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Identity Crisis by Meltzer, Morales and Bair

1/09/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Identity Crisis in the USA - or Buy Identity Crisis in the UK

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pub: DC Comics. 288 page graphic novel. Price: $14.99 (US), $17.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4012-0458-7.

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For many years, DC Universe super-heroes were given odd or peculiar weaknesses that super-villains could exploit or trip them up. One that was never fully exploited, outside of Superman's girl-friend and pal, was that of going after their relatives, especially their wives, providing you knew who they were. The Justice League Of America has a high percentage of married members let alone those involved in relationships, let alone parents. Now someone not only knows who they all are, including the Man Of Steel himself, but is systematically killing or attempting to kill their nearest and dearest. The first of these was Sue Dibney, wife of the Elongated Man, Ralph Dibney, who never really had much of a secret identity anyway.

The response from the JLA, not to mention affiliated groups, was to make an immediate hunt for whoever did it. A group within the JLA knew one person it could be, Doctor Arthur Light. Many years back, he had invaded their satellite base to get his gun back and encountered and raped Sue Dibney who was star-gazing at the time. They couldn't return him to Earth to be imprisoned, not when he threatened from the information he gained to go after all their wives when he got out, so Zatanna deleted some of his memories which although removed the threat, didn't do much for his sanity. Thinking he'd regained his memories, they went in pursuit only to discover it wasn't him. More so, when the Atom's ex-wife, Jean Loring, was the nearly the next victim, except the Atom managed to rescue her. Whoever the killer was, he or she was breaking through all their security precautions with ease and leaving other villains to take the blame.

How much more to say about this original seven-part mini-series from 2004-2005 without giving away spoilers to those who missed it the first time will be difficult. I can certainly understand why it was considered ground-breaking as it addressed a number of problems from over the decades with an interesting solution. It also allowed an interesting perspective of looking at what super-villains do in their down-time.

What really makes this series stand out is artist Rags Morales ability to convey emotion on the printed page whether it is with the Elongated Man or the Atom or even the many other characters here that even surprised its writer. Brad Meltzer, in the extras interview. It is pure lesson for those with an interest in continuity art in how to do such things that really brought out the emotional content of the story. Also included in the sixteen page supplement where the mini-series creators point out the details and the problems that need to be resolved. Morales also points out the people he used as facial examples to get the right tone. Using Dick Van Dyke for Ralph Dibney was an interesting revelation.

After reviewing the last two volumes of '52' last month, I was interested in learning more about what led to Sue Dibney's death and got it in spades here. 'Identity Crisis' hits all the angles that will make you have a serious re-think of any of the earlier stories you've read in the past concerning the JLA. It even shows how effective Deathstroke The Terminator is in taking them all on single-handed and nearly defeating them. If the JLA is to remain effective in business, though, they really ought to stop using their real forenames in public. As Zatanna would say, 'YUB TI WON.'

GF Willmetts

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