“Anyone who puts on the costume paints a bullseye on his family’s chests.” – The Elongated Man
Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man’s words echo throughout the entire Identity Crisis series. Even for a hero, who experiences the worst of humanity on a daily basis, it’s hard to believe that tragedy can strike home. “After all, it can happen out there, but it would never happen here. I’m home. I’m safe,” you think to yourself. Humans need to feel this sense of security. Unfortunately, for Ralph, tragedy does strike, shattering the illusion for all the heroes in the hardest way possible. Ralph’s wife Sue is murdered while she prepares his surprise party. This single crime would start a chain of events that throw the entire Justice League into turmoil.
Eschewing the classic lineup, Brad Meltzer’s story focuses on the reserve Justice League Members. Identity Crisis mainly involves those members who have family, (Atom and his ex-wife, Tim Drake and his father, Oliver Queen and Dinah, and, of course, the Elongated Man and his wife.) Though, admittedly, these may not be on your list of favorite characters, Meltzer uses this very symbolically. There is the Justice League, (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman), and they are icons and symbols. Then you have the League within the League. These are the heroes that stick around after the big fight. They’re closer to the people they’re helping. The characters themselves are deeply human, motivated by human thoughts and emotions; showing that Meltzer is a real student of the human psyche.
Beyond that, Meltzer’s writing is transformative. Where prior and subsequent crises have taken the entire universe and torn it asunder, Meltzer does much more with far less. Identity Crisis, instead of altering the world itself, points out something that was always there. Revealed within its pages is something that certainly must have happened even if we never accepted it for what it was. (Don’t look to me to tell you. Read it your damn self)
After all that praise for Meltzer’s talent, something certainly needs to be said about Rags Morales. If you don’t recognize Morales’ talent right away, (And some of you youngsters might not) he was most recently tapped for the New 52 relaunch of Action Comics. Action is one of DC’s most hallowed flagship titles so being picked for the relaunch really speaks to Morales’s talent. Still, that says so little about his work on these seven issues. Clever readers can pick out elements of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore in Ralph and Sue Dibny. This particular touch adds, perhaps subconsciously, to the innocent perfection of their marriage, and subsequently the disbelief at their tragedy. Morales’s work conveys such emotion that the reader can feel every emotion splashed across the page. This is particularly true of the funeral scene where Ralph Dibny is literally trying to hold himself together.
Morales’ skill is such that he can even capture the internal struggle of characters. When discussing something as simple as Jonathan and Martha Kent paying their newspaper subscription, Martha’s offhanded comment ignites a series of emotions in Clark. All and none at once show on his face in the very next panel.
Meltzer and Morales’ combined talents create a one-of-a-kind story that changes the entire DC Universe without making a single alteration. The repercussions of Identity Crisis are felt long after the final page is turned in ways far more devastating than its counterpart Infinite Crisis. I know I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface here, but that’s the thing about Identity Crisis. There are so many layers to this book that it’s impossible to cover it all in just one look. Identity Crisis is definitely something you should have on your shelf. (Right Now. Go and get it. I’ll wait.)