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  1. #1

    Default Identity Crisis: 15 Years Later (Spoilers)

    So I decided to re-read Identity Crisis, mostly because I realized this year was the 15 year anniversary of the story and I wanted to see how it held up.

    I remember as it was released, the discussion that took place on the old DC Message Boards and how DC finally went "dark". I mean, we had dark stories before for sure - Watchmen, The Killing Joke. But Identity Crisis took the Silver/Bronze Age era of DC and turned it on its head, establishing the JLA as using questionable methods in mind-wiping villains to safeguard their secret identities and even going as far as to alter the personality of Doctor Light, who was established as a serial rapist who had sexually assaulted Sue Dibny in the JLA Satellite Headquarters. This sets up Zatanna mind-wiping Batman, which leads to his distrust of metahumans that established story lines such as "Tower of Babel" and "OMAC Project". All this is revealed as a backdrop to the central mystery of who killed Sue Dibny, determined at the conclusion to be Jean Loring, former wife of Ray Palmer (aka The Atom). Jean stole one of Ray's suits and murders Sue, hoping the act would reconcile her and Ray.

    In reading IC again, I was taken aback over how the impact of the story seems trivial and almost overrated now versus 15 years ago. Perhaps this is because of The New 52 and the story becoming essentially non-canon? I also can't help but be perplexed that the murder of Sue and the ultimate reveal of Jean being the murderer had absolutely nothing to do with the more controversial aspects revealed in the story, and how the whole mind-wiping business was overblown, not just by us fans but also by the characters within the story. I just feel like the Batman I know would jump at the chance to alter the Joker's personality to make him a buffoon versus an effective murdering psychopath.

    Overall the story is interesting and definitely and probably the most unique crossover/event story DC has ever done. But I think the story was definitely overblown in hindsight and doesn't seem to hold up well upon re-reading.
    Last edited by kingaliencracker; 02-20-2019 at 09:07 PM.

  2. #2
    Astonishing Member phantom1592's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingaliencracker View Post
    In reading IC again, I was taken aback over how the impact of the story seems trivial and almost overrated now versus 15 years ago. Perhaps this is because of The New 52 and the story becoming essentially non-canon? I also can't help but be perplexed that the murder of Sue and the ultimate reveal of Jean being the murderer had absolutely nothing to do with the more controversial aspects revealed in the story, and how the whole mind-wiping business was overblown, not just by us fans but also by the characters within the story. I just feel like the Batman I know would jump at the chance to alter the Joker's personality to make him a buffoon versus an effective murdering psychopath if given the chance.
    Yep. Batman would always have been a 'pro-wipe'. The entire concept of Batman is someone who takes every crazy evil person he can and locks them up in an asylum... Y'know the place where they try to change their personalities more often then not with medication and chemistry... or ACTUAL lobotomies and electro shock. Just having the OPTION of saying... yeah, Two-face won't be evil anymore and Penguin won't kill anyone every again. They'll become useful members of society and Joker can be trusted being birthday clown with a simple pill/therapy/magic spell, is something that Batman would be the first in line for.

    Quote Originally Posted by kingaliencracker View Post
    Overall the story is interesting and definitely and probably the most unique crossover/event story DC has ever done. But I think the story was definitely overblown in hindsight and doesn't seem to hold up well upon re-reading.
    I remember liking the art and the throwback to Hal Jordan and Barry in the league with the rest of the Satellite crew... but for me it was the mystery that ruined it completely. The culprit could not have been Jean.. and she couldn't have left ZERO clues doing what she did. When you have the whole JLA, Batman... Superman.. and all their friends ALL using ALL their powers to work the crime scene and walk away with nothing... That's just lazy.

    I wasn't a fan of the story in general even back then... but it holds up even less now.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by phantom1592 View Post
    Yep. Batman would always have been a 'pro-wipe'. The entire concept of Batman is someone who takes every crazy evil person he can and locks them up in an asylum... Y'know the place where they try to change their personalities more often then not with medication and chemistry... or ACTUAL lobotomies and electro shock. Just having the OPTION of saying... yeah, Two-face won't be evil anymore and Penguin won't kill anyone every again. They'll become useful members of society and Joker can be trusted being birthday clown with a simple pill/therapy/magic spell, is something that Batman would be the first in line for.
    I just don't envision a scenario where Batman would be against mind-wiping psychopathic villains. In fact, I really don't see how any of the heroes would really be against it, with the exception of J'onn since it was established that his Martian ethics wouldn't allow him to enter someone's mind without their permission, even though he himself had broken that rule a few times prior if memory serves.

    I remember liking the art and the throwback to Hal Jordan and Barry in the league with the rest of the Satellite crew... but for me it was the mystery that ruined it completely. The culprit could not have been Jean.. and she couldn't have left ZERO clues doing what she did. When you have the whole JLA, Batman... Superman.. and all their friends ALL using ALL their powers to work the crime scene and walk away with nothing... That's just lazy.
    The fact that the heroes kept bringing up the possibility of a teleporter or phaser but not someone who could shrink as a suspect just made it incredibly lazy writing.

    And Jean as the culprit was pretty bad writing. I just remember thinking "what the...?" when it happened and almost laughing about it reading it again.

    I wasn't a fan of the story in general even back then... but it holds up even less now.
    I don't know if the story was ever "good". I think it was more shocking and controversial, much of which looks pretty overblown in retrospect.

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member phantom1592's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingaliencracker View Post
    I just don't envision a scenario where Batman would be against mind-wiping psychopathic villains. In fact, I really don't see how any of the heroes would really be against it, with the exception of J'onn since it was established that his Martian ethics wouldn't allow him to enter someone's mind without their permission, even though he himself had broken that rule a few times prior if memory serves..
    Exactly.

    When the idea of throwing people into the hell that is Arkham for life or the phantom zone is perfectly normal and acceptable but 'forced rehabilitation' is suddenly morally unconscionable... the story was flawed. I've never been a fan of the whole 'It's Batman's fault that Joker is still alive to kill people' argument... but once the writers instituted that mental wipes like that are on the table.... Now it's harder to defend that they didn't use it on everyone.


    Quote Originally Posted by kingaliencracker View Post
    The fact that the heroes kept bringing up the possibility of a teleporter or phaser but not someone who could shrink as a suspect just made it incredibly lazy writing.

    And Jean as the culprit was pretty bad writing. I just remember thinking "what the...?" when it happened and almost laughing about it reading it again.
    .

    I didn't even know who Jean was when it came out... but for me it was everyone pointing the finger at Dr. Light's laser beams only to find out it was a FLAMETHROWER?!?! Batman and Flash have both Routinely investigate arsons... but still wander around that crime with no idea what could have done it? Superman, Metamorpho etc. can't detect a fuel or an odor or ANYTHING?!? If she'd swiped some super scientific weapon then I could have let it slide... but a FLAMETHROWER!??

    Not to mention the whole "I thought I'd scare her a little... but brought a flamethrower just in case..." concept. The closer that story got to the resolution the worse it was. I'd love a good DC mystery story... but man, that was NOT it...

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    Batman has hardline principles. He's been depicted as taking things too far and being a control freak before, but the whole league voting on a mind-wipe is exactly the kind of situation that rubs him the wrong way, namely divine beings playing God with no accountability.

    I can agree parts of the mystery don't make sense, but the final reveal didn't ruin any of what I appreciate most about the book, which was a story that made one death feel like the entire family of DC heroes was unraveling at a time when they confront old wounds and debate their limits as superheroes. It's one of my favorite stories for the focus on the characters and their relationships with one another.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingaliencracker View Post
    So I decided to re-read Identity Crisis, mostly because I realized this year was the 15 year anniversary of the story and I wanted to see how it held up.

    I remember as it was released, the discussion that took place on the old DC Message Boards and how DC finally went "dark". I mean, we had dark stories before for sure - Watchmen, The Killing Joke. But Identity Crisis took the Silver/Bronze Age era of DC and turned it on its head, establishing the JLA as using questionable methods in mind-wiping villains to safeguard their secret identities and even going as far as to alter the personality of Doctor Light, who was established as a serial rapist who had sexually assaulted Sue Dibny in the JLA Satellite Headquarters. This sets up Zatanna mind-wiping Batman, which leads to his distrust of metahumans that established story lines such as "Tower of Babel" and "OMAC Project". All this is revealed as a backdrop to the central mystery of who killed Sue Dibny, determined at the conclusion to be Jean Loring, former wife of Ray Palmer (aka The Atom). Jean stole one of Ray's suits and murders Sue, hoping the act would reconcile her and Ray.

    In reading IC again, I was taken aback over how the impact of the story seems trivial and almost overrated now versus 15 years ago. Perhaps this is because of The New 52 and the story becoming essentially non-canon? I also can't help but be perplexed that the murder of Sue and the ultimate reveal of Jean being the murderer had absolutely nothing to do with the more controversial aspects revealed in the story, and how the whole mind-wiping business was overblown, not just by us fans but also by the characters within the story. I just feel like the Batman I know would jump at the chance to alter the Joker's personality to make him a buffoon versus an effective murdering psychopath.

    Overall the story is interesting and definitely and probably the most unique crossover/event story DC has ever done. But I think the story was definitely overblown in hindsight and doesn't seem to hold up well upon re-reading.
    IC's impact on DC is little to do with the direct storyline consequences and everything to do with a somber and faux-mature tone change that followed. It's the beginning of a big downward spiral in DC that led to a sales-based, hastily put together reboot.

    As someone who loved Ralph and Sue before it, I find it hard to loathe a story more than I do Identity Crisis. Literally raping and murdering a character to make people care about them. It's the most juvenile attempt and maturity I've ever seen and it still bothers me to this day that it was so important and is so frequently brought up.
    Last edited by Dred; 02-20-2019 at 10:55 PM.

  7. #7
    Original CBR member Jabare's Avatar
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    it's been 15 years since Identity Crisis.............. wow I feel old
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  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lightning Rider View Post
    Batman has hardline principles. He's been depicted as taking things too far and being a control freak before, but the whole league voting on a mind-wipe is exactly the kind of situation that rubs him the wrong way, namely divine beings playing God with no accountability.

    I can agree parts of the mystery don't make sense, but the final reveal didn't ruin any of what I appreciate most about the book, which was a story that made one death feel like the entire family of DC heroes was unraveling at a time when they confront old wounds and debate their limits as superheroes. It's one of my favorite stories for the focus on the characters and their relationships with one another.
    Batman certainly has principles but he's not Rorschach. He's bent his own rules and has gone to extremes to defeat an adversary. He certainly doesn't strike me as someone who would be vehemently opposed to mind wiping someone who just raped a colleague. Batman has one code, which is that he doesn't kill. Outside of that he hasn't shown to be opposed to much else.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dred View Post
    IC's impact on DC is little to do with the direct storyline consequences and everything to do with a somber and faux-mature tone change that followed. It's the beginning of a big downward spiral in DC that led to a sales-based, hastily put together reboot.

    As someone who loved Ralph and Sue before it, I find it hard to loathe a story more than I do Identity Crisis. Literally raping and murdering a character to make people care about them. It's the most juvenile attempt and maturity I've ever seen and it still bothers me to this day that it was so important and is so frequently brought up.
    Well, I agree with your critique but it's hard to argue it's importance in DC lore or its immediate impact on the DCU, which was felt for up until N52.

  10. #10
    Three Legged Member married guy's Avatar
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    I love Brad Meltzer.
    His books are great, and his run on Green Arrow is a favourite or mine.
    But man, the Jean reveal was awful.
    Who brings a flamethrower just in case??
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  11. #11
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    The art was good.
    The exploitation of Sue's rape was what turned me off, though.
    "There's magic in the sound of analog audio." - CNET.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by married guy View Post
    I love Brad Meltzer.
    His books are great, and his run on Green Arrow is a favourite or mine.
    But man, the Jean reveal was awful.
    Who brings a flamethrower just in case??
    I think we're supposed to just believe Jean was crazy and had no real intention of leaving Sue alive. The whole motive was just asinine to begin with.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Stone View Post
    The art was good.
    The exploitation of Sue's rape was what turned me off, though.
    Well, I think most plot devices are fair game up to and including something as serious as rape, provided that it's treated in a manner that's not contrived and actually deals with the issue.

    That's not what happened with IC. For one, the rape was a retcon meaning that it was never actually dealt with or handled. We're to believe this awful thing happened to Sue and neither she nor Ralph mentioned once in years.

    Second, the rape had actually nothing to do with Sue's murder or the motives behind it, making its purpose more or less shock value. I think the story could have been altered in a manner to still get the point across without the senseless rape of a female character who was also killed off in the same story.

  14. #14
    Mighty Member Kaijudo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dred View Post
    IC's impact on DC is little to do with the direct storyline consequences and everything to do with a somber and faux-mature tone change that followed. It's the beginning of a big downward spiral in DC that led to a sales-based, hastily put together reboot.

    As someone who loved Ralph and Sue before it, I find it hard to loathe a story more than I do Identity Crisis. Literally raping and murdering a character to make people care about them. It's the most juvenile attempt and maturity I've ever seen and it still bothers me to this day that it was so important and is so frequently brought up.
    100% this. It's all for shock with no substance. Add to that this bizarre need of DC at the time to not allow villains to have grown beyond villainy (Heat Wave, the first Trickster) or to have grown pathetic after years of being beaten (Dr. Light), rather than being victims of something to make them "good"/less competent, and it remains the worst DC book/event I've ever had the misfortune of picking up. And after having read Metal, that's saying a LOT.

  15. #15
    Astonishing Member jetengine's Avatar
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    Lets not forget the glaring pothole of Jean being tied up....by someone else. Thats never mentioned or ackowledged.

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