15 Things That Are Wrong With Identity Crisis
January 23, 2012
15 Things that Linkara objects to over the DC miniseries "Identity Crisis."
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (suddenly massages his forehead, groaning) There is no easy way to do this episode. I've expressed before that I am not a fan of the 2004 miniseries (holds up said miniseries...) "Identity Crisis".
(Cut to a montage of alternating shots between DC and Marvel superheroes, including crossovers between the two groups)
Linkara (v/o): I have many reasons for disliking it, not the least of which it being the starting point for a general and unnecessary darkening of the DC Universe and its characters. I've stated before that, essentially, the difference between DC and Marvel is a philosophical approach with their heroes, at least in how they started. Marvel's heroes are people you can relate to. They have issues, they have problems, they face prejudices and hatred for being different than the everyday man. DC's heroes, however, tend to be people you can look up to. They're the people you want to be like. Now, of course, there are exceptions to this on both sides and in the way they're written. You can look up to someone in the Marvel Universe and you can relate to someone in the DC Universe, but that's how I've always viewed the two different companies. As such, Marvel's stories tended to be a bit darker than DC, portraying more real-life circumstances that could crop up. Now, of course, DC has done their own fair share of darkening their characters and facing real-life situations, too. I'm not arguing that "Identity Crisis" is the only book that ever did this. "Identity Crisis", however, took the approach of darkening and making the heroes do things that are openly, morally ambiguous and went the wrong way with it. The idea is not bad in itself, but from what I've read, the impetus for this book was the misconception of "Marvel's stories are dark and that's why they're selling better than us," instead of "Marvel knows how to market their properties and get popular talent behind their books, and maybe instead of focusing all our time on trying to be number one, we should just focus on telling good stories."
Linkara: So, if I disliked this book, why am I doing this as a list instead of a massive overview of all seven issues? (hesitates slightly) Well, it's because people... really, really like this series.
Linkara (v/o): And much as I hate to admit it, there are things that I like about it, too. The artwork by Rags Morales is beautiful.
(Editor's note: "If you don't know who that is, it's NOT the cover artist Michael Turner, who could only draw two faces: male and female.")
Linkara (v/o): There's a lot of good character drama and emotion. And up until the end, you really get invested in these characters, and a good story should do that. The characters, for the most part, feel like real characters, and you truly do see the scope of the DC Universe, from lesser-known heroes to the big-named ones, with a heavy emphasis on iconography and, for a lack of a better term, cinematic visuals. But there are people who like it beyond those reasons. They think the story is genuinely good and, apparently, for a lot of people, this was their introduction to comics and the DC Universe, and as such, it has a special place in their heart. So, frankly, who the hell am I to come in, rain on their parade, and tell them this thing is a piece of crap not worthy of holding up an uneven table? I'm not here to make you feel bad for liking or disliking a comic. I am here to give my opinion.
Linkara: So that's why I'm approaching this the way that I am: I'm going to give fifteen reasons why I dislike this series. I'll make my case and, as always, leave it to you to decide for yourselves. (points to camera) These are 15 Things That Are Wrong With "Identity Crisis"!
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has "In My Life" by The Beatles playing in the background; cut (again) to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): We're not going to approach this as a standard countdown list. It's not a "top 15", it's just fifteen things that specifically bug me about this book. So let's get started with an overall plot synopsis. If you have not read this book, then I'm sorry; spoilers. If you are genuinely interested and want to go read it, stop now, there is no turning back after this.
(A montage of shots of the comic is shown as Linkara gives the synopsis...)
Linkara (v/o): Okay, Sue Dibny, wife of superhero Ralph Dibny, AKA the Elongated Man, is murdered in their home. Because the Dibnys have close ties with pretty much every hero in the DC Universe, pretty much every superhero out there is dispatched to try to uncover clues. However, a small group of superheroes believe they know the true identity of the murderer: Dr. Light. It is revealed that during what is known as the Satellite Era of the Justice League, Dr. Light infiltrated the Justice League headquarters and raped Sue Dibny. After he threatened the other heroes that he'll harm their loved ones, they use the magic of superheroine Zatana to mind-wipe him and rearrange his personality so he's more of a buffoon. During a fight, he suddenly recovers his memories and escapes, but after more incidents occur and forensic evidence is analyzed, it's clear Dr. Light is not the murderer. The real culprit? Ray Palmer's ex-wife Jean Loring. She hadn't intended to murder Sue, just frighten her by using the Atom's size-changing technology and drive Ralph back to her arms, and subsequently scare other heroes back to their loved ones so she could reunite with the Atom. After she reveals this to him, she is committed to Arkham Asylum, and the book ends with the Atom leaving to go into "Countdown", where even stupider things happened.
Linkara: If you didn't spot what was so idiotic about all of that, don't worry, I'll explain it. There are some subplots I left out of that, but we'll also get to those as we proceed through the list. Let's get started with something minor and make our way up to the bigger stuff.
(Cut to black save for text which Linkara reads (this will be the main countdown (or rather, count-up) screen)...)
Linkara (v/o): Number One: Arkham Asylum.
(Cut to scenes of Loring in Arkham)
Linkara (v/o): So, Jean Loring is guilty of, at the very least, manslaughter, if not outright murder. Even more so, she's an accessory to another murder. She is also quite clearly cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, based on her idiotic motivation. We'll get to that. However, the thing about pleading insanity is that it's not exactly an easy process. Even harder to prove, given all the crap she keeps pulling in this book. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that they went through the trial process and she was declared legally insane. WHY IN THE HELL WAS SHE SENT TO ARKHAM ASYLUM?!? She's based out of Ivy Town, which admittedly is one of those fictional cities where they don't pin down exactly where it is, but it's definitely an East Coast city, around Connecticut, Pennsylvania or New York. While Gotham City is also an East Coast town of ambiguous statehood, I'm assuming there are other mental institutions she could've been sent to OTHER THAN THE WORST MENTAL ASYLUM EVER!! Arkham Asylum is bad enough with its revolving door system for all of Batman's enemies, but it's usually depicted as a dingy, Gothic, almost medieval environment. The murder of Sue Dibny was a big damn deal in the DCU. It's a high-profile case. What judge would send Jean Loring to the same place as THE JOKER?!? Honestly, the only reason she was put there was to give the impression that the comic does take place in the DC Universe. Arkham Asylum is known to us, the readers. Thus, it holds significance to us. There's no other reason for her to be sent there.
Linkara: Of course, that's assuming that there was a lengthy trial process, which, I've gotta say... I'm not quite sure that there was.
Linkara (v/o): Ray Palmer discovers what Jean did and she responds...
Jean: I'm your wife, Ray! You can't just throw me in some cell and toss the key!
Linkara (v/o): Then BAM! We cut to Arkham Asylum, where Ray Palmer needs to fill out some paperwork! This implies that he dragged her to the asylum and had her committed there personally! THIS WOMAN MURDERED SOMEONE, RAY! God, no wonder you were traded into "Countdown"! You're guilty of violating due process of law and further dragging down Arkham's reputation, since they'll apparently take anybody if you say they're crazy!
Linkara: (pointing at camera) Jack McCoy would not approve, Ray.
(Cut to a clip of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, showing the aforementioned McCoy)
Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston): (to Mr. Kralik) Just how far up your ass is your head?
Linkara (v/o): Number Two: The fight with Deathstroke.
(Cut to panels leading up to said fight)
Linkara (v/o): Dr. Light, somehow knowing that members of the Justice League are after him... Yeah, that's never explained. ...retreats to a villain gathering and says he'll pay anybody for protection. And there just so happens to be Deathstroke the Terminator, longtime arch nemesis of the Teen Titans, hanging out there and willing to take his money. The heroes track down Dr. Light, but are stopped by Deathstroke, who swears to protect him. What follows is a beat-down that one could compare with Prometheus in "Cry for Justice" in just how silly it is. To the comic's defense, the heroes are taken by surprise by Deathstroke's presence, and I could see him knocking down a few of them, but man, oh, man, this feels like a damn lazy fight! The thing is that the writer of "Identity Crisis", Brad Meltzer, is a huge fan of the original "New Teen Titans" comic, where Deathstroke premiered, and thus had elevated Deathstroke to uber-badass unstoppable levels. Except, like any fanboy sometimes can get, he lets his enthusiasm about the character override what actually happened in those stories!
(Cut to an earlier comic featuring Deathstroke)
Linkara (v/o): If you read back at how Deathstroke worked in those comics, the guy was constantly moving around, staying on his toes, having to use every skill he had to fight the Teen Titans. And they still landed some punches on him!
(Cut back to "Identity Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): Here, though, for half of this fight, he's standing still!
Linkara: This is one of those times where you kind of take yourself out of the comic and realize that a sniper rifle is more effective than flashy superpowers. And in a book about superheroes, we really shouldn't be thinking that.
Linkara (v/o): There are more problems with this fight than just that, not the least of which how the Flash is taken out, but the big one for me is how he takes down Kyle Rayner, the Green Lantern: he grabs Kyle's hands... AND DISABLES THE RING BY HIS OWN WILLPOWER OVER KYLE'S. Um... BULLCRAP! I mean, I knew the Guardians of the Universe were really damn stupid... Just see recent issues of "Green Lantern" for evidence of that. ...but they designed their super weapons so that if your foe just happens to be holding your hand, they could override the damn things?! A bit of a design flaw, is all I'm saying.
Linkara: Or, it could just be a really lame way to try to get him out of the fight, because otherwise, it should take Kyle about... (looks up thought briefly) oh, (holds up two fingers) two seconds to squash Deathstroke in a big green fist.
Linkara (v/o): Number Three: Doctor Light learning the truth.
(Cut to shots in the comic of Dr. Light's revelation)
Linkara (v/o): This is another minor one, but it feels really, really annoying to me. Okay, near the end of the aforementioned fight, the heroes get into a struggle with Deathstroke. This triggers Dr. Light to suddenly remember what the heroes did to him and basically knock everyone out in a fit of rage. First of all, that feels like one hell of a contrivance. It's been years since they did this to him, and only now does he get reminded? What, did he never get into a struggle with anybody else? I don't know, maybe it's because these specific people are in this struggle, but it still feels forced. On top of that, though, he's just gotten his full personality restored, AND HE'S ENRAGED!!! (beat) And... he doesn't try to get his revenge right there? Just out of anger? The dude explodes into a bright light! And then just runs away?! What the hell?! I-I know this is a small point, but for a book that's supposed to be taking all this very seriously and straight and mature, that's a real stupid and unrealistic thing for a character to do!
Linkara: (as Dr. Light, pointing at camera angrily) YOU'VE RUINED THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS OF MY LIFE! I'LL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!! (beat) I'm gonna go home and tweet about it first, BUT I'LL BE BACK, YOU BASTARDS! (gets up and leaves)
Linkara (v/o): Speaking of a mind-wipe, that brings us to Number Four: The other mindwipe [sic].
(Cut to shots leading up to Batman's mind wipe)
Linkara (v/o): See, later in the book, we discover that Dr. Light wasn't the only person they screwed around with that night. Batman was a member of the League, too, and he came back several minutes later to discover what the League was doing. He didn't take it well. Now, instead of stopping and explaining that they took a vote and he could send his vote against it as well, thus creating a tie and stopping the situation right there and acting like logical individuals, they instead decide to wipe the last ten minutes from Batman's memory. WHAT... THE HELL?!? Look, I don't approve of the mind wipe of Dr. Light, but one could make a good case in favor of it from an ethical and philosophical standpoint. It's actually a really good moral dilemma and has been explored in science fiction before.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Babylon 5)
Linkara (v/o): One example that springs to mind is Babylon 5, in the episode "Passing Through Gethsemane".
(Cut to a shot of the cover for a comic entitled "Squadron Supreme")
Linkara (v/o): Or if you want a comic example, "Squadron Supreme" in the '80s also examined the idea of mind-wiping supervillains to great effect.
(Cut back to "Identity Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): But the instant they decided to include this second mind-wipe, it ruined any argument one could make in favor of it, because now the people perpetrating it are altering the memories of a friend who did nothing wrong to cover up their own crime! I no longer have sympathy for their position. I get the feeling that this one was an editorial mandate, but an unnecessary one. In the lead-up to the miniseries "Infinite Crisis", DC split the trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, making them distrust one another. Batman in particular was pushed to be more paranoid of his fellow heroes. The thing is, though, you can still do that without mind-wiping him. He could've found out what they did and still been extremely distrustful of them. This, though? It helps ruin the book. Still, though, this does make me wonder what was going through his head while this happened.
(Batman's voice is heard in Linkara's head as he becomes more alarmed, based on what Batman says)
Batman (v/o): Oh, God! They're mind-wiping Dr. Light! ...Wait, why can't I move? Why... Oh, God! My mind's being changed! Filled with thoughts of... Metallica?! Oh, no! THEY'RE MAKING ME LOVE ROCK 'N' ROLL! NOOOOOO!!!
Linkara (v/o): Number Five: Jean Loring's motivation is really, really stupid.
(Shots of Loring are shown)
Linkara (v/o): Okay, as I said, the motivation behind all of this nonsense was to get back together with Ray Palmer. That's it. That's her entire reason for doing all of this. And in case you're wondering, no, he wasn't seeing anybody else, nor did he express hatred towards her or the like. In fact, the narration seems to make it clear that he would've willingly gotten back together with her. Lady, pick up the phone, call him up, and ASK HIM OUT TO DINNER! Spill your heart out that you realized it was a mistake to break up with him and you want to do what's necessary to get him back! Do not start up some convoluted plan to "scare everybody" by "disorienting Sue Dibny"! How would that even work, anyway? You were attacking her microscopically. No one would've known that she was under attack. She probably would've thought it was just a fainting spell because she was pregnant. Oh, and by the way, it makes perfect sense that you would brought a FLAMETHROWER with you...
(Editor's note: "She brought a heavy trench coat, too, just in case it rained inside her brain, I guess.")
Linkara (v/o): ...if you were "only going to scare her." Hell, even "52" made fun of that plot hole.
Jean: I shrank some other weapons... just in case...
Linkara (v/o): Just in case what?! In case you encountered tiny bacteria demons inside her cerebral cortex that want to take over the world?! The Arkham thing from before is probably also to try to justify that she's completely nuts, but that's really unsatisfying for what's supposed to be a complex, adult mystery story. And even then, she could've done the same thing without all this horse hockey! Ray didn't actually reunite with her until she faked an attempt on her own life. Why didn't she just do that from the start?! That way, you don't potentially KILL ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS!
Linkara: But oh, no, (waves arms around) we wouldn't have had her be crazy otherwise! You know, for a crazy person, she seemed pretty functional in her actions. That brings me to my next point...
Linkara (v/o): Number Six: The investigation.
(The investigation in question is shown)
Linkara (v/o): One of the scenes I really actually do like is the crime scene investigation bit right after Sue's death. Green Arrow narrates that after Superman's death, the superhero community began working together and making plans about what to do in the event one of them or one of their loved ones is killed. And because Sue was linked to so many of them, even tangentially, they've got a plethora of heroes with advanced technology, techniques and skills to call upon, from the robotic Metal Men doing metallurgical analysis to Mister Miracle, the world's greatest escape artist with the advanced tech of New Genesis, to even the Atom literally going through the carpet to search for clues. And on top of all of that, Batman, the world's greatest detective, is leading the charge, because even someone as angsty and pissed off as Batman cared about Sue and wants to investigate this.
Linkara: (enraged) AND THEY DON'T FIND A DAMN THING!!!
Linkara (v/o): YOU GOTTA BE FREAKING KIDDING ME!! I guess the implication is supposed to be that because Jean Loring is a lawyer, that she knows all about forensic evidence, and that the flamethrower was supposed to cover her tracks. BUT NO! I'm sorry, but when you get all this tech, all this experience, all this stuff that would put modern forensic science to shame, SHE'S NOT GONNA BE ABLE TO GET AROUND THIS! She would leave hair or skin or she'd have soot on her shoes or something! We see her grow back to normal size after she "accidentally" kills Sue! She would have left some kind of trace, even if it was some energy emission from the size-changing belt! And come on, after all the villain leads dry up, they don't start investigating friends and family, too? Look, I get that it's not a happy prospect, but these heroes should know first-hand that sometimes aliens take over your mind, or just something snaps and a friend or colleague becomes a villain. And even if we buy the "she's a lawyer, she knows how to hide her evidence" thing, she's supposed to be out of her freakin' mind! Someone like this, who is impaired enough to believe that she can frighten her ex-husband into coming back to him instead of logically CALLING HIM UP AND SAYING SHE WANTS TO GET BACK TOGETHER WITH HIM IS NOT GONNA HAVE THEIR THOUGHTS STRUCTURED WELL ENOUGH TO PLAN AND ORCHESTRATE SOMETHING SO COMPLEX THAT SHE FOOLS ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE!! I might have actually bought it, except for the part where she grows back to normal size! There would have been some evidence left by that! And what's worse is that she was supposed to be in a panic while she did this! She maintains that killing Sue was an accident!
(Cut to a clip of CSI: Miami)
Horatio Caine (David Caruso): Our accident (dons sunglasses) is not an accident at all.
Linkara (v/o): Number Seven: The death of Jack Drake.
(A shot of a cover of "Identity Crisis" is shown, depicting a depressed Robin sitting on the floor and crying)
Linkara (v/o) Up until this miniseries, Tim Drake occupied a very unique position as a Robin. Unlike Dick Grayson or Jason Todd before him, he still had a living parent who was a part of his life. He didn't become Robin out of a desire for vengeance or out of anger, but because he honestly felt that Batman needed a positive, happier influence on him.
(Shots of the events leading up to the death of Jack Drake, Tim's father, are shown)
Linakra (v/o): Eventually, Tim's father found out about his son being Robin and eventually, he accepted it. Buuuut then this story happened. One of the subplots of the story is the villain Captain Boomerang, down on his luck, reuniting with his estranged son. He decides to pull one last job and is hired to murder Jack Drake. What he doesn't know is that this was set up by Jean Loring so that Captain Boomerang would take the fall as the one behind everything. She had sent notes to Lois Lane and Jack Drake, warning them that the killer knew who their loved ones were. We'll forgive for the moment that she should not know some of the secret identities that she does. That's not that big a deal in the long run. In the note to Jack Drake, she also included a handgun, her intent being that Jack Drake would shoot Captain Boomerang and he'd live. Again, quite the foresight for the crazy woman, but whatever. But in the ensuing fight, Captain Bommerang and Jack Drake kill each other. Killing a villain if you feel there are no more stories to tell with them? That's fine. It's karma; bad people have bad things happen to them. But Jack Drake's death... was really useless in the grand scheme of things. All it did in the end was push Tim Drake into becoming more like Batman... WHICH IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! It's my philosophy in superhero writing that a major change should not happen unless there are more stories that can be potentially told with this major change than by keeping things the status quo. Honestly, though, killing him feels like it closed off so many avenues for stories about his father still being alive.
Linkara: It really feels sometimes like writers have absolutely no idea how to write characters who don't have dead loved ones. (melodramatically) Oh, my God! This character is expressing an emotion other than deep-seated angst and sadness! (takes a gun and puts it to his own head) I CAN'T HANDLE THIS PRESSURE!!
Linkara (v/o): However, as much as this death bugs me, it doesn't bug me as much as the next problem with "Identity Crisis"...
Linkara (v/o): Number Eight: Firestorm's death.
(Shots of Firestorm's death in the comic are shown)
Linkara (v/o): After the fake attack on Jean Loring, the heroes step it up and start going after villains, desperately trying to find someone who knows something. One such battle has Firestorm and a few other heroes fighting a villain called Shadow Thief. He gets a hold of Shining Knight's sword and stabs Firestorm through the chest. Now, the stabbing itself won't actually kill him. But here's the thing for those who don't know about Firestorm: he's also called the Nuclear Man.
(Cut to a brief clip of Superman IV, showing Nuclear Man, then cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): No, not that Nuclear Man! But yeah, piercing a nuclear reactor, big boom. So he quickly flies into the sky, knowing he's going to explode and... well, does so, dying. So, Firestorm's death: what impact does it have on the story, on this overarcing plot and mystery, involving so many heroes and so many characters?!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: (speaking into P.A. phone) NOTHIIIIIING!
(As he says this over the P.A. phone, everyone in the hospital overhears it; he then tosses the phone aside; cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): It is a completely pointless and unnecessary death, shoved into the story to set up the solo series of the new Firestorm. I have no complaints about that Firestorm or his series, but man, oh, man, is the scene completely worthless to the story of "Identity Crisis", adding another body that we never get to see mourned. And this wasn't a civilian like Jean Loring or Jack Drake. This is a hero with an established history in the DCU! HE WAS A PROMINENT MEMBER OF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE! And he's killed off for no reason other than a shock death and to clear the slate for a new character!
Linkara: "Identity Crisis" set the tone of the DC Universe for the next several years. (game show music plays as he speaks) So, if you want to see more of this brilliance, check out such groundbreaking stories like (shots of the following appear in the corner...) "Amazons Attack", "Countdown", and "Cry for Justice". DC Comics: Read our stories! You care, we kill!
Linkara (v/o): Number Nine: The mystery.
(Cut to shots of the comic illustrating Linkara's point)
Linkara (v/o): This ties with earlier points, but I feel it deserves its own spot from a literary standpoint. Theoretically, "Identity Crisis" is a mystery story. The way a mystery is supposed to work is that the reader is provided the same clues that the characters are given, and thus we are trying to uncover the mystery as well. And if you haven't figured it out by the time the resolution is given, you can then learn the answer and see where all the clues fit. Sure, you may not have figured it out yourself, but it does ultimately make sense. The mystery here... (sighs) doesn't work, and the clues don't match the resolution we see, and any common sense would solve this right away. The premise is, admittedly, a great locked door mystery: how does the villain get in, murder people, and leave no trace behind? The way Jean Loring accomplishes it makes sense: using one of the Atom's old size-changing belts to travel over phone lines, then go inside her head and disorient her. The heroes discover the truth when they find out that she died of what was essentially a brain hemorrhage and also see tiny footprints inside her brain. That would have been a fine answer to the question... except, then you start picking it apart! With all the advanced technology, scanning equipment and expertise at their disposal, nobody thought to CHECK THE FRIGGIN' PHONE RECORDS!!! And the steps necessary for Jean Loring to be the killer are head-scratching, from the motivation issues to just a practical standpoint of how she does this stuff! The size-changing belt? Fine, but does she regularly have flamethrowers around her house?! She said she shrank other weapons, too! What the hell else did she bring along with her for this?! She fakes the attack on herself? Fine, but that was a big gamble and there are continuity flaws with this story. When we first see her in the news, she's got cuts and bruises and she's bleeding. Were they self-inflicted? Unless you do a really good job of that, medical examiners can tell when injuries are self-inflicted. But assuming they were, when we get a flashback of her explaining how she did everything, we just see her size-changing into the noose without any injuries! She calls up Ray for help and then to just doing all this random damage? And then she's supposed to shrink herself, then shrink up into the noose – except we clearly see that someone else is tying a gag around her mouth! Someone wearing gloves! She's not wearing gloves, according to this flashback scene!
(Editor's note: "Wait, she's wearing gloves here, but then the gloves vanish when she's in the noose? What?")
Linkara (v/o): And we also see that she didn't gag herself in that, so what the hell?! How are we supposed to solve this when it looks like someone else attacked her, but then you contradict that later on?! What were the clues there that we were supposed to figure out it was her? How did she get in touch with The Calculator to hire Captain Boomerang to attack Jack Drake? How did she hide her account so that it couldn't be traced back to her? Also, it's fair for mystery stories to have red herrings or false leads. That's perfectly okay. But the false lead of Dr. Light takes up two issues, with ramifications that aren't explored in this story. From a narrative standpoint, the revelations about Dr. Light and Batman hold no real significance to the story itself or the mystery. It's just a big misdirection that exists to have ramifications for other stories later! How was anyone supposed to piece this together when the facts change and a major plot point aren't actually a part of the story?!
Linkara: Now, I myself am not a detective. Far from it. As such, I have solicited the advice of a professional detective to see if they could solve the mystery of Sue Dibny's death. Sherlock Oan, have you cracked the case?
(Cut to Kyle Kallgren dressed in a Sherlock Holmes-type outfit, complete with a cap and pipe and holding up a magnifying glass)
Sherlock Oan: Indeed I have, sir.
Linkara: So what's the answer?
Sherlock Oan: Based on the evidence you've provided, with the cast of characters, developed powers, abilities of those in this universe, and all the clues that the story gives us... it is my professional opinion that... a wizard did it.
Linkara: (staring in confusion) A wizard?
Sherlock Oan: (spinning his magnifying glass in his hand) Yes, I know. I was just as surprised as you are.
Linkara: ...You're not a real detective, are you?
Sherlock Oan: No, but I play one on TV.
Linkara: And I'm not getting my money back, am I?
Sherlock Oan: (smiling) Oh, not a cent.
Linkara (v/o): Number Ten: The retcons.
(A shot of the comic cover is shown)
Linkara (v/o): I would hope that many people by now are familiar with the term, "retcon". If you aren't, it's shorthand for "retroactive continuity", or in simpler terms, "changing something that happened in the past than what you think happened". Retcons are not in and of themselves bad, since, technically, any new information we learn about a character's past simply informs the character.
(A shot of the comic itself is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Bad retcons are ones that fly in the face in things established about the character, something contrary to what we know and love.
(Cut to shots of "Batman: Fortunate Son")
Linkara (v/o): For example, I love to bring up Batman's absolute hatred of rock 'n' roll, because of "Batman: Fortunate Son". In that story, it was retconned that right before Bruce Wayne had movie night with his parents that ended in him touching his dead mother's breasts, his father told him not to listen to rock 'n' roll, that it was "evil". In addition, he spent a summer with a Sid Vicious knockoff, and that helped inform his opinion that a genre of music was nothing but death and crime and the rage of a beast. It is absolutely moronic and unnecessary. Bad retcons hurt characters because now these events are a part of the character. They were always present, even if we didn't know about them.
(Cut back to "Identity Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): Thus, we have this in-continuity retcon that the Justice League not only altered the personality of Dr. Light, but erased their friend and teammate's memory of the event! Any time these characters spoke with Batman or spoke with each other in the past several years, THESE EVENTS WERE PRESENT. Any time in their stories they had to make an ethical choice, this existed in their own memories and experiences, and it's never been brought up again until now. Creating a situation where a hero must make a morally ambiguous choice is one thing, but this says that they've been living with this for years! It colors all readings of past, knowing that this occurred in the background, even if the original creators behind those stories didn't plan on it.
Linkara: By the way, have I ever told all of you how I got my (reaches into coat pocket takes out his...) "Miller Time" watch? (dramatic music plays as he speaks dramatically) A thief broke into our home one night and said he would kill me and everyone I ever knew and loved. In my rage, I beat his face in so much, it was flat against the ground. (holds up watch) And then I took this watch off of him as a memento. I buried the bloody corpse in Nevada. (after a pause, then, the music stops as he speaks in an agitated tone) Of course I didn't! The thing was a Christmas present when I was, like, thirteen or something! But if that was the case, it'd be pretty hard to watch all of my old "Miller Time" episodes, now, wouldn't it?!
Linkara (v/o): Dark retcons aren't necessarily bad either, but when it's supposed to be something as important and life-changing as we're shown, they should've thought about it a little more. And that brings us to one of the big problems I have with this story...
Linkara (v/o): Number Eleven: The rape.
(The comic's depiction of rape is shown)
Linkara (v/o): I've gone into this briefly during the "Action Comics #593" review, where I basically stated that I'm not qualified to cover the subject of rape. However, because this is such a big problem with this book, we need to get this out of the way. Rape is not a subject to be treated lightly and certainly not something to be used in the way it's used here. Rape is often employed by writers not because they have a story they want to tell about rape, but because rape is something that "happens to women". Not in the real-world sense, of course; rape is something that can and does happen to people from all genders, ages and walks of life. But in the hands of a lesser-skilled writer, rape is generally employed as a "thing that happens to women", and it is no less evident than in this book. This story is not about Sue Dibny's rape. Sue is essentially a prop, and we only see the rape in how it effects EVERYBODY ELSE! The rape is used only as a catalyst for other characters! We don't know how she recovers from the incident. Where is her story?! For that matter, why did this have to be a rape?! It could've been anything else: a kidnapping, an attempted murder. Instead, it goes forrape for two reasons: one, the assumption that rape is something that "happens to women"; and two, to give them in the ear that this is a mature story, edgy, and more adult. But the story is not handled in an adult way. A mature story would focus on the rape itself and show how it affected Sue as a character. Instead, it's nothing more than a red herring, added for shock value. You can't just throw adult elements into the story and ignore them! You have to deal with the consequences of it!
Linkara: Oh, and by the way, this story has about... mmm, four or five narrators sprinkled throughout the book. None of them are women. Just sayin'.
Linkara (v/o): And the rape is another retcon; this is now a part of the character. It's something that happened to her, and a part of her history from the satellite era until her death. And of course, it was never explored before because the creators didn't come up with it until this story! And you know what? It never will be explored! Not just because of the DC launch last September, but because Brad Meltzer and all the other people involved were not interested in telling that story. Instead, they're just casually using rape as a plot device. And that is wrong, damn it.
Linkara (v/o): Number 12: "A love letter to the Silver Age".
(Cut to a shot of the cover of this comic)
Linkara (v/o): Let's get to the nitty-gritty of why this story was made. Not just because of the attempt at "darkening" the universe. No, no, I mean why Brad Meltzer says he wrote this story. A phrase that I've heard attributed to him was that "Identity Crisis" was supposed to be "a love letter to the Silver Age of comics". Now, I can't actually find where he said that.
(Cut to a shot of Meltzer's website involving a Q&A with him on this story)
Linkara (v/o): But while he doesn't those exact words, he does use similar language to convey the same thing, both on his own website...
(Cut to a shot of the comic's extras in the trade paperback displaying further text on the subject by Meltzer)
Linkara (v/o): ...and in the extras featured in the "Identity Crisis" trade paperback.
Linkara: And if this is supposed to be a ("finger quotes") "love letter" to that era of comics, then it feels more like a Dear John letter.
Linkara (v/o): One, the Satellite Era of the Justice League took place in the Bronze Age, the '70s through the early '80s! Not the Silver Age! Two, a "love letter" to that stuff?! Um... no!
(Cut to a montage of shots of comics from the Silver Age)
Linkara (v/o): The Silver Age was the time when big-headed future people when back in time to stop solar-powered flying cars; the time when Batman put on multicolored outfits every other story; and the time when Superman got the power to shoot rainbows from his fingers that shot out a miniature version of himself!
Linkara: And yeah, I'm not joking about that last one! THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED!!
(A shot of the cover of "Batman 147" is shown)
Linkara (v/o): It was goofy, lighthearted and kind of endearing in how completely insane these stories were. It was fun.
(Cut back to "Identity Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): But this?! "Identity Crisis" is many things, but I would never describe it as "fun". It's morose, depressing, serious and heartbreaking. If this is a love letter to that age, then you had a messed-up relationship with the Silver Age, Brad Meltzer!
(Cut back to the comic's extras from the trade paperback)
Linkara (v/o): Three, let's address this specific quote: (reads quote) "My other goal was to see the other Silver Age stories in a brand-new way. But I think a lot of people chuck them to the side and say, That's fun, that's cute, but they're a coloring book and we don't need them anymore. I love those stories. I grew up on those stories, and those stories changed my life. They taught me my values."
Linkara: If you love those stories so much, love the characters, and love the ("finger quotes") "values that they taught", then why the hell Michigan did you decide to turn those heroes into, for a lack of a better way to describe them, VILLAINS?!? Please, (makes connecting motions with his fingers) connect the dots for me, because I really don't get your logic!
Linkara (v/o): Great Silver Age stories... lead to rape and heroes doing morally questionable things? I'm sorry, but I just don't get it.
Linkara (v/o): Number Thirteen: The Captain Boomerang subplot.
(Shots of Captain Boomerang in the comic are shown)
Linkara (v/o): I'll keep this one quick, but it's essentially the same complaint as before: this subplot has nothing to do with the story. If it was intended for Captain Boomerang to be a red herring for the reader, that would make sense, except it's made pretty clear early on that he's not the killer the son he loved, but never got to spend any time with. It's heartbreaking that he should come to a tragic end, along with Jack Drake. But this story is completely out of place in "Identity Crisis"! What exactly was its reasons for being here? To show that the villains are people, too, with their own lives and dreams?
(Cut to a shot of Dr. Light)
Linkara (v/o): Um, that's nice, but you kind of undercut that by having Dr. Light unrepentantly promise to rape and murder the loved ones of the heroes, so we have an actual moral dilemma about screwing with his personality!
(Cut back to Captain Boomerang)
Linkara (v/o): It's no better when you consider not even the villains seem to want Captain Boomerang around, describing him as a letch and showing him as a drug dealer just to score some cheap cash. We're supposed to sympathize with him after that? And especially sympathize with the guy who's also responsible for the death of a longtime supporting character? Sorry, but no! I'm not gonna feel bad about him.
Linkara: So, again, why is it here? Well, I hate to say it, but it really feels like...
Linkara and Spoony (v/o): (audio from review; singing) Padding, padding, padding! Padding, padding, padding! Padding, padding, padding!
Linkara (v/o): Number Fourteen: The Dr. Light retcon.
(Shots of Dr. Light in old comics are shown)
Linkara (v/o): Don't worry, just because this is so high on the list, doesn't mean that I think it's worse than the rape, but this complete rumination of Dr. Light as a villain has to be addressed. Look, Dr. Light had not exactly had the most illustrious career as a villain, and he has routinely gotten his ass handed to him again and again. However, "Identity Crisis" suggests that he was a complete buffoon for years because of this mind-wipe. Except, he really isn't a buffoon. I admit, it's been a while since the full new "Teen Titans" series, but I think I remember, like, one or two issues where they kind of had him as a joke. And that was it. In his original stories, he took on the Justice League and won! Almost took over the world, in fact. He wasn't some creepy pervert looking to rape and molest. He was still an intelligent villain who put together a team and did a lot of damage against the Justice League and the Teen Titans. And hell, even if we bought the "he was a buffoon in those stories" idea, he's appeared since then in "JLA". In a really stupid-looking costume, I admit, but he was serious and didn't act like a moron at all.
(Cut to Dr. Light in "Infinity Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): And again, for something that's treated with so much gravitas and plot importance, IT AFFECTS NOTHING! After Dr. Light regains his memory, we see him one more time, sitting in a chair and smiling in an homage of "King Lear". That's straight from Brad Meltzer, by the way. It'd be a terrifying and glorious image, promising his return and that he has such big plans... IF IT HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE STORY!
Linkara: Oh, yeah, and his "big plans"? He gets his ass kicked by the Titans, then shows up in "Green Arrow", where the majority of his dialogue is "Rape, rape, rape, I love to rape!" (shrugs disgustedly)
Linkara (v/o): And finally... Number Fifteen: What does this story actually accomplish?
(Cut to shots of the series' covers)
Linkara (v/o): Why did this story need to be told? Why did Sue Dibny have to die to tell this story? Why did there need to be a retcon? What do you have to show for this story when all is said and done? Now, I've already said why this was made from behind the scenes, but the questions of purpose and accomplishment still need to be asked. The goal of this story, ultimately, was to start moving things on a different path for the DC Universe. (sighs) And it did so, but in a misguided direction.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Infinite Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): That isn't to say that everything that resulted from this was bad. "Infinite Crisis", while a flawed story, I still found immensely enjoyable.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of an issue of "Blue Beetle")
Linkara (v/o): The Jamie Reyes Blue Beetle eventually resulted from this.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of an issue of "52")
Linkara (v/o): "52" eventually resulted from this. But with the good must also come the bad.
(Cut back to "Identity" Crisis", followed by a montage of other bad DC comics)
(Cut back to "Identity Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): Within the confines of the story itself, what did it accomplish? What new stories could be told? Well, you had Dr. Light's revenge. You had the fallout from the rest of the heroes finding out about what the Justice League did. You had heroes distrusting one another, broken friendships, and more retcons that got passed down the way, but we won't discuss them here. So I'm not gonna say this story was completely worthless, but most of that really had nothing to do with what the story was supposed to be about: the murder of Sue Dibny. So I'm not going to say that the story was completely worthless. There is a good story buried in this, but it's ultimately bogged down by plot holes, terrible changes to established characters, and the idea that because something is "darker", that it's somehow better. So there is the final thing that I find wrong with it: that it really accomplishes nothing in the grand scheme of things. DC seems to have said that "Identity Crisis" is still in continuity with its relaunch, but less than ten years later, whatever impact it may have had at the time is largely forgotten in the stories. Hell, Firestorm is alive again – sort of. Comic books are confusing, and this one is just draining.
Linkara: (massaging his forehead) Oy, this week was just depressing. (brightens up) Well, we must move on. Tune in next week for a story about sex, eugenics and AIDS! (becomes upset and massages his forehead again) You know, I do this to myself. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
If you still don't get why using rape in this manner is inappropriate, do some research on "rape culture" and in the various ways rape is viewed in modern society.
This is also one where the title makes no sense. It's not REALLY that much of an "identity" crisis, not in the psychological way or even as a crisis referring to their secret identities, since Jean Loring never "intended" to kill anybody and thus their identities were never in jeopardy nor was their having secret identities a factor in this other than them having loved ones, which was going to happen even without secret identities since they'd be friends with one another.
(Stinger: A panel of the comic is shown, displaying Green Arrow narrating and addressing The Flash)
Green Lantern: (narrating) People make fun of secret identities-- wondering how we kept them up for so long.
Green Arrow: It's because we worked for* it.
- NOTE: It's actually "worked at it", not "for it".
Linkara (v/o): (yelling) YOU HIDE YOUR SECRET IDENTITY WITH ONLY A DOMINO MASK! YOU HAVE A BIG, BLOND ROBIN HOOD BEARD AS GREEN ARROW AND OLIVER QUEEN! YOU SURE AS HELL DON'T WORK VERY HARD ON KEEPING IT!