Identity Crisis #5
The fifth chapter of Identity Crisis (issues 2-4 reviewed
is easily the most powerful yet. Chock-full of rich character
moments, the story nevertheless manages to cram in some excellent
slam-bang action as well as one of the most suspenseful confrontations
in comics history. All while keeping the readers on the edges
of their collective seats, puzzling over the impenetrable mystery
of "Who's pulling the strings?"
The issue opens with the heroes going on the offensive, cutting
a swath through the criminal underworld. Sue Dibney, wife of
the Elongated Man is dead. Jean Loring, ex-wife of the Atom,
has just survived an attempt on her life. Lois Lane, wife of
Superman, has just received a threatening letter. The heroes
are not about to let the killer claim another victim.
In the midst of all this, the Atom and his ex share a tender
reconciliation, which shows why Meltzer is absolutely one of
the best character writers working in comics today (however
limited his contributions may be). Meltzer understands these
characters at a basic level, which goes well beyond the superficial
stereotypes I've often seen other writers fall back on. Ray
Palmer, the Atom, is one of the most powerful and intelligent
crimefighters in the DC universe, but his criminal mishandling
over the years as "the guy with the lame shrinking powers" is
one of my longstanding beefs. And Loring, who is usually portrayed
as a one-dimensional placeholder — when she's portrayed at
all — comes off with an impressive depth and nuance here.
Unfortunately, the issue's biggest failing is one imposed on
Meltzer from the outside. Obsessed with pointlessly "re-imagining"
characters, DC recently relaunched Firestorm as an ongoing
series — only the title character was not the one familiar
to long time DC readers. To make room for this new version,
it was fairly obvious the old one's days were numbered, and
indeed, halfway through this issue, the original Firestorm meets
his demise in by-the-numbers fashion. The death-by-editorial-edict
stands out all the more in contrast with the other clever character
But it's the edge-of-your-seat finale that pushes this issue
over the top. Two parallel stories — one featuring Tim Drake,
AKA Robin, and his strained relationship with his father and
the other with Captain Boomerang and his newly-met, illegitimate
son — literally steal the show. Geoff Johns has earned widespread
acclaim with his development of the Flash's rogues as interesting
individuals, and Meltzer carries that a step farther as Boomerang,
desperate for some measure of respect in his newfound son's
eyes, gambles on a desperate, last-ditch chance to score big.
And Robin, conflicted over his role as an underage hero, struggles
with his conscience as he leaves his disapproving father at
home while trying to track down the at-large killer with Batman.
The realization that everyone's being manipulated comes too
late, and the utter tragedy that slams down like a rain of steel
is both unexpected and obvious in hindsight.
This single issue is one of the best of the year, bar none.
I only hope Meltzer is up to maintaining this level of quality
for two more issues.
RevolutionSF Rating: 9/10