Buy Now!

Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Identity Crisis #3

Identity Crisis #3 [of 7]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 11, 2004

Cover date: October 2004

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

"Serial Killer"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

The action resumes in Roxbury, Massachusetts where Hawkman, Atom, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna, Flash and GL face off against Dr. Light and his mercenary bodyguard, Deathstroke the Terminator, while Elongated Man lies unconscious. In short order, Deathstroke defeats the JLA'ers. Dr. Light remembers having his memories tampered with by the heroes and he angrily emits light that allows Deathstroke and Dr. Light to get away.

When the light clears, the heroes are facing Superman who wants to know why they didn't tell everyone else that they were going after Dr. Light. The Flash lies that they wanted to give Elongated Man a chance to take Dr. Light in because EM had a run-in with light years ago so they suspected a revenge plot. Superman says that he understands but then explains that Dr. Light couldn't be the murderer.

Meanwhile, Flash confronts Green Arrow wanting to know which other villains had been mind wiped previously. In flashback, GA tells about the time the Secret Society of Super Villains switched bodies with the JLA. During the "switcheroo", the bad guys photographed their borrowed faces and learned the JLA's secret identities. Superman and Batman didn't remain behind for clean-up which left the second string JLA'ers to clean up and clean up involved altering the bad guys' memories.

GA tells Wally (Flash) that it wasn't easy maintaining secret identities but that they all worked hard at it and were OK with manipulating memories - until the night that they altered Dr. Light's personality. From then on, GA and Hawkman were at odds. Wally wonders how much the other heroes knew - such as Superman, Batman and Aquaman. GA responds that people believe what they want to believe and hear what they want to hear as the POV focus is on Superman's ear.

Meanwhile, in Gotham City, the Calculator is observing the heroes and talking to Merlyn, a bad guy archer, when Flash foe Captain Boomerang buzzes in. Calculator sends Boomerang to meet his illegitimate son but Boomerang chickens out of acknowledging he is the child's father. (The apparent mother: the Golden Glider, another Flash foe).

Also in Gotham, Tim Drake/Robin returns home from six hours of looking for bad guys Warp and Plasmus with the Teen Titans. He covers up an eye injury with make-up but his father sees through it and brings Tim ice as the television newscaster's voice in the background asks if others close to the JLA are safe.

In Metropolis, at the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen is developing pictures from Sue's funeral while Editor Perry White discusses theories on the murder with him. Jimmy posits that perhaps the murderer is planning to kill the wives of all the married heroes, but Perry suggests that it may be bigger than just wives - that husbands, kids, co-workers, or even the hero's best pals could be at risk.

Finally, in Ivy Town, someone murders Jean Loring, the Atom's ex-wife, by brutalizing her, gagging her, and then hanging her.

2Story - 2: Standing on its own, this issue is the weakest so far. Meltzer (a personal friend - see last issue's review for the full disclaimer) continues to narrate through Green Arrow, which feels a bit contrived this time out. GA was never a team leader in the JLA - just the team loud-mouth.

The heroes appear more tarnished and less heroic than ever. In battle, they're too easily outclassed by Deathstroke. Even Batman should have a more difficult time than Deathstroke did taking out eight current and former members of the JLA. It's clever to have a villain take out the heroes' weapons - Hawkman's wings, GA's arrows - but it's not so clever to presume that the heroes would be so woefully unprepared for that line of attack. These are veteran heroes - even Wally and Kyle by this point - so why do they march into battle with no battle plan or the slightest clue how a villain with a sword might brandish that sword in lieu of using it to stab flesh. Then again, Deathstroke, who uses 90% of his brain capacity, doesn't even consider protecting his one bad eye from something as simple as an arrow puncture. And hey Zatanna - you had no problem messing with the minds of villains who use the ordinary 10% of brain capacity, so why not reduce Deathstroke's mental capacity from 90% down to even 65% in order to even the odds a little bit?

I am a little bit confused about Dr. Light suddenly recalling that the heroes took his mind. First, his memory of being taken down by the JLA is inaccurate as we see the heroes jumping him in flashback and Batman is there when it's already been established that the Super Friends (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman) weren't around the day that Dr. Light raped Sue. And, more to the point, why exactly did Dr. Light hire Deathstroke as his mercenary bodyguard if he didn't remember the mind manipulation in the first place? Also, Dr. Light isn't like the female Dr. Light whose powers are internalized so why would an angry outburst up his power levels?

Superman finally shows his "S" and his face but he's too easily thrown off-track by Wally and the others. I disagree with GA's statement that, if Lois went down, Clark would want the first punch. In the past few years, we've seen Lois go down at the hands of the Joker, Manchester Black, and Brian Azzarello, but the point is that Superman isn't Batman - he doesn't have the luxury of revenge because he's Superman. And it is stretching my notion of what makes Superman a hero to even infer that Superman had any idea that the others were mind wiping bad guys. Even Val Kilmer's Bruce Wayne, in 1995's Batman Forever, refused to fund the Riddler's research into mind manipulation because, simply, it "raised too many questions." There are some matters that, for a super hero, should always be black and white - even in a world of grays like the one Meltzer is attempting to show us.

The interlude with Captain Boomerang and Calculator seems arbitrary - as if it's done only to set up the idea that the villains' loved ones aren't safe either. Things become even more convoluted with Robin and his father - Jack Drake seems so loving and reasonable and so unaware that his son is continuing to be Robin behind his back. This directly contradicts the continuity in the Bat-books where Jack insists Tim quit being Robin immediately or he'll reveal Bruce's secret identity. It also seems like rather heavy-handed foreshadowing of the fate of Jack Drake as an orphaned Tim can go back to being Robin full-time.

My favorite scene in the issue is the one page dark room discussion between Jimmy and Perry - not because of the discussion itself but because Jimmy is doing something I don't ever recall seeing him do before as a photographer: develop pictures. Of course, in 2004, one would assume a photographer would use a digital camera, but Jimmy's such a geek it is possible to extrapolate that he insists on the "real thing."

Finally - poor Jean Loring. Another long-standing female supporting character has been brutally murdered. I didn't see Sue Dibny's rape and murder as the inappropriate exploitation of a woman, but, notwithstanding Perry White's theory, it's difficult not to see two such murders that way. It hasn't been this difficult being a woman in the DCU since Catwoman had to fight crime with breasts that made Dolly Parton look unendowed.

If Jack Drake is to be murdered too, it may have been circumspect of Meltzer to make Drake the second victim rather than Jean Loring. Of course, if I were the murderer and/or Meltzer, I'd have killed Loring with the cross bow that her ex-husband gave her to protect herself with. And why, after breaking cups, chairs, windows, and a cell phone, would the murderer gag Loring before hanging her anyway?

3Art - 3: I still love Rags' name, but the way he draws noses is really getting on my nerves. Everyone this issue needs a nose job. Even Superman has the nostrils of Judd Nelson.

My favorite moment artistically is the recreation of Justice League of America issues 166-168, where the Secret Society and the JLA exchange bodies Morales seems to channel the spirits of the great JLA artists of the disco era, which still makes him the best man for art chores in my opinion noses be damned.

2Cover Art - 2: There's no mistaking the man in the orange boots. Only one DCU denizen ever dressed tackier than Deathstroke - and that's his son, Jericho of the New Teen Titans. The cover is highly misleading showing what appears to be a dying Green Lantern. With Silver Age GL Hal Jordan about to be reborn, it appears more a matter of marketing to package GL Kyle Rayner as the next victim on the cover and even more of a cheat when we get to the last page and find that it's another even more irrelevant supporting character who got the proverbial axe.

Finally, is it me or do Flash and GL appear to have taken the brunt of Deathstroke's attack? Given that they had nothing to do with the mind wipes that hardly seems fair. Then again, whoever said that life in the DCU was fair -- other than Julie Schwartz?

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2004

February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004

Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.

Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.