a Universe? Part Three
Concluding the focus on the
travesty of Identity Crisis
February 22, 2005
By Avi Green
In this last part of the essays I’ve written up (Parts One and
are on the links), I’ve thought to take a look at a few last
details, including the question of why anyone would consider it a
great thing whenever even a fictional character dies.
The Distortion – and demonization –
of Jean Loring
One of the most offensive things about the ending of the miniseries
isn’t just the fact that a woman is shown as having killed off the
first woman, rendering the whole account of the mindwiping at the
beginning of the book irrelevant, but also the fact that the writer
changed the character arbitrarily. As mentioned before (and also on
weblog), and, as was shown in past history, when it came up in
the mid-1980’s, she was a very tough-as-nails character, and aside
from the fact that she left her ex-husband, the Atom/Ray Palmer, and
not the other way around, as this bigoted little miniseries implies,
she was not exactly the kind of person who’d just feel lost,
insecure and go bonkers without a man at her side, as shown here.
(By the way, just where exactly is Paul Hoben, her second husband,
these days?) Worst of all, as was also mentioned before, is that it
makes no mention whatsoever of the two attacks she had via sci-fi
devices that caused her to go nuts in 1969 and 1977. And the result
of this is to make poor Jean look like she was a lying, irritating
creep for many years. But in any case, that it should hit us in the
face with such a cliché as insanity being the cause for her
committing the deed was downright insulting. Especially when
afterwards, she’s committed to Arkham Asylum, and later is reported
as having been attacked by other inmates, the book’s analogy to
throwing someone into the depths of Hell.
As for trying to destroy evidence with that aforementioned farce,
the flamethower, didn’t Mr. Meltzer ever see CSI on television? As
was shown there, it’s quite possible for forensics experts to find
various fibers and other bits of evidence among the burnt remnants
of the crime (and even the Titans
weblog points that out). So it makes no sense as to why the
Atom can’t find anything within the carpet, or Animal Man, who’s
also brought in to investigate, can’t trace any scent of anyone
inside. Or even, for that matter, as to how did Jean hang herself
without breaking her arms when tying herself together and
blindfolding herself as well in her own apartment? It's as numbingly
jumbled as it sounds.
Jean says in the book that she came in and out through the phone in
the apartment, but contradicting that part is the fact that the
attack on Sue came at the front door to the apartment, and that any
culprit there was apparently came in through an opening in the
hallway (with the alarm systems being inexplicably bypassed almost
completely. By the way, just why does anyone here have to have an
alarm system if they’re really in no danger, other than from the
writer? Just curious.) Did she travel all those many miles from Ivy
Town in Connecticut to get there? Even more absurd is that Batman,
who’s usually got a very keen eye for detail, doesn’t even notice
that the Dibnys phone is off the hook, and doesn’t think to check
the phone logs with the local phone company. And check out this article on the
Polite Dissent weblog to know just how implausible the head
strike on Sue really is.
But aside from that, the really horrible thing besides the
degradation of Sue, is the demonization of Jean, and I ask myself –
how can even that part be fixed? Well, we should only be so lucky
that it can be, but even so, the sad part is that this whole fiasco
will hang over like a big black cloud for some time to come.
Dr. Light: the next Hank Pym?
Could it be possible that Dr. Light could end up in as bad -- or
even worse -- a position than Yellowjacket/Hank Pym did when Jim
Shooter engineered that embarrassing story in the Avengers in 1981 over at
Marvel, when he smacked the Wasp/Janet Van Dyne at least twice on
panel (issues #213 and #217), and ended up getting a bad reputation
even in readership for that? Chances are that this could end up
dogging Dr. Light for years to come, and one more reason why a once
good villain's been ruined even more. In fact, I don't know if he'll
ever turn up in the pages of the JLA
ever again so easily.
Not the same as in their own books
As if it weren't bad enough that Dr. Light as a villain was
seriously damaged, even some of the heroes themselves are
out-of-character here: Flash/Wally West is bothered about what was
done with Light, yet does not seem to show any concern about Linda
Park West, his wife. After what happened two years ago, with poor
little Linda being assaulted and her pregnancy terminnated by the
new Reverse-Flash, one would think he'd be a bit more sensible than
Plus, why exactly is Superman shown as being with his adoptive
mother, Martha Kent, but not with Lois Lane, his wife, when it comes
to having a comforting moment with a relative? Is she not important
too? And wasn't the impression given that the wives/girlfriends were
the ones being threatened, as over-the-top as it was?
Batman and the attempted rift
When it was revealed that the JLA mindwiped Batman, who’s shown as
being more concerned about what they’re doing with Dr. Light than
what happened to Sue Dibny, so that he wouldn’t try to stop them, by
using violent force, presumably, all I could say in response to that
was, “eh.” I was not impressed. Mainly because, as I realized in the
end, it was pretty apparent that the whole purpose of this
miniseries, aside from making the JLA look even amoral, and guilty
of more bad deeds for badness’ sake, was to cause a rift between
almost all the superheroes in the DCU. Oh yeah, I can see it now.
Turn Elongated Man against the Atom, and Robin against the latter,
and Batman against practically everybody. Just what the fan base
needs. Division, and nobody benefits from that, no matter what
Batman’s question about “who benefits?” (Definitely not the
customer’s wallet, that’s fore sure.)
Another problem here is how it blurs even Batman’s own past history,
furthering the notion that first came up during Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One story from
1987, that he was always some mindless control freak, who went by
very self-important viewpoints on what matters or not. And the JLA
certainly seems to treat him as such, in flashback.
This reminds me that, even in some of Geoff Johns’ own books that
feature Batman in cameo roles, it’s made to look as if the Masked
Manhunter was little more than a jerk there too in flashbacks.
Granted, I realize that Johns is obviously trying to be
tongue-in-cheek, but after the damage that’s been done to Batman
since the mid-1990s, when virtually every Bat-writer tried copying
what was done in Frank Miller’s Dark
Knight Returns, that’s why what’s done even in Johns’ work
only serves to further the damage.
Creators who put down the audience
When Rags Morales, who drew the series, told the Associated Press,
really cared, that's an insult to us. . . If they hate it, that's
great. If they love it, that's great. But if they are like, 'Ehhh.
. .So what? No big deal,' those are the ones that would bother
us." that’s when I myself realized that this was little
more than a publicity stunt, with the company acting foolishly as to
make it seem as if they’ve got a thin skin and are childish. And
then the writer himself, Brad Meltzer, told the New York Times on
Sept 15, 2004, "The
No. 1 compliment I've gotten is, "I don't read comics, but I'm
reading this." Well, I figured that must’ve been a
publicity stunt in its own way, because really, how many newcomers
actually read it? I’m sure some did, but it’s obvious that not many
did. The whole notion that the overall public that reads books is
literally interested in something involving tawdry elements like
death and rape, especially in a day and age when tragedy has struck
the United States and Israel, is outrageous at best. And most
importantly of all, those elements do not, if anything appeal to a
mainstream, widespread audience, and certainly not a family-based
The tendency of writers and artists to say things that could be
insulting to the fans or the audience as a whole is also starting to
get disturbingly out of hand. Jon Cassaday once did something like
on Captain America with Shotgun Reviews, and Kyle Baker
something almost similar when discussing the Truth: Red, White and Black
miniseries with Newsarama. If something isn’t done to curb this kind
of attitude, which you wouldn’t see so easily in movies and
television, well then, is it any wonder that comics sales are
failing so badly? Who in all due honesty with any sense wants to buy
the products of people who don’t respect their customers?
What’s so great about deaths, in
and of themselves?
When Peter Sanderson wrote
about this on IGN back in October 2004, he said that:
"I recall back in the 1980s when
on a visit to the DC offices, I saw the Crisis on Infinite Earths poster of Superman,
weeping, his mouth open as if howling his anguish, holding the
blood-covered body of Supergirl, killed in combat. I thought at
the time, who would want to hang a poster like this on his wall?
It's a picture of a man wailing over the bloody corpse of a young
woman. Why celebrate a woman's murder by hanging a poster of it in
your home? It's macabre.
keep getting this image over and over in superhero comics, and it
all started with the death of Gwen Stacy. Now, that was actually
dramatically and thematically appropriate for the Spider-Man series. It fit
Stan Lee's concept of Spider-Man. After all, Spider-Man's origin
revolves around his failure to prevent the murder of Uncle Ben's
death, and even his unintentional complicity in the murder. The
Spider-Man series was intended to incorporate tragedy. The death
of Gwen was in the tradition of Ben's murder, right down to the
fact that Spider-Man may have inadvertently been responsible for
her demise as well (since her neck snapped from the shock of
impact when he caught her falling body).
how often this image of the male superhero bewailing a beloved
woman's death keeps recurring. Cyclops and Phoenix (twice now).
Daredevil and Elektra. Superman and Supergirl (not lovers but
cousins). Daredevil and Karen Page in Kevin Smith's Daredevil arc. And now Ralph
and Sue Dibny."
I must certainly agree that the repeated trend is very disturbing,
and it's certainly not a good influence for comics. But not only
that, while I could be mistaken, what I don’t get by now is – why
would any comics reader consider death of any character in comics a
In all due honesty, I can’t understand why anyone who’s reading even
Zero Hour would want to do
so for something like seeing all these great characters get sliced
‘n diced. But to say the least, if they are, it puzzles me to no
Maybe it was my conversation with a certain someone on another
website once, that led me to think that. But in any case, that too
is one of the leading reasons why comics are failing, because
characters, even if they can be brought back, are being killed off
for pointless reasons to begin with, and we accept it.
Comics in recent years have relied very surprisingly on death and
destruction. Much as I enjoyed Kurt Busiek’s run on Marvel’s Avengers from 1998-2002, I
must admit that even the Ultron
Unlimited story, with Ultron annihilating an entire
European country, however fictional it was, called Slorenia, with
millions of unnamed civilians and soldiers alike all falling victim
to this horrific cybernetic Frankenstein’s grasp of death, was in
very questionable taste, and is very depressing to think about. And
the aforementioned Zero Hour
did something almost similar years earlier, with Hal Jordan being
shown going berserk, and slaughtering tons of GL Corps members plus
destroying his own hometown, Coast City. Likewise, even Batman’s War Games depicts tons on
innocent Gothamites falling victim to the gang war stirred up by
Black Mask, plus the brutal beating and eventual death of the
teenaged vigilante Spoiler, and also the death of the black
crimefighter Orpheus. It should be noted that, whether it be
vigilantes like Spoiler and Orpheus or the common citizen of Gotham
City, in neither case was there an iota of genuine sorrow shown in
the scripting. And whether it be the deaths of superdoers or just
the common citizens of earth, that either group should be just done
away with in such hackneyed form is truly distasteful by now.
Identity Crisis, while there may only be three character deaths in
it, still uses the exact same approach. It’s just another so-called
“event” that builds its premise on the deaths of characters whose
owners consider them expendable for the sake of sales, and indeed,
when spoken about in some of the press, it was said that DC gave
Meltzer a list of “killable characters.” So in other words, if
they’re minor characters, that legitimizes killing them off? Oh
yeah, go figure.
Such steps have also led me to avoid a lot of these overhyped
company-wide crossover steps taken by the companies, which are meant
to effect the universes as a whole. One of the reasons why it’s a
bad idea is because of how rushed it ends up becoming if done all at
once, as seems to be the purpose of many crossovers, from Secret Wars 1&2 to Millenium to Zero Hour to Maximum Security to Avengers Disassembled to even a
small near-crossover called World
Without Grownups, starring Young Justice, now the current
Teen Titans grouping.
When DC published Sword of the
Atom in 1983, and also The New Teen Titans’ Judas Contract storyline in
1984, what made those stories work was that they had nothing to do
with crossovers and did not forcefully involve the entire DC
Universe’s protagonists within their story developments. True, at
that time, it was prior to when crossovers were really becoming a
serious business, but in any case, they were wisely kept stand-alone
stories that did not require an entire universe and its leading
protagonists to be involved.
Today’s industry, with its incredibly “market-driven” approach, just
can’t wait, and feels that specific approaches and directions must be placed upon its entire
universe all at the same time.
Which, artistically speaking, is bad
storytelling, since these things have to be developed
naturally and carefully, without hurrying all at once.
At the same time, one of the most insulting things that takes place
in Identity Crisis is that quite a few times, it very insultingly
comments on death being a revolving door in comics, but here's where
the problem really comes around: it makes it look as if resurrection
is a male option only. We get a scene with Green Arrow talking to
Hal Jordan's in his Spectre guise, and even Oliver Queen commenting
on how he too had been dead once, and worst of all, when someone
says that Donna Troy will be back, it's a villain who's saying that
Maybe that's why personally, I have no problem myself with
resurrections, but, I will have to say that it's irritating
whenever, in cases like these, the writer goes along and makes
commentaries and criticisms within the book/story itself on what
they personally don't like. To do it within the story only ruins
what's being told, and contradicts the fact that, since this is
after all fantasy and science-fiction, that's exactly why it
shouldn't have to be a problem or a surprise.
Hawkman once made an interesting
observation on how a lot of characters have come back from the dead,
the fact that it had what to do with whether or not Thanagarian
Katar Hol, now deceased, would attack him or not. Either way, this
pretty much shows how resurrection in comics is nothing new, and is
no surprise either. But nor is it a crime to write such stories, and
to those who think it's a tragedy of some sort, I'd really suggest
to look past that.
That's why I'm glad that one of my favorite X-Ladies, Psylocke, has
come back from the dead already, in the pages of Uncanny X-Men in 2005. Thank
goodness. Now, all is well.
I think that if there's anything that we as fans will have to learn
from the abomination of Identity Crisis, it's that we have to be very careful what we wish for.
Just because there's a supposedly hot writer on the book, supposedly
a best-selling author too, and because the series is being hyped
like there was no tomorrow, or because there’s a death of a
character, classic or not, taking place, does not make it any good. Period. If
we just go along and buy into all that within an instant, without
asking ourselves if this is what we really want or need, trust me,
we'll only be playing a cruel joke
on ourselves in the end.
Which is exactly why, we’re going to have to learn now, that it
simply does not pay to let good comics be ruined by forced, rushed
directions that only end up causing considerable amounts of damage
to some very good books, interrupting the flow and making it just
plain unenjoyable an experience to read.
Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
Home FAQ Columns Reviews Links Favorite Characters
Blog Food Blog