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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Identity Crisis #6

Identity Crisis #6 [of 7]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 10, 2004

Cover date: January 2005

Writer: Brad Meltzer
Penciller: Rags Morales
Inker: Mike Bair

"Husbands & Wives"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Picking up from where issue five's cliffhanger left off, Tim Drake rushes into his home to find his father, Jack Drake, fatally stabbed. Tim is an orphan embraced by Batman.

Captain Boomerang is also dead on the scene, having been shot by Jack Drake.

Owen watches the news and super speeds to the Drake's home, but he is kept from seeing his father.

Around the super-hero community, we observe heroes remembering their lost brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers - finally, we see Bruce in flashback at his parent's funeral and with Dick Grayson when his parents died, and then presently Jack's funeral.

The super-heroes believe Boomerang was the killer and that the killings will now cease. Life goes on.

Monocle, Merlyn, and Deadshot are freed from jail due to their relationship with the Suicide Squad.

Dr. Light sits alone elsewhere with a sinister grin on his face.

Owen decides to adopt the Captain Boomerang persona using his abilities and speed.

Green Arrow is threatened by Deathstroke who apparently is carrying a grudge for the arrow he got in his eye earlier in the series.

Suddenly, the Flash shows up and he asks GA why Dr. Light's memories of that night include Batman among the group of heroes fighting him. GA admits that the heroes mind-wiped Batman because he walked in just as Zatanna had finished lobotomizing Dr. Light and he was peeved. This time, the heroes voted unanimously in favor of making Batman forget what he'd seen because they felt that, otherwise, the JLA would come to an end.

Meanwhile, the Batman is pursuing the Calculator though his pursuit reaches a dead end. Calculator is elsewhere communicating with Merlyn and relating that he had sent Captain Boomerang to the Drakes but had no idea about the gun that was sent to Jack Drake. Calculator, if telling the truth, is innocent - and even Batman processes that reluctantly.

In JSA Headquarters, Dr. Mid-Nite continues his autopsy of Sue Dibny's body. He summons Mr. Terrific and they're looking at a scan of her brain, specifically her mid-medulla. The medical conclusion Mid-Nite's drawn is that she had a block in her bloodstream to the mid-medulla and that cut off the blood supply to her brain.

But the most compelling evidence - two microscopic sized footprints in Sue Dibny's brain.

Is Ray Palmer, a.k.a. the Atom, the killer?

Simultaneously, Batman calls for J'onn to find Ray Palmer immediately and to keep him wherever he is - though Batman never explicitly says he thinks Ray Palmer is the culprit.

Mid-Nite and Terrific are also unable to find Palmer.

That's because Ray Palmer is with Jean Loring and they are continuing to celebrate their reunion in private. In the dark.

5Story - 5: Meltzer's just a big tease. Has he made the revelation that the Atom is the killer or not? Atom's ex-wife, after all, held his patents for a while so she could have gotten in Sue's head and arranged the attack on herself to throw the scent off herself.

There's a Bronze Age series of stories from the short-lived Super-Team Family comic which featured a mentally unstable Jean Loring. It's just the type of story that Meltzer would be compelled to revisit - or is that what Meltzer wants us to think? Whether it's Atom or his ex-wife, or both of them, or neither of them, what's the motive?

It seems there are quite a few ends that need to be tied back together with only one issue remaining. It's now becoming more apparent that Meltzer's tapestry of events will weave together. But absolutely nothing else is certain until the final panel of the series. The "only-in-the-DCU" style assassination may reveal Sue's cause of death, but the murderer and the motive are still up for grabs.

I've heard a lot of theories of whodunit over the past six months from Kyle Rayner to Lex Luthor to Iris West Allen to the Martian Manhunter to Mirror Master to Firestorm. But the Atom? That's a new one on me. Unless the price tag for a sane Hal Jordan over in Green Lantern: Rebirth is an insane Ray Palmer?

This is the best issue of the series so far. The fun of a good mystery novel is its ability to draw you in so that you've somehow managed to read the entire thing in one sitting - and hopefully gotten a sweet tan at the same time. Unless you haven't read any of Identity Crisis yet, and don't plan to until issue seven comes out (and if that's the case, you wouldn't be reading this, so I'm really not talking to anyone who's actually reading this review right now), you're forced into 30 day cliffhangers. Rather than let the unique challenge of pacing a mystery in a serialized format limit the story, Meltzer uses the issue breaks to simultaneously reveal and conceal. He lets the reader think they've learned everything, then takes it away not by stating that something else is true, but by what he chooses not to say. Like I said, he's just a big tease. This reader wouldn't have it any other way.

5Art - 5: Morales is on Meltzer's page.

Even when a comic book contains a well-written story that is well-drawn, there can still be incongruities between the art and the writing. At its best, and rarest, art makes a story more effective, and story can likewise make the art resonate. True symbiosis between the writer and the artist is rare where each makes the other's work even stronger.

Here, it is as if writer and artist share one mind. Morales does the great overdramatic comic book close-up necessary for a touchy-feely book like this But his interpretation of the Batman costume almost consuming Tim Drake, the first Robin good enough to inherit the cowl, as he suffers his requisite price tag for admittance into Bruce's orphaned souls club, is visualization of the layers inherent in Meltzer's dialogue and narration.

Meltzer commented exclusively to the Superman Homepage about this opening sequence. "I told Rags it's the best shot of the whole book. Was one of only two times I looked at the page and got a chill, totally forgetting that I was working on the book. I told him to have him [Batman] embracing him [Tim] in the shards of his uniform. I wanted him swallowed by his strength. But making Tim's one eye face the camera, that was all Rags. And the most unnerving moment in the whole series for me."

There's something almost poetically ironic in the union of Tim and Batman in that it is the moment where Meltzer and Morales become inextricably linked as well.

4Cover Art - 4: Is Batman sad that he can't figure out who the killer is, or is he sad that his little Robin's Daddy was killed? Are we to believe that Batman hadn't entertained the idea of the killer being a super-hero, rather than a villain before he makes his realization at the end of this issue? His own personal wall of weird only includes bad guys as suspects. And "Dead End" as the intrusive looking caption - well, the deaths this issue take place in the beginning, not the end; and, more to the point, Batman's not at a dead end. Still, given the JSA's findings and Batman's conclusions, they are as close as they've been to ending the deaths. Though I found this cover a bit ambiguous and incomplete - and too dark to boot - it would have been worse if the major revelation about what actually killed Sue had somehow been hinted on the cover. So for keeping the secrets of the story inside, I'm going to be generous with a 4/5.

This is neither my most nor least favorite cover of the series. It's rare that Robin beats Batman, but Robin's cover spotlight last month pulled off heroic pathos much more effectively.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2005

February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005

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