Thursday, August 19, 2010

Identity Crisis

Since this story is a few years old, I've decided to include a few  SPOILERS in this post. Fair Warning!

DC Comics has gone through alot of crises over the years. Whether it be a "Crisis on Infinite Earths", an "Infinite Crisis", or what will hopefully be the "Final Crisis", it seems like the protagonists of DC Comics can't catch a break. My favorite "crisis" story is one that didn't feature a villain that threatened existence. The events in "Identity Crisis" played out on a much smaller stage but still changed the DC universe.

The story begins with the murder of Sue Dibny, the wife of Elongated Man (I agree, it's one of the worst superhero names ever. From here on, I'll refer to him as Ralph Dibny). Sue was mysteriously murdered at home while planning a birthday party for Ralph. As the funeral ends, the super human community furiously hit the streets seeking answsers. While this is going on, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna, Hawkman, The Atom and decide to go after the most unlikely of suspects, Dr. Light. With the current incarnations of The Flash (Wally West) and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) tagging along, we learn why Dr. Light is a suspect.

 Front Row: Zatanna, Black Canary
Back Row: Flash, Hawkman, Atom, Green Lantern and Green Arrow
Several years prior, Dr. Light stumbled onto the Justice League's headquarters in space. The satellite is empty with the exception of Sue. In the time it takes the League to respond to Sue's call for help, Dr. Light has brutally attacked and raped her. To prevent this from happening again, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna, Hawkman, The Atom, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and The Flash (Barry Allen) decide to not only erase Dr. Light's memory of the incident but try to shift his personality.

Dr. Light's memories are restored during his confrontation with the heroes. After Dr. Light makes his escape, Superman informs the group that Dr. Light couldn't have done it based on Dr. Mid-nite's autopsy. As the investigation continues, more family  members of the super hero community are targeted. The question remains--who is the killer and how did this person learn the secret identities of the heroes?

With a cast of this magnitude, a basic, but not extensive knowledge is needed of DC Comics. The story is a great mystery but it is so much more than a "who done it" story. At its core, Identity Crisis is about family. As we witness families reunite, fall apart, and build even stronger bonds, "Identity Crisis" explores the measures that people will go to for their loved ones. Brad Metlzer has composed a story filled with great character moments. Each of these scenes reminds us why these various characters are so loved and revered. I had no prior knowledge of  Ralph Dibny prior to this story but he quickly became one of my favorite characters. During Ralph's explanation of his relationship with Sue, I became so invested in the couple that I was fighting the tears at the funeral. It was all due to Metlzer's great use of dialogue and characterization.

I found Rags Morales art to be inconsistent at times. The panels that really succeeded were ones that displayed raw emotion. From the absolute rage of Deathstroke, Ralph literally failing to keep it together at his wife's funeral or the look of fear Batman's face as he rushes Robin to save Jack Drake, Morales created some very memorable moments. These panels will always standout to me because it humanizes these mythic characters.

The collected trade paper back is filled with extras. There is a gallery featuring the variant covers illustrated by Michael Turner. Morales discusses his inspiration for character designs. Metzler shares excerpts of the script. Metzler and Morales also team up to comment on their favorite scenes.

Metzler's description of the last page, with Ralph talking to his wife as he is lying in bed, can best describe the emotional roller coaster that is "Identity Crisis".  "As for the design of the page, if you look at the opening sequence of Identity Crisis, you see the heroes on top of a building (Ralph with Firehawk). The camera's looking up because the heroes are supposed to be bigger than all of us, like gods. Then when you get to the final pages of the epilogue, the camera's purposely up on the ceiling, looking down on Ralph--he's tiny, vulnerable, situated in that most "normal" place (in bed) -- all of it telling us that he is just a man. "

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