Friday, December 12, 2014

Graphic Novel Review of Identity Crisis

Book #52:Identity Crisis, by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales. Graphic novel collection, consisting of the 7 issues of the min-series.

In late 2004, novelist Brad Meltzer told one of the most highly-regarded (and controversial) comic book stories of the new millennium. Bringing all of his skills as a writer of thrillers and mysteries, Meltzer took the graphic novel form and produced a gritty, “realistic” tale of the consequences of being a hero.

From the very beginning of comic book heroes, it has become common knowledge that heroes need secret identities to keep their loved ones safe. But we had never been shown why that is true. Brad Meltzer shows us the damage that can come when secrets get out. 

A serial killer is on the loose, and the first victim is everyone’s favorite wife in DC Comics, Sue Dibmy, wife of The Elongated Man. The first issue sets the tone with emotional gut punch after gut punch. The death scene is horrifying, Sue’s funeral is glorious, and if that wasn’t enough, we learn that she was pregnant when she was killed.

And that is just the first issue. The roller coaster continues for six more issues. Meltzer tells a tight crime story, with more victims and clues and suspects and red herrings and surprise twists, and an ending that you just don’t see coming. The pacing and the plotting are terrific, and the artwork by Rags Morales is wonderful, as well. The artist “cast” actors from various eras as his models, and his work is very consistent throughout the issues. Because of the liberties he took with his method, some of the characters appear “off model,” but the consistency and story-telling he does more than makes up for that.

There are two major complaints that people have with the story. One is the violence, in particular the sexual violence that we learn happened to Sue, as well as the heroes’ responses to this act. Second, there are leaps that Meltzer takes with the continuity of some characters that bothered folks who were reading other DC comics at the time. But neither of these issues is enough to turn me off from the story.

I love the emotional response I get from this story. There are moments that bring me near to tears in both the first and last issues, and the ones in between tell a great mystery story. I don't like the notion of "comic books for people who don't like comic books," but Identity Crisis probably fits that category as well as any book can.

Source: public library 

Note: Emily and I talked about this graphic novel for more nearly two hours, in episode 25 of Shortbox Showcase.

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