It figures that Doctor Fate would consider life to be
a mystery. And strange as it may be to think that Ralph
Dibny, The Elongated Man, has had conversations with Fate
on that topic, it's just one more cool little detail in
what promises to be the story of the year: Identity Crisis.
Brad Meltzer has brought all his skills to bear on this
crossover aimed at shaking the DC Universe to its core.
But unlike previous events, Identity Crisis does
its shaking on a very personal level. Somebody dies in this
first issue, but it doesn't happen while saving the world,
a city, or even someone else.
Actually, that's not entirely true. You get the sense
that the victim did save someone else once, right before
our eyes from the beginning of the Silver Age. We just never
noticed it. Cruelly, brilliantly, Meltzer points it out
just before ringing in the curtain. As our realization grows,
each page just gets more dread-filled, because it's easy
to see where it's going and man, we do not want it to go
But it does. Somebody dies, and you didn't know you cared.
It's not a cheap death, nor is it likely to be the only
death in the course of these seven issues. For long-time
fans, it will hurt, just as Meltzer intended. Though the
book is accessible to those who haven't been reading comics
for twenty or thirty years, Meltzer has steeped it in DC
history, turning a somewhat obscure Elongated Man
story into the grounds for an annual tradition, and a launching
pad to show us how all the heroes really do stick together.
(Ralph "outs" Green Arrow in a manner that adds a perfect
layer to Oliver Queen's personality.)
Despite their fantastic powers, almost every character
has a moment to become real. Wonder Woman fares the worst
on that front, because she seems the most remote even as
she's presented as compassionate. Then again, she is
a goddess. Maybe the rest of hero-dom feels a bit apart
from her. But Meltzer gives Superman a true moment with
his parents, tinging it with just a little bit of sorrow
and yes, a slight shadow of mortality.
Which is one of the themes running through this book.
Superheroes tend to come back from the dead with alarming
ease. Those around them do not. As an iteration of the Justice
League faces mortality, they also have to deal with their
morality. Somewhere, somewhen, these guys did something
questionable, and are now paying the price.
In his previous foray into comics writing, Green Arrow:
Archer's Quest, Meltzer masterfully inserted a piece
of subtext that should change the way you read Oliver Queen.
Clearly, he's doing it again, with a much greater reach.
The art team of Morales and Bair continues to be great,
following their run on Hawkman. Morales lays out
emotion well, and his take on The Elongated Man actually
adds a new dimension to the character, underscored of course
by Meltzer's writing. The vague woodcut look disturbed someone
else in the Fanboy Planet office, but not enough to distract
him (his name rhymes with Shmoodson) from the pulse-pounding
not hyperbole. Not only is each page of Identity Crisis
one you will devour, it's also a book that you will love
to hate waiting for the next issue. In a storm of monthly
titles, it's rare that one can stand out like that. (This
month, it's even a storm of monthly titles with covers by
then, Brad Meltzer ain't no slouch as a writer.