The DC Universe was rapidly becoming a dark place in 2004. Writer Brad Meltzer (prose novels The Tenth Justice, Jack & Bobby) made it worse. He, along with artist Rags Morales, delivered a seven part series that actually lived up to the hype of phrases like “nothing will ever be the same again.” Marketing terms like that are put on at lest 67 books every month, because everything is important and everything matters. Identity Crisis however, planted many seeds that took years to come to fruition. Much of what took place over the next 7 years, all started here. For reals.
Elongated Man’s (part time Justice Leaguer and Mr. Fantastic analog) wife, Sue Dibny was murdered in their apartment. Someone broke in, setting her afire. This rocked the superhero community to it’s core. They all turned out for her funeral, vowing to find the assassin. After all, this was their greatest fear personified. This was the reason why they all had secret identities. They all had something, or someone, to protect. If the wife ofa superhero could be killed inside of her incredibly secure apartment (outfitted with all sorts of JLA tech), who was safe?
A core group of members gathered having a prime suspect; Atom (Ray Palmer), Hawkman, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and Zatanna. Arrow explained to current Flash (Wally West) and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) how they, along with original Flash (a reluctant Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (currently deceased Hal Jordan), wiped the mind of villain Dr. Light. Dr. Light was a joke of a villain for many years. Someone, as mentioned in the book, younger heroes like the Teen Titans would practice on. As it turns out, Sue was brought to the satellite by her husband to see outer space, and left there when the team went out on a call. A menacing Dr. Light found his way onto the space station where Sue was alone. He then rapes her. A little unpleasant reading in a superhero book. The group shortly returned. Learning what he had done, they hold him down while Zatanna magically wipes his mind and lobotomizes him.
As the story progresses, it’s revealed that this mind wipe has been done a few times. The Secret Society of Super Villains switched bodies with the Justice League, and learned their secret identities. The League eventually wins the day, getting their bodies back, but erases the memories of the villains to protect themselves. In later books, the Society learns of this violation and band together.
A sad moment in the book was how the attacks continued occurring. The Atom’s ex-wife, Jean Loring, was left hung in her apartment, but the Atom managed to save her in time. Jack Drake, Tim Drake’s father (3rd and current Robin), wasn’t as fortunate. Former Flash rogue Captain Boomerang (it’s hookey, just go with it) was hired to kill him. Jack found a gun and note, telling him to protect himself. He and Boomerang managed to kill each other simultaneously. Robin was unable to get there in time. Batman held the crying boy, now, both orphans.
Flash eventually learns the Batman was present during the mind wipe, and questions Arrow. Arrow admits Batman was there, and violently opposed the tampering with people’s minds. The ‘heroes’ chose to do the same to him as well. Later, because he’s Batman, he deduces what happened. This led to him creating the Brother MK I satellite to monitor the other heroes. The satellite eventually went rogue and created the OMACs. You can read all about that here.
The killer was eventually revealed. It wasn’t an out of field choice and worked well in the story. The theme of mistrust was set and spread throughout the entire line of books. It eventually worked it’s way through while other events took it’s place, but this was the catalyst for it. Too me, this was when the company was firing on all cylinders.
This series got me back into comics. At the time I was only reading trades of Batman I purchased from Barnes & Noble. I had no idea how the actual comic industry worked, but still found it fascinating. Seeing the cover of Wizard with Batman being attacked and held by his teammates filled my mind with so many questions. I needed to know what was happening. I think I picked a good book to bridge me back in.
Identity Crisis, good story telling or tasteless schlock? Comment below!
Seeing Jack Drake die hit me with the feels.