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Identity Crisis #7
writer: Brad Meltzer
artists: Rags Morales and Michael Bair

Let it be on record that Brian's Books owner Andy Mead was right about the identity of the killer, but for the wrong reasons. To be fair, he was led astray by a simple coloring error. And on such mistakes conspiracies are built.

So the series ends months of speculation. Conspiracies stand revealed, at least to a select few. Seeds have been planted that will germinate through the next couple of years, bouncing around regular books and major events such as the upcoming Countdown and Crisis 2. As Brad Meltzer intended, a sense of risk has been "restored" to the DC Universe. Strangely, and still no doubt Meltzer's intent, a sense of community has been restored, too.

This final issue actually feels anti-climatic. After a tremendous cliffhanger in #6 (and scurry back to read Batman's actual dialogue, not what we think he said), Meltzer wraps up the mystery within the first few pages. The bulk of the story really deals with the aftermath, the mourning that heretofore had been better developed elsewhere, and that sense of community.

If you want sizzling revelations, instead you'll get elegiac reflections. In their wake, perhaps, the heroes (and a few villains) have been better defined for the twenty-first century. Some have complained that this arc was too dark for the DC Universe, but Meltzer actually made the light of its heroes stand out even more against the darkness. Certainly, he's never lost sight of the essential decency of the members of the Justice League, even if they did a morally questionable thing in the name of the greater good.

But back to that central mystery. Identity Crisis is a series that will reward careful re-reading, and paying attention to the artwork by Morales and Bair (who just re-upped his exclusive contract with DC). The clues are there in panels, and with the smoothness of the art it's easy to forget that, true to any good mystery, we're dealing with some unreliable narrators. Hopefully that one coloring mistake will be corrected in the collected edition tentatively scheduled for the Fall of 2005.

The emotion that Morales and Bair pour into each panel carries the elegy along. Morales based the characters on public figures, with some alterations, but he himself is the true actor here. Pain and sorrow are the obvious expressions, but Morales also allows his drawings to convey the slightest glimmers of hope. And one shot of Tim Drake sharing a happy moment with his father subtly drives home the tragedy of this whole thing.

There's still more to digest, and yes, I've got to re-read the whole thing now that it's complete. Even then, I can't wait to see what happens next.

Derek McCaw

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