ďHusbands and WivesĒ
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artist: Rags Morales (p), Michael Bair (i), Michael Turner (cover)
Publisher: DC Comics
As the hero community foolishly assumes that the late Captain Boomerang was the big, bad villain who targeted their loved ones, we see they all take a moment to reflect on the tremendous losses that the hero community has suffered over the years. However, a discovery is made during Sue Dibnyís autopsy that makes it pretty clear that Captain Boomerang was not the killer but rather another victim of the true killer.
If Brad Meltzer is taking the story in the direction that the final page would seem to suggest, than I hope heís got another card up his sleeve to shore up the motivation of the murderer, as right now the motive that it looks like heís offering up is woefully inadequate. Itís also likely to have long-time Avengers readers pointing out that Brad Meltzer is following in the footsteps of one of that titleís more infamous character arcs. Now I will concede that the revelation does earn marks for being genuinely surprising, and looking back on the previous issues I can see a couple moments where Brad Meltzer sent up a couple of major signs that this was where he planned on going with this story. All the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit, but it falls to the final issue to convince me that this was a brilliant bit of writing on Brad Meltzerís part, otherwise he has tarnished the reputation of a major DCU character simply because his story needed a big finish. I will say that while a couple of people have guessed the identity of the killer online, if this issueís revelation sticks than I have to congratulate Brad Meltzer for managing to keep most readers from guessing the truth, and even in light of this issueís big revelations Iím not entirely convinced that there might not be more to this than meets the eye, as the reason why this character wouldíve killed Sue Dibny and Jake Drake doesnít quite balance out with the reward side of the column. Still, in the end I want to wait until the big confrontation scene next issue before I decide whether Iím going to be impressed or disappointed by how this story played out.
Rags Morales turns in another solid effort, with the opening sequence where Tim races to discover the body of his father being a powerful opening to the issue that is sure to grab the full attention of even the most jaded reader. The artist also does some fine work where the DCU reflects on their own losses, particularly where J'Onn and Aquaman share their sentiments. Thereís also a great quiet moment where we see Doctor Light reflecting on recent events and coming to the realization that he's an evil man, which is wonderfully reflected on the characterís face. Also while itís not important to the overall story I have to say I rather enjoyed the photo of the assembled Justice League of America, as itís a nice moment that captures the sense of innocence lost that has become the central theme of this miniseries. Michael Turnerís cover of a grief stricken Batman also makes for an undeniably powerful visual.
I can-NOT be-LIEVE itís HIM!
I NEVER suspected it. But others did. Other readers found the clues, put the evidence together, and solved the mystery. And thatís why Iím giving this issue , because right now, at this point in time, this story is something that I havenít seen in a superhero comic in years. It is a true mystery story. Brad Meltzer has written a mystery that the reader could solve. He gave you all the clues. He told you and showed you everything you needed to see. Unlike other stories where a key piece of the puzzle is held back until after the hero has solved it, the reader can work alongside the hero and solve the crime too. And THAT is why the mystery genre has been so popular for centuries.
And the art of Rags Morales and Michael Bair is the equal of the story. Their characters have been powerful, dynamic, and most of all human throughout the series. The page with Dr. Light conveys what heís thinking just from his facial expressions. And the last page with the killer is damn-right creepy.
So now that we know the who and the how, we need to know the why. Why did he do this? What changed him?
On a side note, I also looked through the newest issue of JSA, an Identity Crisis tie-in. In it, as Dr. Mid-Nite performs Sue Dibnyís autopsy, Mr. Terrific accuses him of being too cold, and other members of the JSA react to Sue Dibnyís death in their own ways. Not bad, but not necessary to this story.
Plot: Batman comforts a devastated Tim Drake, as no one comforts Boomerangís son, and Wally keeps digging at Green Arrow for the real story behind the cover-up. Itís a doozy.
Comments: I checked out of this series for a few issues, offended by the directions the story went and uninterested in the plethora of male talking heads. But I checked out each new issue at the store, drawn back by Ragsí career-defining art, and hoping for things to pick up.
And, as the male body count rises, they have. Some of my initial problems with the story have been explained, as this issue reveals a further complication to the Dr. Light post rape punishment that really rankles.
Rankles the other heroes, I mean; it doesnít bug me at all. I can see the concept Meltzerís instigating here, the idea of a subdivision within the team, even among the elite. Why should the JLA be immune to office politics unlike every other social group on this planet? Ollie says (and heís the right one to say it) that Superman and Batman are always there for the big event, but seldom stick around for the wrap-up. Now, I donít fully believe that, but I can see them having too many high priorities to deal with the details better left to others, too. Especially when they trust their teammates.
Of course, it turns out that trust is displaced, which isnít the best news, but Meltzer (away from the crude histrionics of an exploitative rape scene) is really quite strong with keeping these characters in dialogue. Wallyís anxious to uncover a past with Barry, and Ollie is more about the ends than the means sometimes.
Semi-interesting: Thereís some unintentionally funny stuff here. Dr. Midnight is STILL dissecting poor Sue under the microscope, surely the slowest autopsy in history. The villains, while not chumps, are a bit goofy and grotesque, Dr. Light especially. And I donít buy that ending reveal at all, though I do admit itís a surprise.
Iím intrigued (and perplexed) that while DC is bringing a Marvel-level of ďhumanityĒ (read: vulnerability) to their characters for nearly the first time, Marvelís big series event is exaggerating that characteristic weakness to laughable extremes of murder and madness in Avengers.
Most interesting: Drakeís suffering is palpable, and script and art collaborate in a beautiful sequence that compares Bruceís epic loss to Dickís and now, tragically, to Tim as well. This story promised to be big, and itís living up to it.
Plus, believe it or not, Zatanna speaks! Itís as if she needs to do that to use her power or something!
There is a recurring image throughout Identity Crisis of a devastated Ralph Dibny mourning the loss of his wife, Sue. The reader gets to see it again on page 8, panel 5 of IC #6. For me, itís the most painful detail of the entire series. It makes me wonder why such extremes must be taken to sell a comic book. Did Sue have to be killed? Couldnít she have just been attacked? Did Firestorm have to explode? Couldnít he have just been immobilized? Did Tim Drakeís father have to be so violently struck down? Couldnít he have just been wounded? A sequence of panels in this issue reminds us of the many losses of life that have occurred in the DC Universe, along with the characters who have had to suffer and endure those losses. But in the past five months we have seen a lot of death in Identity Crisis. I realize and accept that itís meant to shock, itís meant to resonate, and itís meant to humanize the superheroes. But itís also numbing, almost to the point of desensitizing. I can get that on a regular basis watching the nightly news. I donít know if this is what I want when reading the exploits of my favorite superheroes.
On the other hand, with that gripe out of the way, Identity Crisis #6 is a great issue. Brad Meltzerís story remains thrilling, painstakingly constructed, and full of small and big surprises. Much is revealed this issue while many questions arise. And if Sueís killer is who Batman thinks it is, itíll truly be a shock. Iím on the edge of my seat to see how Meltzer rationalizes it. If the killer is who I think it is, then itís a shock with a plausible explanation, but a shock nonetheless. Also, Rags Moralesís art is simply fantastic, and I really like how a potential visual mistake in issue 3 is revealed here to be another part of the JLAís dirty secrets. Good twist here. Overall, there is a sincere effort by the bookís creators to make this story work, satisfy, and surprise on many different levels, and I commend that. I now have one month to play Batman and arrange and process my theories to see if Iíve solved the puzzle, confident that Meltzer will throw me for one last awesome loop. More power to him.
The Plot: Tim Drake arrives too late to save his father. As the heroes and villains of the DC Universe reflect on their loses, Batman works to solve the mystery. Green Arrow reveals to The Flash that Dr. Light wasnít the only person to have his memory erased that night. An autopsy reveals Sue Dibny died after having blood cut off to her brain. And there are tiny footprints on her brain Ö
Comments: With one more issue to go, there are as many questions as answers. Perhaps that is the best compliment to give ďIdentity Crisis.Ē Indeed, Meltzer seems to have crafted an almost 1:1 ratio of revelations and questions. When Green Arrow reveals they mind wiped Batman, Ollie incredulously asks Flash if he really believes Batman never did the same to them. ďIdentity CrisisĒ manages to be both an important story and a good story.
Issue six contains a balance of large plot reveals and small emotional touches: Drakeís frantic and failed effort to pull the bloody boomerang out of his father, Batmanís eye-less stare as he holds the sobbing Drake, Dr. Lightís creepy brooding, The Calculatorís monitor womb, The Atom leering at his ex-wife before the lights go out. Morales deserves as much credit for this issueís success as Meltzer.
These six issues have more ďgaspĒ moments than some series have had in the past ten years, and thereís still one more issue to go. Bragging time: I noticed back in issue #3 Batman in the melee panel when Dr. Light remembers what happened to him on the JLA Satellite. Iím glad the payoff was as big as this. Almost no matter what happens in issue #7, this development will test whether or not there are any lasting ramifications from this series. I imagine that once he learns of his mind wipe (assuming he doesnít know) Batman leaves the Justice League for a while, if not forever.
Much of how everything fits together is still a mystery Ė which is a good thing. Who hired Captain Boomerang to kill Drake? Was it the same person who sent Drake the gun? If so, why? Is Dibnyís killer acting of his own accord, or is he being controlled somehow? How does Captain Boomerangís son fit into this? If Dr. Light isnít the killer, whatís his angle in all this? I cannot remember the last time I anticipated the next issue of any title.
The Final Word: With one issue to go, itís unlikely that the obvious answer from this issue is the final answer. My money remains on Lex Luthor being the puppet master behind the murders. But even if Iím wrong, itís the most fun Iíve ever had being wrong.
This is going to be the shortest review I ever write: this comic is good Ė this comic is very good. I donít want to spoil anything about the comic; the art is great, the cover also great and the writing is top class.
Thatís all you need to know Ė everything is working here and makes for one hell of a final issue next month.
In the first few issues of Identity Crisis, writer Brad Meltzer set up an intricate mystery plot concerning the murder of Sue Dibny, the secret past of the JLA and a killer who may have ties to both. However, the success of the series stands and falls on how these threads are all resolved, and fans holding their breath can relax, as (to borrow an expression from my American cousins) the Identity Crisis team have knocked this one out of the park. There are many moments of high drama in this issue, much of which concerns Batmanís attempts to put the pieces of the puzzle together, even though he may not be in possession of all the information he needs. Meltzer also reminds us of the precedents for such tragic events in the DC universe in a montage sequence which really helps to unite the struggling heroes in the readerís mind. We see red herrings play out (Calculatorís one-up on Bats being a surprising turnaround), hidden clues explained (with the mind-wiping plot getting thicker by the issue) and the longest autopsy in comics history turning up some information which points to a shocking conclusion for the series. And itís all great stuff.
Penciller Rags Morales rises above merely good serviceable, clear artwork for the first time this series, to produce some moments of genius and truly affecting artwork. The opening tension of the Robin sequence pays off superbly in Batmanís protective ďIíve got youÖ,Ē for which the splash page art is expertly judged and beautifully rendered. Other excellent moments come with a stunning, stark but subtle full-page spread of Dr. Light - reaffirming through the art exactly how his character has developed through Brad Meltzerís writing Ė and some effective computer treatments (a ďfocus pullĒ during the montage of lost loved ones shifts the focus of two charactersí conversation so subtly it almost fails to register). Thereís a cinematic edge to the artwork here which suits the grand scale of the series, and Moralesís eye for making the reader really feel the moments of high drama is really turning out to be a trump card for the team. The colouring also takes a darker tone, reflecting the gravity of the story as well as setting the mood for a dramatic final issue.
For me though, the greatest fun Iíve had from Identity Crisis is in ďplaying along,Ē trying to unravel the mystery along with the characters in the story. Meltzer pulls off a perfectly-executed (if possibly ambiguous) final-page reveal here which makes perfect sense with everything that has gone before, tying in numerous threads and tiny details in the series so far to produce a potential climax next issue which promises to shake the foundations of the JLA and the DC universe. And despite it being something that the attentive reader could have come close to working out ahead of time, the execution is such that the comic is never less than extremely entertaining, hugely exciting and utterly readable.
Itís interesting for me - as a relative DC newbie who shouldnít really care about the ramifications of such big crossover events Ė that even without knowing all the ins and outs of the various DC characters featured in this series, the weight of the revelations here are easily conveyed through the story and art alone. The creative team has crafted a superb penultimate issue, the high point of the series so far, which sets the stage for a knockout finale whilst leaving some loose ends to be tied up, mysteries to unravel and even the possibility of a further twist in the final installment. Bring on issue #7Ö
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