Recently on the Dixonverse Board John Popa posted his impressions of DC’s big-sell super-event Identity Crisis.

MY Identity Crisis Thoughts (Spoilers out the whazoo)

So I was sitting home last night and my roommate had set ‘Identity Crisis’ 1-6 by my door and I plowed through the whole thing.

My DCU background is that I’ve read most everyone of these characters at some point or another so while I may not be experts on their continuity or the ins and outs of their histories, I like to think I know who everyone is, what they do and what they’re like. (Some of the obscure villains are lost on me, though.)

If there’s something to like in this mini-series, it’s lost on me.

I’m all for new ideas, new interpretations and even harder takes on classic super heroes. If a writer has a new idea and the publisher wants to do it, I think they should go for it.

I don’t think this mini-series is a good idea. It’s one thing to do a more intense Batman story as there’s the *possibilkity of that in the character, it’s one thing to take Animal Man and put him into a different situation than we’re used to seeing him as not a *lot* of people have a deep-rooted history with Animal Man and no one’s done too much with him anyway.

It’s ANOTHER thing to say ‘all the time you’ve been reading these heroes and seeing them be the best we expect from heroes, all that time they’ve been brainwashing one another and mind wiping their identities from super villains, all for the greater good of protecting their families.’ I don’t think this idea jives with the stories that have been put forth this entire time or with how the characters have reacted to moral dilemmas otherwise.

I don’t think personally that super heroes with public identities would be putting their families at great risk. As others have noted, police officers rarely in real life find their families hounded by criminals (although I’m sure it’s happened.) But my personal thought is that I don’t think deep down that super villains would REALLY want the heroes specifically *going after* them on such a personal level. I think the villains are trying to get away with things and don’t appreciate the heroes stopping them but I don’t think that they want the heroes chasing them down with a vengeance. I think the super villains, especially the small and petty ones, would realize that’s not a good way to keep their freedom or, for that matter, their physical health.

So I don’t think even the retcon of having Sue raped and having Dr. Light *vow* way back then to do these horrible things to super hero’s families is as resonant as the writer must think it is (and, no, just making something really uncomfortable to read is not the same thing as creating dramatic tension.)

As for the constant rumors (and now strong implication) that the culrpit here is a good guy gone bad, honestly I hate it. This isn’t pro wrestling where you should be turning a guy whenever his character needs a boost. Super heroics is a heart-and-soul proposition, good people become good guys, bad people become bad guys. I don’t see people flipping back and forth, especially established characters, being something that can be pulled off in a way that’s satisfactory to the readers. At the end of the day: these heroes face life and death drama all the time, to say that there’s one *more* thing that could drive them evil (barring magic or mind control) is a tough sell to me. Six issues into this story, I’m not sure what one-issue explanation could possibly elevate and make sense of the scenarios put forth in this mini-series.

I also think DC in putting forth this sort of story is forgetting something important about the way super hero comics are read: at the end of the day, readers *like* their super villains. We know what we’re reading is entertainment and with the villains appearing as often as the heroes around the universes, there’s a certain affection we get for the bad guys in comic books. Sure if The Joker were *real* we’d give him the same respect we give, oh, Ted Bundy. But he’s NOT real and we allow ourselves to be more morbidly entertained by his shenanigans in the world of fiction. There are people who like Batman’s clever and original group of villains more than they like Batman himself. But when you start getting into stories of rape, no one’s going to want to read a story where that guy’s the villain. No one’s going to want to see that guy *almost* beat Superman. No one’s going to want to associate with a villain like that. I have a sketchbook I take to cons where all I get are sketches of villains — why would I want a Dr. Light sketch now? On that intangible level the character’s been ruined.

As for the meat of the work itself. As most of you know, I’m all for comics being denser, slower reads with more depth in the captioning and the dialoguing, as well as the plotting and the character interaction. But all the monologues in this book are just a writer explaining that which he’s not otherwise showing. Don’t TELL ME Wonder Woman gave a powerful and moving eulogy, WRITE a powerful and moving eulogy and I’ll know what it’s supposed to mean.

I don’t like the art either — I’m not sure Morales is getting the faces over very well, a lot of them are long and their expressions look strained and awkard.

This mini-series is still trapped in the notion that making super heroes more ‘realistic’ makes them better but it’s just proving the opposite true. These are not the characters to tell this story with. We know them too well and we can tell they’re being shoe-horned into a contrived backstory that we’d never believe. Making it *so* intense is just a cover to force the heroes to act the way they are but, really, the justification isn’t actually there. The writer’s just putting it there, whether the characters want it or not.

So, no, I’m not especially sold on ‘Identity Crisis,’ especially if the whole point of the thing is to give credibility to the concept of secret identities. There’s certainly a debate to be had regarding the plausibility of secret identities in today’s world and today’s super hero universes but just making the villains and the heroes this ugly isn’t addressing that question in the slightest.

I haven’t exactly been a thorough reader of the limited series thus far, but as it goes I agree with Mr. Popa.

source IP: 24.93.213.10
Posted on November 20, 2004 at 05:50:00 PM

Comments-Update:

Jim Treacher (http://www.jimtreacher.com) (68.58.58.240)
The thing that bugged me, in the three issues I bothered to read: IC assumes an intimate familiarity with every single DCU character, more familiarity than I have. I just couldn’t follow a lot of the backstory. And yet it totally futzes with those characterizations and the tone of those stories. Having Sue Dinby raped and murdered is like having Nora Charles raped and murdered. It’s completely at odds with almost every story that’s featured her. I think he said it really well: Just because something’s unpleasant doesn’t mean it’s better.

Not to mention all the howlers. I can see the Elongated Man on a stakeout, okay, but maybe the woman who projects a 4-foot fan of flame from her upper torso should have stayed home? From the STAKEOUT?

Although it’s so bad, it actually makes me curious to read one of Meltzer’s best-sellers. So he’s got that going for him.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 1:45:16 PM

Chris Arndt (35.12.19.165)
I enjoyed First Counsel.

Although for as “fast-paced” as they say Meltzer is, I think I skipped something in the middle.

The beginning is good, the ending is logical. What’s worse is that the prose is good enough that no matter what quality the story is… you’re enjoying the reading and can’t stop, regardless of how you feel about the plot. I’m not spoiling the ending of the only Meltzer novel I own or read.

George Orwell did that too; 1984 is a downer that I could not put down.

Thursday, December 02, 2004, 1:30:23 AM