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Eric: Another snark about Identity Crisis. Because clearly, I am a nerd.

This is going to get into spoiler territory. If I were a better person than I am, I'd rig up some kind of "click here if you want to know how it all comes out" thing for this, but I'm not going to because... well, because. So, if you don't want to know the shock ending and various plot points on Identity Crisis, I'd just stop reading.

Still here? Cool.

It was a lie. It was all a lie. Every bit of it was a lie. The premise of this series, the execution of this series... and most importantly, the stated goal of this series, was based on falsity.

I don't mean the actual in-comics plot points. Those were just there. Gratuitous at times, and deceptive at times, but still. Those are the breaks.

No, it's the metacommentary... the reasons this story was done in the first place. Even the name of this story.

Identity Crisis.

The point was supposed to be "it's wrong and bad for super heroes to reveal their secret identities. If they do, it's their loved ones who suffer." Thus, the murder of Sue Dibny and the willful destruction of one of the rarest of rarities in comic books: an actual, happy marriage between a superhero and a nonsuperhero, with the "normal" half of the marriage an equal partner in the crime fighting adventures. They solved mysteries and bantered and legitimately loved each other and were happy. And Ralph didn't take super heroing that seriously and neither did Sue -- she was an heiress, and they just liked being with each other.

But Ralph didn't have a secret identity, so Sue had to die, because that's what happens, isn't it? That's why secret identities are necessary.

Only... Sue wasn't killed out of revenge. Sue wasn't killed to hurt Ralph or super heroes. Sue wasn't killed by a Super Villain.

Sue was killed by Jean Loring, who apparently went psychotic after the poor performance of Power of the Atom. She was trying to throw a scare into the super heroes, in a bid to win Ray Palmer -- the Atom -- back. It wasn't the criminal fraternity looking for revenge. It was just Jean acting out a bad movie of the week plot.

The whole rape scene? Utterly unrelated to the plot. The Justice League mindwiping Doctor Light and conditioning him to be a buffoon (wow... just like the Squadron Supreme miniseries, only stupider!), and then going on to mindwipe Batman, tarnishing the League and raising the specter of their inappropriateness to use the power they have been given? Irrelevant to the murder mystery. The fact that Ralph and Sue Dibny were publicly known? Irrelevant to Sue's murder. Unless you believe that Ralph should have hidden his identity from the Atom, lest the Atom's wife decide to go walking in Sue's brain.

I didn't put these pieces together, mind. I was trolling the web and came across this post on the "Comics Should Be Good" blog. It was expressing some good old fashioned outrage at the rape of the wife of the fucking Elongated Man as a red herring. I read through the comments afterward, and it gelled for me. It really did.

This is absurd. This is obscene. And the much ballyhooed "darkening of the DC Universe" that will follow this (because Christ knows we need to make mainstream comics less fun these days) is being predicated on an essential lie.

Secrets versus public identities? Had nothing to do with the plot of this story.

You want to fuck around with the cultural mythology of the last sixty years? Go right ahead. But don't lie about it in the metacommentary.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at December 18, 2004 10:09 PM


Comment from: Snowspinner posted at December 18, 2004 10:50 PM

I liked it.

I mean, don't get me wrong, there were things I objected to. Particularly the degree to which it just added to the list at Women in Refrigerators. (Though even there it had nothing on Avengers Disassembled, which managed to compound one of the most insanely misogynistic plotlines.)

But in the end... I liked it. I liked that the Justice League was shaken to its foundations and a lot of heroes were led to question their own heroism. I like that the transition out of the Silver Age was explained in plot, and that the change that, to my mind, had already happened in a lot of these characters (Batman more than most, but Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and Flash too... even Superman and Wonder Woman... hell, all of them) was explained.

Or, rather, it's not that I liked that. Plots like that are a dime a dozen. Super teams get shaken to their foundation constantly. What I liked was that it was ultimately... over nothing. All of the revelations were irrelevent to the mystery. Trying to solve the mystery led to a lot of damage for the heroes, and in the end a small, pathetic crazy woman did untold damage to the heroes.

And that, to me, is about a lot of what you said. Not the importance of keeping your identity secret, though - the importance of not having one at all. The message of the story, to me, was starkly horrifying - any identity these characters have that isn't their superhero identity puts people in danger. They are, ultimately, completely alone.

And I like that, honestly. It fits with what I think the superhero concept works on.

But I have some very strange notions of superheroes, and I won't go into them here. (I will go into them in Kansas sometime in March at a talk though...)

Comment from: Prodigal posted at December 19, 2004 3:10 AM

I was trying to explain why I found Identity Crisis so disappointing earlier today, and now I wish I'd had a chance to read this first, because the best condemnation I was able to come up with was "It was all so needless." Everything you said, I agree with totally.

Comment from: joenotcharles posted at December 19, 2004 6:32 AM

I think once you've bought into the paranoid fantasy of needing a secret identity, no, you can't even tell the Atom.

Comment from: MasonK posted at December 19, 2004 10:57 AM

Everything I've heard about this storyline only continues to confirm something I've suspected for quite a long time. The real DCU was the casualty of the Crisis, and Zero Hour was the final nail in the coffin. I've enjoyed few comics since that time, with Mark Waid's Flash being the exception.

Comment from: KingAndy posted at December 19, 2004 5:36 PM

The thing that baffled me was that identities were so public within the superhero community itself. Like it's just one big clubhouse with newsletters and yearbooks. The big sore thumb is Robin - how in the world would Jean Loring know anything about Tim Drake? As near as I can tell, she and Ray broke up before the boy was even on the scene ... heck, I'm not sure how she'd even know Clark and Bruce. Bruce in particular guard his secret closely, I think any disclosure to fellow heroes would come with a "And you will not be telling your significant others" caveat.

Tim didn't even tell his teammates in Young Justice his real name until the closing issues of that comic. Because there was a chance they may trace Bruce's identity through it. That's the change that throws most things out of whack to me.

Comment from: William_G posted at December 20, 2004 1:35 AM

Given the bootlegs I read online, I thought the point of Identity Crisis was: "Back in the kitchen, yee wench!"

Comment from: Zeke posted at December 20, 2004 10:09 PM

Okay. Why?

- Z

Comment from: Blue Jean posted at November 15, 2005 8:31 PM

After I read it at the library (thank God I didn't waste any hard earned cash on it), I think the main message is "Good girls stay home so they can get raped and murdered. Bad girls get careers and leave their husbands so they can become insane killers."

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