So I figured that it was about time that I talked about Identity Crisis. I’ve had the book for a while now – I picked up an Absolute Edition pretty cheap – but I haven’t talked about it until now because quite frankly I didn’t know what to say about it. Now, I might be something of a DC fanboy, but even I will admit that their content has been really sub-par of late. Creative team changes and endless crossover arcs have kind of spoiled any gravitas their stories might have had – hell, the Green Lantern family might as well be one continuous crossover, considering you can’t go two issues without having another cosmic crisis happening. It’s a shame, really; Identity Crisis is absolutely proof that DC can craft amazing stories when they want to.
One of the things I really, really like about Identity Crisis is that it focuses on the little people of the DC Universe. When you think DC, you inevitably think the core members of the Justice League: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman et al. What you don’t consider are the minor characters; the bit players and the goofy one-dimensional villains still exist, just out of sight and out of mind. The serie’s writer Brad Meltzer (Justice League of America) takes that concept and flips it on its head – Identity Crisis focuses on lesser-known characters like Elongated Man and the Atom, while major players like Batman and Superman are mostly in the background.
Identity Crisis is pretty much every superhero’s worst nightmare. Ralph Dibny has been a superhero for a long time; as Elongated Man, he’s been around since the ’60s, and has been a member of multiple Justice League teams. His relationship with his wife Sue is almost idyllic; in the soap opera-esque world of superhero relationships, it’s remarkably trouble-free. She goes out of her way to surprise him on his birthday, setting up mysteries for him to solve and constantly trying to outdo him. Then, one night, Ralph’s universe shatters into tiny pieces; he is out on patrol, and Sue is brutally murdered in their home. What follows is one hell of a murder mystery and one of the most emotional stories I’ve ever read.
Artist Rags Morales (Action Comics) perfectly supplements Meltzer’s emotional storytelling; Identity Crisis focuses on people and their relationships, and Morales is a master when it comes to portraying emotion. Some of the book’s most memorable scenes revolve around Sue’s funeral – it’s a massive affair, and Morales gifts readers with a huge splash page that features just about every hero in DC’s roster. Perhaps the most memorable scene of all has Ralph struggling to compose himself and literally trying to hold himself together.
Identity Crisis does an excellent job of examining just what makes heroes tick, and the story is made all the more captivating when Sue’s murderer is finally revealed; it’s such a good twist that you wouldn’t even come close to guessing their identity until it’s right in front of you.
When DC includes “crisis” in the title of the book it’s usually because some kind of cosmic disaster (and continuity changes) is imminent. In this case, the crisis is much closer to home, and much more relatable. If you get the chance, definitely pick it up – there aren’t many books that can match this level of storytelling.
By Alastair McGibbon