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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Identity Crisis #4

Identity Crisis #4 [of 7]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 15, 2004

Cover date: November 2004

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

"Who Benefits"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Jean Loring, ex-wife of the Atom (Ray Palmer) is not dead yet.

Her phone call to her ex-husband goes through and the Atom rides along the telephone lines back to Jean's home. Realizing her plight, Ray pounces into the rope that is hanging Jean and expands his size, letting the ropes rip through his body rather than hang Jean. Jean has survived thanks to the Atom.

Later, in Jean's Ivy Town home, Green Arrow and Mister Miracle, the DCU's greatest escape artist, are considering who could have gotten past a combination of Thanagarian, Martian, Apokoliptian, Kryptonian and Earth technology. However, the alarm systems were never triggered by whoever entered to attempt to murder Jean.

Superman, also investigating the crime scene, discovers that the attacker used a bowline knot, which is a common Boy Scout knot. It's also a knot that would have been simple for super-villain and former Suicide Squad member Slipknot, according to Oracle. And Jean recognized that her attacker was a male in brown work-boots. Clark insists that the good guys speak to Slipknot ASAP - he is incarcerated in Opal City Penitentiary but he also only has one arm (the other having been blown off by the Suicide Squad).

In Opal, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman question Slipknot who is now a born-again member of Kobra. Wonder Woman uses her magic lasso but they discover Slipknot doesn't know anything about the attacks. Clark makes the obvious conclusion that this is somehow related to the Suicide Squad as both Dr. Light and Slipknot were former members. However, Green Arrow believes that's a red herring - and so does Batman who is investigating on his own in the Bat-Cave. Meanwhile, a group of villains - including Chronos, Merlyn, and Mirror Master - debate whether this level of strife on the super-heroes is good or bad for the bad guys. Merlyn asserts it's not a good thing because it makes the villains' lives that much harder.

Captain Boomerang, with urging from his "friend", the Calculator, contacts his long-lost son who is apparently pleased to receive confirmation his father is a bad guy.

Batman believes the Suicide Squad angle is a dead-end because no one in the Squad benefits from the attacks. On the contrary, there is a benefit to a number of others including Boomerang, the Calculator, Merlyn, the Elongated Man (who is beneficiary of a life insurance policy on Sue's life), and even Robin (Tim Drake) and his father.

Green Arrow contacts his now deceased friend, Hal Jordan, a.k.a. the Spectre and tries to get Jordan to tell him who the killer is. Jordan implies he knows who the murderer is but that, as the Spectre, he cannot divulge that information. He also alludes to his pending "rebirth". Finally, in Metropolis, Lois Lane, wife of Clark Kent, receives a note at her desk: "LOIS - I KNOW WHO YOUR HUSBAND IS. YOU'RE NEXT." The "S" in husband is written in red ink with an upside-down triangle around it - making it clear someone knows that Clark Kent is, in reality, Superman!

4Story - 4: After a slow, and relatively weak, third issue, Meltzer ups the ante by doing several unexpected things - the most unexpected of which is not killing the Atom's ex-wife. Granted, Ray and Jean are not bitter as many ex-spouses are, but, if someone wanted to get revenge on me, the last person in the world I'd expect them to kill to get a rise out of me would be my ex-wife. Nonetheless, this is a happy DCU world where people divorce and can remain good friends. An ironic position for Meltzer to take given his attempt at infusing real-world sensibilities into the Bronze Age JLA. But, to those who felt Meltzer was perhaps being unfair in his treatment of female characters, Jean Loring's survival is a welcome turn of events. And a pretty necessary one as we finally get an eyewitness account of the attacker that permits the story to move forward by identifying the perpetrator as a male.

Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all play relatively prominent roles in this issue and, happily, act very much in character. While no one thankfully outright calls Clark a "Boy Scout", his identification of the bowline knot as a common Boy Scout knot is cute. Wonder Woman, whose face we never see in the issue and who only speaks one line of dialogue, plays the role of human lie detector with Slipknot, again a very accurate and telling role for the Amazing Amazon given that her creator, William Moulton Marston, invented the lie detector. And Batman, who never plays well with others (unless the others are his hand-picked Bat family of course), is on hand to demonstrate the legal concept of a criminal investigation determining who benefits from the crimes - a short and relatively simple role for him to play but again a very necessary one that effectively shows off the Dark Knight's detective skills.

I'm not sure how necessary it is to establish that Hal Jordan knows the killer's identity. While it addresses the notion that there are those in the DCU with power to solve this case in the blink of an eye, it doesn't seem necessary to make the Spectre all-knowing in this case. The original Spectre, who was police detective Jim Corrigan, used to spend most of his stories solving crimes and then, only when he knew who the bad guy was, he'd turn to the Spectre at the end of the story and turn the bad guy into a tree or some equally horrible fate. Much like George Reeves on TV's Adventures of Superman who would do all he could as Clark Kent, only changing into Superman for the last-minute cleanup. And the cute knowing reference to "Rebirth", the coming miniseries by Geoff Johns which will reintroduce Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, is, well, cute.

The climax of the issue and its cliffhanger - the threat to Lois Lane's life and the notion that whoever is doing this knows Clark's secret - is an exciting one that returns Lois to a role she hasn't played in a long time: damsel in distress. It might have packed more punch, however, if Lois weren't already playing that role in both "Superman" and "Adventures of Superman".

3Art - 3: It's all about the noses.

I think Morales is an excellent choice for artist of this miniseries. He brings a tone of realism in a way that differs completely from the realism George Perez brought to the "Crisis on Infinite Earths". But everyone needs a nose job.

Most noticeably - or "noseably" - in this issue: Jean Loring's huge nostrils in the last panel of page 5 and the super-schnoz on the Man of Steel in the middle panel of page 10.

Hey Rags, only the Elongated Man has a long twitchy nose.

4Cover Art - 4: This is a pretty cover that has a simplicity to it that makes Diana's glowing noose of a lasso an effective visual. And, given that Wonder Woman doesn't show her face in the comic itself, it's nice to see her important role in the issue given the cover spotlight. Both the lasso and Diana's other two amazing attributes practically jump off the cover. But the caption - "The Truth!" - is misleading and almost as ugly as the direct sales box. The lack of truth in the caption is what keeps me from awarding this cover a perfect score.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2004

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