The first four issues of Identity Crisis, DC’s much-hyped shake-up of their universe, began with the murder of an established DC character. Readers then learned some shocking, but entirely plausible*, secrets of some top-name DC heroes, secrets which actually made sense of conundrums raised by past stories. Each issue of the series finished with a suspect being identified.

The final explanation seems forced, but Identity Crisis is less about the mystery than what we learn along the way about the sunny DC Universe.

*Well, plausible in the context of a world filled with super-powered people who dress like idiots.

Spoilers follow.

General Information

Title: Identity Crisis #1-4
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artists: Rags Morales, Mike Blair.
Cover Art: Michael Turner

Premise:

The body count rises as someone stalks those close to the Justice League. After six issues of red herrings, the most unlikely of suspects gets named.

High Points

Issue #6 gives the most expected death of the series some emotional impact, and follows it with the most disturbing revelation to date regarding the Justice League’s dark side. Ultimately, Identity Crisis has less to do with its central mystery than revelations and retcons.

Low Point

We really weren’t plausibly prepared for the solution. It seems odd that someone could mastermind this intricate (though terribly flawed) plan, keep completely calm as it spirals out of control, and then reveal guilt through one stunningly moronic slip of the tongue.

The Scores

Originality: 4/6 We’ve spent the last two decades or so looking at superheroes’ dark sides, but this series does so in a fairly fresh manner, and within DC continuity. Hopefully, DC will hold to their promise to have the ramifications of this series felt across all titles.

Artwork: 5/6 Maybe exceptionally conventional comic-book art is what this story requires.

Story: 4/6 Having each issue end with a cliffhanger suspect grows tiresome– and the last, most shocking of the red herrings obviously amounted to more misdirection, given the character’s behaviour and comments earlier in the series.

Despite evidence which pointed in the guilty party’s direction, nothing in the character’s past really prepares us for the final revelation. A mystery should be difficult, but plausibly solvable. Obviously, a certain DC character bears little resemblance to what we’ve seen since 1961.

Characterization: 4/6 My comments about the guilty party aside, Meltzer does a fair job of handling DC’s iconic characters– Green Arrow in particular.

The final pages of #7 show us the human side of various DC characters without revelling in darkness. Metahumans plan social events, and consider the ramifications of telling Superman that “his wife’s a crappy cook.” The Teen Titans ask about training with the JLA. The Flash wrestles with newfound knowledge. Green Arrow consoles Elongated Man.

Timothy Drake mourns his father and retreats from his friends. The Atom shrinks entirely away from those close to him.

Emotional response: 4/6 The confrontation between Flash and Green Lantern in #6 works fairly well. As I wrote in my review of issues #1-4, “this isn’t, and cannot, be Watchmen or Brat Pack, but Meltzer has found a reasonable compromise between ‘edgy’ and what can be permitted with DC’s principal characters.”

Flow 4/6 Overly-ponderous narration attempts to make amends for the story’s frequent, abrupt shifts. The last couple of issues work better than the earlier ones. “Event” comics often suffer from the problem of too many characters in too many places doing too many things for the story to be too coherent.Identity Crisis manages reasonably well, but it could have been better.

Overall: 5/6

In total, Identity Crisis #5-7 receive a score of 30/42.

Additional Comments

This comic brings issues raised by Watchmen into mainstream DC continuity. Identity Crisis leaves a number of problems unresolved, and it will–- or at least, should— have repercussions for the entire DC Universe.

At least until they reboot continuity again.

A more detailed review appears at E2.