“Identity Crisis” was a comic book miniseries from DC Comics that was published in 2004. Basically, it’s a murder mystery where the victims and suspects were the heroes and villains of the DC Universe. It was written by novelist Brad Meltzer, in his first notable comic book work.
It’s probably the most controversial comics event of the past decade, even more so than Marvel’s “Civil War”. Its effects would be felt afterward for years. I must admit that I haven’t actually read the series - I could tell right away that I wasn’t going to like it. However I have read a lot about it, enough that I think I can offer a review of my own. Certainly, I need to get my feelings about it off my chest. As with my Civil War review, I’m going to start by describing the events of the series as neutrally as possible, then analyze it afterward.
The story begins with the superhero Elongated Man, aka as Ralph Dibny, out on an adventure. His wife, Sue, is waiting for him at home to give him a surprise. But when he arrives, he finds the house burnt down, and his wife a dead, burned husk. (The surprise? She was pregnant, apparently…)
Her funeral is attended by various superheroes. They discuss how the murder was possible, given the high-tech defenses the Justice League had set on the Dibny’s house. (Note: EM had made his secret identity public years before.) Ralph calls a particular set of Leaguers apart to tell them something: he believes he knows who the killer is- Doctor Light. (You might have seen him in the Teen Titans cartoon.)
It turns out that, years before, Light had discovered the Leaguers’ secret identities. He somehow got into the JLA headquarters while the only person there was Sue- and he raped her, which was shown semi-graphically in a flashback. Ralph and other heroes (Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman and Zatanna) arrived and captured him, then argued what to do with him. (Hawkman wanted to kill him!) Finally it was agreed that Zatanna would use her magic to erase his memory of the Leaguers’ identities, so he could not threaten their loved ones as well. But, it was suggested, why stop there? Why not try to cure him of his sick impulses? Zatanna was unsure, she had never tried anything like that before. They put it to a vote, and it was decided to try it.
As it turns out, Batman arrived moments after they finished the brainwashing. Knowing he would never stand for it, the group of heroes then erased Batman’s memories of the incident as well!!
Btw the process didn’t work well; while Light did indeed forget the heroes’ identities, he was reduced to a moron. The group of heroes kept this incident a secret, even from the other Leaguers. Now they suspected Light must somehow have recovered, and set out to kill Sue as revenge. The heroes then set out to find him.
They do, but it turns out he has hired Deathstroke (known as Slade in the Titans show) as his bodyguard. He proceeds to kick the asses of the heroes, until Green Arrow drives him away after stabbing him in the eye with one of his arrows. Both villains get away, though.
Meanwhile, other people related to the League also are threatened. Lois Lane gets a note warning her; Jean Loring, the ex-wife of the shrinking superhero The Atom is found by him hung by the neck, though he saves her; The father of Robin (the Tim Drake one) receives a gun, and is attacked by the villain Captain Boomerang, hired by someone to kill him; they end up killing each other. Firestorm is killed by the the villain, The Shadow Thief. As you can imagine, the superhero community starts getting very paranoid.
Meanwhile, Dr. Midnite, who is conducting an autopsy on Sue’s body, finds out that Sue was already dead before they burned her. She was apparently talking on the phone at the time. The cause seems to have been an aneurysm. On further investigation, they find microscopic footprints on her brain…
Later, Atom and his Ex have gotten back together. They talk about the case, and she mentions the note- which makes him realize that she had NO way of knowing about that part. That’s right, she was the killer.
It turns out that she had planned to set up a situation that would cause him to get back with her. So using an extra set of his shrinking gear, she went to Sue’s house to menace her (in disguise) to create the illusion that someone was threatening the heroes’ loved ones. She used the phone to bypass the house’s security, by shrinking to subatomic size and riding the electrons in the current (this is an old trick of the Atom’s.) Unfortunately her lack of experience with the device caused her to end up on Sue’s brain, accidentally killing her. Realizing she had just killed one of her own friends caused her to snap, and she went ahead with her plan, except now she was trying to kill the others for real.
The series ends with her being sent to Arkham Asylum, The Atom shrinking away to nothingness in his grief, and The League’s handling of Dr. Light being revealed.
Effects the series had:
-Ralph went on a trip to find a way to resurrect Sue in the miniseries “52”. In the end it turned out to be a trick by the sorcerer Felix Faust to exchange Ralph’s soul for his to the demon Neron; instead Ralph dies while sealing away the demon and the villain.
-Batman is left at odds with the heroes who erased his memory, Zatanna in particular. They feel ashamed of it as well.
-Doctor Light recovered his memories and became a sick villain again, until the supernatural avenger, The Spectre, killed him.
-Tim Drake now had to deal with the death of his father.
- A new Firestorm (a black guy who inherited the other one’s powers by accident) was introduced.
-Similarly, a new Captain Boomerang (son of the original) also appeared.
-Deathstroke became a personal foe of Green Arrow, who had to train a lot to deal with him.
- Jean Loring ended up becoming the host for the evil spirit, Eclipso.
-The Atom was found living on a parallel universe (where he replaced his own, dead counterpart, and was living a happy life) in the series “Countdown to Final Crisis.” Too bad that world was destroyed. He’s now back in the main DC Universe.
-And finally, everyone killed here and since then (including Ralph and Sue) have been resurrected as superpowered zombies under the control of Nekron, the God of Death, in the current " Blackest Night" miniseries.
My comments and opinions next time.