Thursday, September 15, 2011

Identity Crisis

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Superheroes (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Identity Crisis #1-7
Year: 2004, 2005
Publisher: DC
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Art: Rags Morales (Penciller)
       Michael Bair (Inker)
       Alex Sinclair (Colorist)
       Michael Turner (Original Series Covers)

Well, kiddies...  To touch briefly on what I was talking about last post, "Crecy" did not arrive at the library so I could pick it up for review.  With the "Superheroes" genre being one of the more dominant ones in Mr Kannenberg's book and in my collection, I decided to head back in that direction and pick up "Identity Crisis".

I thought I had read this entire book before.  Like the insane person that I am, I went back to consult the list I keep of every book I've read since college.  I didn't finish it...  Which baffles me because having just finished it up within the last hour, I honestly don't know how I could have begun this magnificent story and not read through to the end.

We open with two lesser known members of the Justice League, Elongated Man and Firehawk, sitting atop a tall roof staking out some sort of weapons deal.  The two are discussing some things about members of the league, some myths, things such as that...  Firehawk's just a youngster and Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man) is a longtime member of the league.  She's sort of intrigued with all he knows about the more legendary members.

The conversation shifts to Ralph's wife, Sue.  Firehawk wants to know how they met, how they got together, all the romantic, magical, beginning-of-the-perfect-relationship stuff...  And it is perfect.  As Ralph tells the story, we can see how he fell for her, how adorable they were together, how much he loves her, always has, and always will.  He recounts the tales of their love with a sweet smile on his face.

But, as we might have anticipated it was going to, fate and plot would have it that this beautiful thing is going to come to an end.  Ralph gets a frantic call from his wife, Sue, the lady-of-his-dreams that he's just finished telling Firehawk about, and he panics and races to get home to her.

He's too late.

Artist Rags Morales gives that above image of what Ralph finds when he gets there.  His dear wife severely burned and murdered.

The best murder mystery superhero comic since "Watchmen" begins.

Identity Crisis was truly stunning.  It's been quite a while since I've seen a superhero story that portrays the characters as human as it does.  I mentioned "Watchmen" above.  It's likely since then.

In fact, they're so human that you may forget you're reading a superhero comic at some points.  I mean, it's very important to the whole concept of this thing that these people are superheroes, but it's just that: These PEOPLE are superheroes.  Meltzer's smooth characterization and dialogue coupled with the art of Morales, Bair, and Sinclair put me in the discussions that these characters were having and transported me into their world...  More fully than I have been for a long time.

Brad Meltzer employs all of his talents as a mystery and thriller writer and applies it to a superhero setting, as well.  There are several characters looking for Sue's killer the whole time, clues being dropped, and susupense being stirred up all the while.  This was the perfect superhero story for a writer with his skills to do and this mastery, paired with and matched by the art team, combined to make a great story and a great comics series all-around.

And while we're touching on the subject of artwork, Michael Turner's (rest well, sir) artwork on the original series covers was nothing short of absolutely fantastic.

Look at that cover (to issue 2) above.  Have you ever seen Hawkman look more bad-ass?  Wally (The Flash) look more sorrowful?  Ollie (Green Arrow) and Hal (Green Lantern) look more intense?  And what lovely ladies in the front there...

Yes, as I said, I don't know how anyone could start this and not finish.  It was absolutely great.  It's left such a mark on me that I've now got a new superhero comic to recommend to so many of my friends who aren't into the medium.  I think it might even be better than "Watchmen" in that capacity because perspective readers would see some characters that they recognize and instantly grow close to them, feeling their loss, pain, sadness, and humanity.

I really can't fathom anyone not finding at least SOMETHING that they'd like about this book.

My utmost recommendation to comic geek and non-comic-reader alike.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 5 out of 5
9 down, 491 to go

Please join me next time when we'll get into "Whiteout", the second "Top 10" pick from "500 Essential Graphic Novels" that I'll be reviewing.

Be well and I'll see you then!


  1. HEY! Still reading... I really wanna' check this out now. As good (or better) than "Watchmen" really? Hmmm that's a bold statement, but one that I'm sure is accurate and well thought out, coming from a comics genius like you. I've actually always had my eye on this story, but have just never gotten around to it. Great stuff dude. Cant wait for the "Whiteout" review.

  2. Hmmm...

    I don't know, man. Better than "Watchmen"? I really can't say. It's a little different. Yeah... I'd say that they're different. Both very good. Both genius.

    I'd say that if you're a person who has someone that you're romantically in love with, this one may tug on the ol' heartstrings a bit more.

    In the beginning of this one, when Ralph's talking about Sue, I couldn't help but think of Erica. There's a panel where he smiles and says, "She's my lady." It's just... He looks like the happiest guy on the face of Earth... and if you're someone who's truly in love, you know how he feels.

    Plus, just the whole humanity of all the characters (which is also present in "Watchmen") makes this one great. That element shows that there are depth to these characters, superhero comics can be literary, and comics aren't just kiddie fare.

    This AND "Watchmen", great stories, both.