Cult Comic Essentials

Cult Comic Essentials: Identity Crisis

Hitting the comic book world in 2004, Identity Crisis was a seven-issue comic book limited series published by DC Comics. It was created by writer Brad Meltzer, with pencil by Rags Morales and inking by Michael Bair.

The story opens with Elongated Man is on a stakeout, during which a minor villain called Bolt is shot and wounded by criminals, his wife Sue Dibny is murdered in their apartment, apparently dying of burns. The DC superhero community rallies to find the murderer, with recurring villain Doctor Light being the prime suspect.

Green Arrow makes a shock revelation to the Flash (Wally West) and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) that Light once raped Sue Dibny in the JLA satellite headquarters. To ensure this could not happen again, League members at that time — Atom (Ray Palmer), Black Canary, Hawkman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and a very reluctant Flash (Barry Allen) — voted to allow the sorceress Zatanna to mind-wipe the villain and alter his personality to an ineffectual buffoon.

In further revelations it appears that a mind wipe was also done on at least one other occasion: when the Secret Society of Super Villains (the Wizard, Floronic Man, Star Sapphire, Reverse-Flash, and Blockbuster) captures JLA members Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Zatanna and Black Canary and switched bodies with the heroes, allowing the villains to learn their secret identities by casually removing the heroes’ masks. Although the heroes defeated the villains, Zatanna once again erased the villains’ memories of the incident and their knowledge of the secret identities.

Green Arrow’s words also imply that they have done this on other occasions when their secret identities were threatened by magic or other means.

The heroes go in search of Doctor Light and discover that he has hired Deathstroke to protect him. As they battle Light’s memory returns to him and become enraged by how the heroes violated him and uses his now returned powers to escape.

In another shocking scene Atom finds his estranged ex-wife, Jean Loring, hanging from a door, blindfolded and gagged, and revives her just in time, however she is unable to describe her attacker; furthermore, a death threat is sent to Superman’s wife, Lois Lane.

Elsewhere Captain Boomerang (Digger Harkness) is hired by The Calculator to assassinate Tim Drake’s father Jack. As events unwind Jack finds a gun and a note warning him of the attempt on his life. In the melee Jack fatally shoots Boomerang who also kills him. Tim Drake comes upon the aftermath of this and is comforted by partner Batman, who confiscates the note before the authorities or the media can learn of its existence.

During questioning of several villains by the heroes, former League member Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond) is stabbed through the chest with the sword of the Shining Knight by the villain the Shadow Thief. Firestorm’s nuclear powers reach critical mass and he detonates in the atmosphere.

Wally West questions Green Arrow again after accidentally seeing a snapshot of the battle on the Satellite in Light’s mind, which reveals that Batman was also present. Green Arrow confesses that Batman had left immediately after the battle, but unexpectedly returned just as the mind wipe was taking place. He disapproved of this and nearly attacked the other heroes; he was magically restrained and his memory of the incident was removed.

Batman uses his detective skills to find the hideout of the Calculator, but discovers the villain anticipated this and abandoned it. The autopsy of Sue Dibny’s body by Doctor Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific, members of the Justice Society, reveals Dibny was killed by an infarction in her brain. A microscopic scan of Dibny’s brain reveals tiny footprints as a clue to the infarction’s cause.

Doctor Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific realize, as does Batman in the course of his own investigation, that Dibny was murdered by an assassin with access to the technology of the Atom, which allows the ability to shrink to subatomic size. Almost simultaneously, Palmer learns that Jean Loring is aware of the note sent to Jack Drake (which had been kept secret) and deduces she is the killer.

Loring claims she did not mean to kill Sue, and it was not her intention for Jack Drake to be killed, arguing that she sent the note and gun so he could protect himself. Loring states that she undertook the plan (including faking the attempt on her own life) in order to bring Ray back into her life. Palmer says that she is insane, and Loring is committed to Arkham Asylum and kept under heavy medication. In the final scene with the Justice League, Wally West is awkward in the presence of Batman, who is suspicious of his behaviour.

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