Sunday, July 10, 2005

Catching Up: Identity Crisis

Well, I finally got my hands on Identity Crisis and feel like I can start "Catching Up" with the DC Universe. This was the series that set the upcoming crossover Infinite Crisis in motion (or at least is a huge trigger), and set things in motion that will take years to resolve. Though I wasn't reading comics at the time, I gather it was quite the controversy. I'm sure it's all been discussed to death, and that my contribution to the debate means little. I will forge ahead anyways (there will be plot points discussed, so this is your spoiler warning):

  • Not only is the rape of Sue Dinby a case of "Woman In Refrigerator Syndrome", it's flat-out cheap. There's no need for it plot-wise, and it's never handled afterwards. I'm not even talking about well handled. It's simply not handled. Though the attack on her motivates much of the backstory of Identity Crisis, it didn't need to go beyond battery. Cut out those panels, and re-read the series and you'd find no plot holes. The attack starts with battery, and that's all that's referred to again. The rape itself serves no point beyond shock value and the good ol' "You Wouldn't Believe What Those Silver-Agers Were Up To!!!" And that offends me. Ultraviolence is part and parcel of the men-in-tights genre, but sexual violation of women needn't be. It's a serious subject that deserves to be treated with more gravity than as a writer's cheap trick.

  • So the incident with Dr. Light? The history of mentally altering opponents? Of snipping 10 minutes of Batman's memory? The events that will reverberate through Infinite Crisis and change the face of the DCU? .... It all comes to light because they jump to conclusions? Because they ran off half-cocked letting their guilty conscience guide them? Again, it feels cheap and unorganic.

  • Not only am I glad to come back after 5 years away and find Ollie returned to life, but I'm even happier to see him placed in a central role. It's not the boxing glove arrows that make Green Arrow work, and that's why Connor could never quite replace him. It's his conscience and political thinking. The thing I liked most about his characterization in Identity Crisis was that while he opposed the decision, he supported his friends and teammates once the decision is made. That's the integrity that makes him a unique character.

  • Maybe I'm missing some sections of Jean Loring's backstory ... was there an issue of something where she was revealed to be a complete idiot? An amoral idiot, to boot? Not only is her scheme to scare her marriage back to life crackpot to begin with, but when it goes horribly wrong ... she just keeps going, like some murdering Energizer Bunny. Perhaps staging the attack on herself can be explained as cover-up, but then planning the attack on Jack Drake? That's just flat idiotic to try to "scare" someone when you just killed a friend by doing the same thing a few days before. Either her story's a lie, she's dumb as a bag of hammers, or Brad Meltzer writes cheap fiction. Or all of the above.

  • As much as I deride Meltzer's plotting, I really don't mind his writing. The main characters were well developed, and there is nice thematic work. Secrets and famliy kept being repeated again and again, and it developed into an interesting look at all sides of the coin in the DCU. I also quite liked the development of Calculator and the story of Digger Harkness.

Hopefully, Infinite Crisis will work out well, and this will have proved a great starting place. But as a series of comics (apart from it's storyline impacts), I just don't care for it. There were a lot of cop-outs, and a lot of cheap tricks being played on the audience.


Kurt said...

I came back just in time for this one to kick off and thought, "Great timing!" only to be very disappointed when the culprit was revealed.

I thought there were a number ways they could have arrived at the same place plot-wise without resorting to the Dr. Light nonsense or having Jean Loring kill Sue in that manner. The whole event makes me nervous to see how ham-handed they get during IC.

Mark Fossen said...

I guess I'm not exactly sure who's responsible for what here. The basic idea of the mind-wipe, and the different views in the superhero community (which I'm hoping is Johns) is an interesting one. The clumsy plotting I'm hoping is a carryover from Meltzer's legal thriller days, and won't be present.