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My Identity Crisis Follow-Up

Brian Hibbs

I think there’s a lot more interesting stuff said by Hibbs and in our comments (I thought Donnie’s comment about Jean hatching some utterly insane plan rather than just saying she wanted Ray back was hilariously dead-on. (“Meltzer’s way seems so…Minnesotan.”)) but I’ll sort of tack on my two cents by way of responding to Hibbs and some of the comments developing in his entry.

IDENTITY CRISIS #7: Unlike ADD, I bought the first issue of IC and thought it was decently written, which is really why I had hopes for this mini. It wasn’t unearned hope or me buying into the hype–that first issue was well-written enough that I cared about Ralph & Sue, and Sue’s murder carried a lot more weight than if it had just been exploitational junk. Even when it veered into over-the-top melodrama (that damn pregnancy test!), it was done with with an eye toward maximum emotional punch. This wasn’t Armageddon 2001 or Knightfall or The Death of Superman: this seemed like the work of a small tightly focused team that was both very talented and very focused on the craft.

And, I dunno, perhaps that was the problem with Identity Crisis right there: if that first issue had been more inept, or seemed a little more hackish, maybe I wouldn’t have had my hopes set so high for the story. I mean, honestly, Crisis on Infinite Earths is, I think, a very lovely-looking pile of inept junk. Even when I first read it as a kid, I thought it was flimsy as a story. But I don’t know if Crisis ever promised to be more than a spectacle, an event that would change the DC Universe, promises which it delivered on very well. Looking at all the stuff jammed into Identity Crisis, from the re-invention of the Calculator to the Justice League mindwipe thing to, uh, wasn’t there some guy who could run really, really fast and that wasn’t particularly explained?–all of it reads like a typical DC event: a bunch of twists on the DC Mythos, some new stuff thrown into the mix for creators to play with, and a certain amount of sensationalism to sell some comic books.

For me, a lot of the problem is that this book started high and got a little bit crappier issue by issue until, by issue #7, we had some really junky, poorly done scenes (that whole ending with Ralph talking to Sue is supposed to be heartwarming, I know, but frankly the guy came off like a nutjob. When Ollie told him to talk to Sue, I don’t think Ollie meant to pretend Sue was still responding–and that’s just one of a dozen examples). And I certainly didn’t expect such a big ol’ cheating pile of nonsense as Hibbs points out in his review. I’d like to think a good editor would have been able to point out all the stuff that didn’t work…and even take the time to hold the last issue if rewrites were necessary. One good scene in issue #5 or #6 between Ray and Jean, crafted with the same care as those opening scenes with Ralph and Sue, for example, would have gone a long way to making the mystery side of the finale more palatable for me.

Finally, it seems to me the title of the series, Identity Crisis, works on several levels with the story–obviously, since it’s about the problems of being a superhero with a public identity, and the JLA mindwipe angle is a different type of Identity Crisis–but maybe more importantly on the meta-level: what does DC want the DCU to be? High-profile, quality comics? Grim and gritty realistic books? Uplifting tales of heroes and icons? The fast buck? By trying to be all of these things at once, an event book like Identity Crisis points to an identity crisis at work at DC itself–one that it would do well to resolve before it alienates everyone by promising everything and satisfactorily delivering nothing.

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