Buy Now!

Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Identity Crisis #7

Identity Crisis #7 [of 7]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 15, 2004

Cover date: February 2005

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

"The Hero's Life"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Ray Palmer and ex-wife, and more recently new lover, Jean Loring are talking about Captain Boomerang being Sue's killer. Simultaneously, word is spreading about Dr. Mid-Nite's and Mr. Terrific's discoveries about Sue Dibny's cause of death, and Batman's realization about the killer's identity.

As Palmer is being seduced by his ex-spouse, she asks him if the good guys ever found out who wrote the "Protect Yourself" note to Jack Drake. Ray turns on the lights and asks Jean how she knew about the note, that Batman had ensured it was kept out of the press.

Ray realizes Jean killed Sue, arranged her own attack, and arranged for the attack on Tim Drake's father. Ray surmises Jean found one of his old costumes in the basement. Jean admits the truth that she missed Ray and wanted him back. She insists she wasn't trying to kill Sue Dibny but merely shake up the hero community, that her unfamiliarity with the shrinking technology caused her to grow too large in Sue's brain and cause the convulsions. Then, out of fear, she used other weapons she'd brought with her "just in case" to cover the crime.

Ray realizes that the only answer to the question Batman keeps posing - "Who benefits?" - is the family members of all of the other heroes.

Jean then admits she hired the Calculator to hire Boomerang to scare Jack Drake, but that, because she'd left him the gun and note, that he would be able to defend himself.

Jean goads Ray about his accusations and condemnation and tells him he isn't about to lock her up.

Ray delivers Jean to Arkham Asylum. His Justice League signal device begins buzzing, and he hands it to the attending doctor at Arkham, leaves the asylum telling the doctor to care for his wife, and shrinks down to be alone disappearing from sight. Over the next few days, life goes on uneasily at first. Zatanna tells Black Canary she still hasn't heard from Ray Palmer. Over dinner, Black Lightning and Katana acknowledge they're both getting back into the super-hero game more actively. Mr. Miracle marvels over how the killer got into the Dibny home.

Ellen Baker, wife of Animal Man, reads the tabloid's version of events (a partially obstructed headline appears to read "Atom's Wife Tortured By Inmates"), as do the villains.

Firehawk quits being a super hero and decides to return home to her father.

Tim Drake mourns his losses, ignoring calls from Dick Grayson.

And Ollie Queen advises Ralph that he should talk to his wife, that she can hear every word.

A week passes, Ollie and Wally West discuss the murders and the issues it dredged up, particularly Batman's mind wipe. Ollie's parting words to Wally are that the League always endures.

Bruce Wayne visits his parent's grave and asks that they take care of Jack Drake and Sue Dibny.

Clark Kent talks to Martha Kent in the Smallville wheat fields. She uses reverse psychology on Clark to get him back in his super suit. Clark promises to love her no matter what and flies off as Superman.

In the present, the JLA meets in the Watchtower. The heroes engage in small talk during which J'onn acknowledges both Atom and Firehawk are officially off the JLA Reserves list.

Things are back to normal, it seems, but Flash quietly considers telling Batman about the mind-wipe. He doesn't.

Finally, in the four page Epilogue, Ralph engages in witty banter with his deceased wife.

The End.

3Story - 3: The crossover event of the year, decade, and/or century, depending on whom you ask at DC Comics, petered to a whimpering end when it should've been primed to end with a bang. Readers had been set up to wonder about many different mysteries during the course of these seven issues. Who arranged for Elongated Man to be out when Sue was attacked? Who wanted Sue Dibny dead? What was the deal with that Luthor War Suit? What did Dr. Light's returning memories have to do with the attacks and deaths? Who are "Lil' Boomerang's" real parents? What is Batman's reaction to being mind-wiped going to be? Yet the only issue put to rest with the end of Identity Crisis was the identity of the killer as Jean Loring, the Atom's ex-wife, in a perverse attempt to get her husband back. This leaves another mystery to be resolved only with the passage of real time - How can Identity Crisis stand on its own as a series when major plot points are left unresolved and seemingly untied to the principal story?

Rather than a concluding chapter, the entire final issue read much like an epilogue, made all the more puzzling by Meltzer's attaching the "epilogue" moniker to the final four pages. Meltzer should have trusted his own story-telling abilities better than to spend 1/7th of his series hammering home the "What did you all learn from this?" part of the story. He'd told a good enough story up until now that I don't think it was necessary to be so heavy-handed with the conclusion.

Ultimately, Identity Crisis turned out to be a strong story that put ordinarily supporting characters up front and made readers care about them. Perhaps the letdown associated with reading this issue has more to do with the DC marketing machine that gave readers the impression this was going to develop as a classic mystery where all the pieces tied neatly together at the end like a reconstituted jigsaw puzzle.

I realize that continuity is an ever expanding concept in the DCU (and that it may even go super-nova soon as hinted in the forthcoming DC Countdown) but there were a few major contradictions with current continuity that made the ending as written a bit more difficult to swallow. Jean Loring didn't marry Ray Palmer for years of his Atom career because she wanted to prove herself as an independent career woman first. Jean made the decision finally to marry Ray Palmer and it was Jean who decided to end the marriage. Even Meltzer alludes to Palmer's continuing emotion toward Loring at the onset of the series when the Atom delivers a crossbow to his ex-wife for protection after Sue's death. If she wanted him back, all she had to do was ask. She clearly had him at "hello" - making this a very clumsy way to get an ex back in the sack.

Now, you may say, Jean was nuts and not thinking rationally. She even had a history of mental illness dating back to at least 1977 in real time and Super-Team Family #11. Having dealt with mental illness in my own life, there is a conceit inherent in making Jean the bad guy that equates mental illness with antisocial, psychotic, and criminal behavior that I find almost offensive. Quite frankly, given that Jean was one of the few female supporting characters of the Silver Age not obsessed with trapping her man in either of his identities, it's either unfortunate that she ends up in Arkham Asylum or a calculated statement by Meltzer about such feminist ideals perhaps.

Jean is presumed an intimacy with the secrets of the DCU that extends credulity. Ray and Jean, under any view of Hypertime, split up long before Tim Drake became Robin. In both Robin and Teen Titans, the Teen Wonder has recently dealt with the issue of the secrecy of his secret identity even from others in the super-hero community (from Spoiler to his Teen Titans allies). It'd be a stretch to assume Jean would be told Robin's identity at all, let alone only once she's become the Atom's EX-wife. Additionally, of all of the heroes' private lives to muck with, why muck with Batman's sidekick unless you want to get caught?

Jean's confession to Ray simply doesn't ring true. She claims both deaths were accidental. She just happens to have brought a fire weapon with her to the Dibnys even though she had no intention of killing Sue. She has the ability to contact and hire the Calculator - and keep her intentions, as well as Batman's and Robin's secret identities, from him. There are a lot of leaps-of-faith that are ultimately required to accept the mystery's resolution.

Overall the series had wonderful moments and introduced some exciting new elements into the DCU including the Calculator as an anti-Oracle for the bad guys, "Lil" Boomerang (whose real father must be Barry Allen, the only speedster running around at the time of Owen's conception), and, my personal favorite, the vilification of ex-spouses. Identity Crisis is, in that regard, a "show about nothing" with moments as dramatically inspired as TV's Seinfeld is comedically inspired. Or, to put it in terms that Superman fans might understand, Identity Crisis had some great Superman IV-type moments for the characters, but the sum of its parts doesn't necessarily add up to its individual dramatic elements.

4Art - 4: Morales is nothing if not consistent and he's proved to be the best artist for the job once again. It was a cute artistic choice to make the attending physician at Arkham look like Dr. Burton who accepted the Riddler into Arkham at the end of 1995's "Batman Forever" given the overall similarity in tone between the two scenes.

My only complaint is that Ma Kent looks like a munchkin next to Clark. I get that Clark's an imposing fellow, but Ma Kent isn't "Grandma" Kent or even Aunt May. In comic book time, only 15 years have passed - if that -- since Clark's childhood in "Birthright". That would make Ma Kent - at most - in her late 50's, hardly the senior citizen with huge eyes that's presented here. So, on behalf of the over 40 set, Morales scores slightly less than perfect with a four out of five.

5Cover Art - 5: This is my favorite cover in the series. A unique image displaying guilt, melancholy, and exhaustion against a stark white background, this is one of the few times I feel white works as a background color for a comic book cover.

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

Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.

Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2005.