Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest – Identity Crisis #5

Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2004
By: Craig Johnson

"Chapter Five: Father's Day"

Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artist: Rags Morales (p), Michael Bair (i)

Publisher: DC

Average Rating: 7.5/10

Jason Cornwell:
Dominic Davies:
Jim Kingman:
James Redington:
Dave Wallace:

Jason Cornwell

As the heroes of the DCU heroes continue to grasp at straws when it comes to uncovering the person responsible for targeting their loved ones, we see their efforts are not all that successful, and heroes are starting to pay the price for their continues strikes against the villain community. Meanwhile another supporting player finds themselves targeted, but he's able to get a call out for help, and his warning note also included a means of protecting himself.

This issue looks to provide a pretty big clue as to who is responsible for targeting the loved ones of the DCU heroes and speaking as a reader who was rather enjoying the speculation that surrounded the killer's identity I have to say I will be quite disappointed if Brad Meltzer takes the path that he looks to start down in this issue. Now I'm going to refrain from going to much into who I believe to be the killer to be, but I will say that it's a bit of a cheat, as he's essentially offered up a mystery where the clues suggest multiple suspects, and in the end his answer renders these clues meaningless as there was more than one killer involved. Now this issue is pretty tough on readers like myself who were fans of John Ostrander's DC work in the late 1980s/early 1990s, as two long-standing members of Suicide Squad take some pretty serious blows, and we also learn the fate of Ronnie Raymond. However the Deadshot scene displayed a great understanding of the character. The issue also takes out another member of the DCU cast of supporting players, but this death isn't nearly as effective as Sue's largely because Brad Meltzer attempted to ramp up the tension level by having the scene play out over an extended period, while the potential victim talks to his would be rescuers on the phone. However, instead of being an intense display it plays out like a silly b-grade stalker film, though it is worth noting that this time the person behind the murders gave the intended victim the means to defend themselves.

Rags Morales does deserve a slap on the wrist for the cover image that he offers up for this issue, as the shot of a grieving Robin might as paint a big bullseye on one of Tim's supporting players, as well as telegraph the outcome in advance of the actual encounter. However, he does his normal fine job when it comes to the interior art, as the raw power of the opening clash gets the issue off to a rollicking start, and how can one not love the scene where Deadshot call's Kyle's bluff. Now the scene where Firestorm receives a killing blow could've been more clearly presented, but the final moments of the character are visually impressive. The art also does a pretty effective job of capturing the idea that there is something odd when it comes to Captain Boomerang's son. The art also does some nice work conveying the visual impact of the final pages, though I must confess most of my emotional investment in the sequence rested in the fate of the killer rather than the victim.

Dominic Davies

The hunt for the culprit behind Sue Dibny's murder and other attacks continues. Ray and Jean rekindle their love for each other after her near death experience and Captain Boomerang and his son train and have some father/son time together.More tragedy however strikes the heroes of Earth as Firestorm is killed while pursuing Sands. Even more shocking is the death of Robin's father at the hand of Cap Boomerang who also died during the attack.

It has been along time since a comic has made me feel such a myriad of different emotions. As soon as I put it down, I had to step back, and breath, then pick it up and read it again. In this issue Meltzer has created the perfect engaging story, so incredibly compelling, I almost wept (I'm not kidding, I did almost cry). I have only recently started to really get into the DC superhero universe, being mostly a Marvel boy myself I was surprised to see how quickly I took to it and have a few titles now added to my order. I think this series, completly justifies my changing of faith. Identity Crisis #5 is a roller coaster ride of action, love, intrigue, humility and horror and its all brought together so perfectly its a humbling experience.

You start this issue thinking that the Heroes have finally taken enough and are just going to bash their way to the answers. Ray and Jean's apparent rekindling of their love leaves you with a sense of hope and promise that the worst is over. This feeling is immediately replaced with a sense of helplessness and loss, when Firestorm and the rest of his team realises he is going to die (I admit I didn't really know much about Firestorm as a character, but Meltzer drew me in so well that it didn't matter). Then the father/son moment begins with Captain Boomerang and his son Owen, you see the makings of a new super criminal with his new powers coming to their attention.

Finally, the greatest tragedy occurs after Robin has his own father/son moment before leaving to help Batman. I wish I could describe exactly how this perfect scene came together and had such a profound affect on me, Meltzer really deserves all the credit he gets because its a masterpiece. Tim's desperation and profound fear for his father's life is so perfectly scribed that you can clearly picture what he would be going through. From a writers point of view this could be the height of achievement, to create such a totally compelling experience for the reader. Even Batman's desperation was a nice move, he doesn't want to let another Robin down and it shows.

Morales keeps the fantastic art coming, at first I really wasn't a fan (I didn't think his characters looked heroic enough), but he has grown on me and I clearly see now that he is one of DC's better artists and has kept pace with the changing scenes very well. I particularly liked way he captured Tim's grief during the last moments (you see that he really is just a child), and Batman's own desperation. The battle at the start was very entertaining (Morales's Superman really does look like a man of steel) right until the tragic end. The cover art this issue is the best so far, strikingly dark and grim it gives us a clear indication of whats inside. Kudos goes to Michael Turner whose also doing some fantastic work on Superman/Batman currently.

Final Word:
Meltzer has created a great murder mystery set with a massive cast, that will most likely leave us guessing till the very end. If you ever wanted a complex, compelling mystery in the DC universe then this is your ticket. Clearly one of the best releases this year, DC are about to do a third printing of the first issue so pick it up while you can. Nice work Robert for picking the casualty in this issue from his last review. Finally if you have any theories as to who is the culprit, feel free to post in the SBC forums, I have started a post in the DC Universe section with my own ideas.

Jim Kingman

Spoiler Warning! I would not recommend reading the following until you have read Identity Crisis #5!

As with the month by month chapters of Avengers: “Avengers Disassembled” and Amazing Spider-Man: “Sins Past,” Identity Crisis is structured and released as monthly installments of an extended story and as such is impossible to review as a whole. So there are obviously no final conclusions from me here (but, boy oh boy, wait until issue seven); rather, just general comments on how I feel about aspects of this issue.

I enjoyed reading IC #5 because it is extremely well written. There is intensity to each act of the story that is both gripping and emotional. Writer Brad Meltzer knows what he’s doing here, and artist Rags Morales is rising to the occasion. It’s fantastic to behold a truly frightening Hawkman. It’s terrific to see Ray (the Atom) Palmer and Jean Loring together as a loving couple. And the last twelve pages are truly suspenseful.

My problem with Identity Crisis is that it’s taking heroic icons and amusing villains and placing them in the most realistically grim and gritty situations possible. It’s taken the fun out of the Silver Age (which Meltzer has claimed that, in spirit, he’s bringing back) and transformed it into something ugly to endure. Take a look at Captain Boomerang in this issue as he enters the Drake home. He is nothing like the annoying but amusing super-villain who plagued the Silver Age Flash and teasingly tortured members of the Suicide Squad. He’s become a truly repulsive person, not out to pull clever robberies, but to violently kill an innocent human being. Yuck.

This brings me to my feelings on the final fate of Ronnie Raymond, the original Firestorm. His death scene is borrowed from Kingdom Come, only with far less destruction to the general populace. It’s almost a throwaway death; there are no immediate repercussions as with Sue Dibny’s murder in issue #1. Instead, we’re treated to the ugly, disturbing destruction of a young and noble character that I’m certain was not created to bow out this way.

If clues or revelations to the overall murder mystery have been presented here, it is hard for me to tell. It appears that Captain Boomerang was set up by someone to tip the survival scale in favor of his intended victim. It could possibly be Boomerang’s employer, who I believe is The Calculator (I’ll have to go back to previous issues to confirm this), but why do something like that, unless he has a specific grudge against Boomerang? And does this mean that The Calculator is the mastermind behind the ‘secret society’ of super-villains who are targeting superheroes and their loved ones? Or is this a red herring? I don’t know. It could swing either way.

Next month the focus is on Batman and his role/reputation as World’s Greatest Detective. I expect a major revelation on page 30 of Identity Crisis #6. I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. But I hope I’m not repulsed, either.

James Redington

What more can I say about this series that I haven’t or someone else hasn’t already written?

To be honest this series continues on the same tread from the 4 issues before this, its good story telling and good character writing. The art is now top notch, Rags Morales is turning out his best work to date (in this series) in this issue and seems to have gotten past the lull of issue 2.

I still have no idea who the killer would be, but I suspect that Boomerang was actually not there to kill Jack Drake, but to help him and both victims played into the true (probably Luthor connected) Mastermind’s hands.

Nice cover again by Turner, I kinds feel sad for Tim Drake – the only real question I ask of his series is where the hell does it fill into continuity? It’s sometime after ‘War Games’ (the current, buy everything if you want to enjoy it, Batman story), but then? But that’s doesn’t really matter I am enjoying this series too much.

Dave Wallace

After a middle issue which was - well, middling – issue #5 of Identity Crisis picks up the pace again, opening with a montage of stunning attacks on the JLA’s prime suspects in the Sue Dibney Murder Mystery. Whilst it’s pleasing to see the heroes being far more proactive in their investigations this time round, there’s also a sense of a certain unpreparedness against the odds, as a cack-handed piece of superheroism by the current Green Lantern goes somewhat awry. This sense of jeopardy is reinforced by a powerful and surprising Firestorm moment that really helps to sell the idea that this is an Event Comic in the truest sense and that anything could happen to our heroes. There may be a couple of clunky expositional lines in the narration (“Monocle’s power is in his eyepiece – Carter goes straight to the source”) but for the most part Meltzer’s dialogue rings true and adds a human dimension to the extra-ordinary happenings of the DC Universe.

In such a densely populated comic book it’s important to have an artist who places clarity and precision over stylistic showboating, and for this reason Morales continues to triumph with his artwork. Whilst it’s not always exactly to my taste (Morales’ faces still seem a little over-drawn, with too much hatching making male characters like Superman appear a little grizzled), there’s never any problem following the story or judging the characters’ emotions, and the artist even gets to cut loose this issue with a couple of impressive splashes and action sequences. The colouring continues to make characters look a little flat, but this also works to remind us of the heroes’ four-colour roots, giving an unsophisticated yet “classic” mood to proceedings.

There are some standout sequences this issue: but to go into too much depth would give the game away for readers going in cold. Suffice it to say, the family dynamic of Boomerang and his son is neatly contrasted with that of Robin and his father, and serves to give an emotional depth to the thrilling sequence that closes this issue involving murderous revelations, a mysterious package and Batman’s foot to the floor of the Batmobile. Meltzer’s writing and Morales’s art are in perfect synchronicity as we see the emotion of the writing come through the faces of the characters, and Bruce’s reaction to what might be about to happen (and his impotence in the face of disaster) is a great piece of comics literature that sets up a far more personal attachment to the overall mystery for Batman. Having hitherto been his normal detached, removed self, it’ll be interesting to see this character take centre stage next issue.

Overall, this instalment gives a real sense of things coming together. The story wisely begins to explain at least part of the mystery, dropping more and more hints (particularly by the issue’s end) of exactly who might be involved in the overarching plot and the murder of Sue Dibney. However, there’s still a definite sense that things are unresolved, as well as a possible twist on the nature of the apparently threatening notes being sent to the loved ones of DC’s favourite heroes. Many of the threads that began the series are still yet to be picked up again, but Meltzer is tempting us along with an excellent sense of pacing, giving us just enough each issue to be able to work out a little better where this is all heading. I’m still expecting lots of surprises and a knockout sixth issue, but on the basis of what we’ve seen so far this could be one summer event which really lives up to the hype.

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