the sorceress Zatanna to mind-wipe the villain and alter his personality.

Further discussion reveals that a mind wipe was also done on at least one other occasion: When the Secret Society of Super Villains (the Wizard, Floronic Man, Star Sapphire, Reverse-Flash, and Blockbuster) captures JLA members Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Zatanna and Black Canary (pre-Crisis it was Wonder Woman rather than the Canary) and switched bodies with the heroes, allowing the villains to learn their secret identities by casually removing the heroes' masks. Although the heroes defeated the villains, Zatanna once again erased the villains' memories of the incident and their knowledge of the secret identities[3] (Green Arrow's words imply that they have done this on other occasions when their secret identities were threatened by magic or other means).

The heroes locate Light, who has hired the mercenary Deathstroke to protect him. During the ensuring battle, Light regains his memory and, enraged by the violation, uses his formerly lost powers to escape. Although questioned by Superman, Wally West continues to protect the heroes and their secret. Atom finds his ex-wife, Jean Loring, hanging from a door, bound, blindfolded and gagged, and revives her just in time. A death threat is then sent to Superman's wife, Lois Lane. Flash Rogues gallery villain Captain Boomerang (Digger Harkness) is hired by third-rate villain the Calculator (on behalf of the real killer) to assassinate Jack Drake, father of Robin, Tim Drake. Jack finds a gun and a note warning him of the impending attempt on his life, and fatally shoots Boomerang who also kills him. Tim Drake witnesses this and is comforted by partner Batman, who confiscates the note before the authorities or the media can learn of its existence.

While questioning of several villains by the heroes, former League member Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond) is stabbed through the chest with the sword of the Shining Knight by the villain the Shadow Thief. Firestorm's nuclear powers reach critical mass and he detonates in the atmosphere.

Wally West questions Green Arrow again after accidentally seeing a snapshot of the battle on the Satellite in Light's mind, which reveals that Batman was also present. Green Arrow confesses that Batman disapproved of the attempted mind-wipe and also had his memory of the incident removed. Batman uses his detective skills to find the hideout of the Calculator, but discovers the villain anticipated this and abandoned it. The autopsy of Sue Dibny's body by Doctor Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific, members of the Justice Society, reveals Dibny was killed by an infarction in her brain. A microscopic scan of Dibny's brain reveals tiny footprints as a clue to the cause of the infarction.

Doctor Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific realize, as does Batman in the course of his own investigation, that Dibny was murdered by an assassin with access to the shrinking technology of the Atom (the technology allows the ability to shrink to subatomic size). Almost simultaneously, Palmer learns that his estranged wife, Jean Loring, is aware of the note sent to Jack Drake (which had been kept secret) and deduces she is the killer. Loring claims she did not mean to kill Sue, and it was not her intention for Jack Drake to be killed, arguing that she sent the note and gun so he could protect himself. Loring states that she undertook the plan (including faking the attempt on her own life) in order to bring Ray back into her life. Palmer says that she is insane, and Loring is committed to Arkham Asylum and kept under heavy medication. In the final scene with the Justice League, Wally West is awkward in the presence of Batman, who is suspicious of his behavior.

Aftermath[edit]

The ramifications of this story are depicted in the title Flash, as the hero's Rogues band together at the funeral of Boomerang,[4] a one-shot "Countdown to Infinite Crisis", as well as one of its tie-ins, The OMAC Project, and the title JLA, which reveals that Batman remembered the events in question at some point after. Batman's suspicions lead him to create the Brother MK I satellite to monitor superhumans, which is an important factor in the subsequent crossover storyline "Infinite Crisis".[5]

Reception[edit]

The miniseries was both wildly popular and reviled.[6] The overall crossover holds an average score of 7.3 out of 10 at the review aggregator website Comic Book Roundup, the lowest issue score going to issue 7, with 5.3, and the highest going to issue 1, with 8.7.[7]

Fan criticism of the series focused on the treatment of Sue Dibny and the retroactive insertion of dark and sexual elements into League history.[dead link][8] Other critics, however, defended this same trait.[9]

Chris Sims of ComicsAlliance called the series "the comic that ruined comics." Sims' colleague, Matt D. Wilson, did not concur with that exact assessment, but felt that the miniseries did a disservice to its protagonists, saying, "every hero comes out of Identity Crisis looking like a jerk, a victim or a pariah." Wilson also stated that the series was "a destructive comic", as it had a negative influence on subsequent comics, such as Marvel’s 2006-2007 miniseries Civil War, which similarly depicted heroes in what Wilson thought was a questionable light.[10]

Greg Burgas of Comic Book Resources commented that while the murder mystery in Identity Crisis was well-done, DC did profound damage by with their treatment of Sue Dibny and Jean Loring, instead of using original characters. Specifically, Burgas criticized the use of Dibny's rape as merely a plot device to reveal the mindwipe of Dr. Light, and that instead of showing how Sue or even Ralph dealt with the rape, the story instead focuses more on the reaction of the Justice League, thus cheapening and diminishing the event. Burgas also questioned Meltzer's stated motive of using the mindwipe to addressing the "goofiness" with which Dr. Light behaved in the comics he read as a child, as children's literature is often intended to convey such a tone, and does not require updating. Burgas also felt that Meltzer's attempt to explore the nature of heroism did not work, because the characters in Identity Crisis' did not act like heroes, and thus subverted the very nature of heroism. In terms of story logic, Burgas also felt Jean Loring's motive made no sense, as it was she who originally ended her relationship with Ray Palmer, and could have simply attempted a reconciliation. Burgas also questioned the notion that Loring is insane, given the meticulous planning of her scheme, and the fact that she was apparently committed to Arkham Asylum without a trial.[11]

Dominic Organ from Comics Bulletin was critical of the series' artwork, stating it was "incredibly spotty in places," inconsistent and "at times it is downright ugly." Organ, however, was impressed with some artwork, especially the panel of Batman racing back to Tim's apartment where he noted, "The fear is palpable and all over Batman's face, a single panel that will stick with me for some time I am sure." He also praised the story, claiming that the stand-out was "the human tragedy of it all."[12]

In 2009, ComicsAlliance named it one of the 15 Worst Comics of the Decade, stating it was "the embodiment of all the worst aspects of current super-hero comics."[13]

Awards[edit]

The miniseries was selected by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)'s 2007 recommended list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens.[14]

Parody[edit]

Identity Crisis was parodied in the six-part limited series Ambush Bug: Year None (July 2008 – January 2009), with ersatz "hero" Ambush Bug contacting Jean Loring and advising her of the surprise party for Ralph Dibny. The character mischievously suggests that Sue Dibny made unflattering comments about her and that she should put "a flea in her (Sue's) ear." Jean replies that she would do this herself.

Collected editions[edit]

DC Comics reprinted the Identity Crisis mini-series in April 2005 with recolored covers.[15] A hardcover collection (ISBN 1-4012-0688-3) was printed in September 2005, with bonus features including a commentary by Meltzer and Morales; the creative team citing favorite moments, and a look at Morales' sketchbook.[16]

A paperback collection (ISBN 1-4012-0458-9) was released on August 16, 2006. The paperback collection ranked third in the top 100 graphic novels for the August 2006 period with pre-order sales of 7746.[17]

An Absolute Edition of Identity Crisis was released on October 12, 2011.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Top 300 Comics Actual – June 2004". icv2.com. July 22, 2004. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  2. ^ "Top 300 Comics Actual – July 2004". icv2.com. August 17, 2004. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  3. ^ Justice League of America #166-168 (May–July 1979)
  4. ^ Flash vol. 2, #217 (February 2005)
  5. ^ Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Judd Winick (w), various (a). {{{title}}} 1 (May 2005), DC Comics
  6. ^ "Identity Crisis Editorial Reviews". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  7. ^ "Identity Crisis". Comic Book Roundup. Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  8. ^ "Rape Should Not be Just a Plot Device". Heavy Targets. Retrieved 2011-07-02. [dead link]
  9. ^ Darius, Julian. "In Defense of Sue Dibny's Rape". Sequart. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  10. ^ Wilson, Matt D. (June 12, 2013). "Is DC Comics Backing Away From ‘Identity Crisis’?". ComicsAlliance.
  11. ^ Burgas, Greg (June 1, 2006). "Breaking down 'Event' comics, Part One: Identity Crisis #1-7; or, why you should always stop one issue short of your goal!". Comic Book Resources.
  12. ^ Organ, Dominic. "Identity Crisis Review". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  13. ^ Hudson, Laura (December 17, 2009). "15 Worst Comics of the Decade". ComicsAlliance. 
  14. ^ "YALSA 2007 Great Graphic Novels". icv2.com. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ "Identity Crisis hardcover details". DC Comics.com. 
  17. ^ "Top 100 Graphic Novels Actual – August 2006". icv2.com. September 20, 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  18. ^ DC Comics: Absolute Identity Crisis. Retrieved on 5 August 2011.

External links[edit]