Apr
12

A Reminder: Identity Crisis Was a Terrible Mystery

Posted by Chris Eckert on Monday, April 12th, 2010 at 06:55:35 PM

There are many reasons not to like Identity Crisis, Brad Meltzer’s best-selling murder mystery book for DC Comics. I’ve railed against it before, including in an embarasingly sloppy proto-FBB post you can read here. But even if you don’t mind its push towards “Superhero Decadence” or a dozen other charges against the book, it’s important to remember that it was an absolutely wretched murder mystery. To illustrate this, earlier today I wrote up a summary of the story from the culprit’s — SPOILER ALERT — perspective. Originally this was just a message board post, but I decided to remind everyone of this important Identity Crisisfact.

“Hi, I’m Jean Loring and I miss my ex-husband Ray Palmer. I know I dumped him for another man and divorced him years ago, and it’s clear he still carries a torch for me. How can I get back together with him? I’ve got it! I’ll borrow his superhero costume with unique White Dwarf powered shrinking powers and while using it for the first time, attempt to non-fatally harm one of our friends, using the rationale that this threat against superheroes’ loved ones will cause Ray to want to reunite. Even though he already wants to reunite.”

“Who should I use as the victim for this dangerous ruse? While I have a Rolodex of even the best-kept secret identities, I suppose I should target Sue Dibny, universally loved and publicly known wife of Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man. This is perfect, because today is the day of her husband’s big birthday party, and every hero in town will be heading over to her house. That’ll shake everyone up! And she’s pregnant! Perfect! Good thing I scheduled an appointment to meet with my ex-husband at the precise time I decide to commit this crime, that’s a perfect alibi. Hope he’ll be late!”

“Oh no! It appears that my untrained walking on Sue’s brain has caused her to die! Who knew? Good thing I had the foresight to bring along a flamethrower, “just in case” I end up murdering her. I can burn her corpse! I don’t know why I think that will mask my footprints on her brain, and it’s also completely illogical that none of my actions were detected or recorded by the most advanced security system in the universe. But hey, I guess today is my lucky day because the flamethrower I USED FOR NO REASON implicates Sue’s old rapist in the murder, even though I didn’t know about the rape! Oh, and my husband was half an hour late, leaving me plenty of time to wipe the blood and soot off my clothes. Good thing I’ve got such a solid gameface, he doesn’t suspect a thing!”

“Huh, turns out the rapist was mindwiped and didn’t know about the rape either but somehow intuited that he was going to be blamed for the murder anyway. Lucky me! Now I will fake a murder attempt on myself in order to draw Ray closer, even though he’d haven taken me back before all this if I just asked. In order to avoid actually dying by my own hand, he’d better arrive precisely on time for this meeting in order to save me, even though he was a full half an hour late to our last meeting for reasons no one ever thought to question! And since I improbably left no trace at my first murder for absolutely no adequately explained reason, it won’t be suspicious that the security systems don’t detect anyone but me!”

“Perfect! Ray and I are back together! But I had better do one more murder just to tie up loose ends. This time I don’t want to get my hands dirty, so I’ll just get in touch with the Calculator, a criminal mastermind so secretive that not even Batman can track him down. And since I can do that for no justifiable reason, I might as well somehow know who Robin’s family is, despite having dumped by Ray before Tim Drake ever became a superhero. Through my buddy Calculator, I’ll hire a fat loser who only commits crimes with boomerangs to do this third murder, so people will know it is connected to the two previous murders that didn’t involve boomerangs at all. And since I can do absolutely anything at this point, I might as well sneak an untraceable gun into Tim’s dad’s house for him to use against Captain Boomerang! Sure, this will tip off the heroes as to who the third victim is, but so long as the many different people on the case who can move faster than light are somehow occupied at the time of the murder, that won’t matter. Hopefully Mr. Drake and Captain Boomerangwill somehow attack and kill each other at exactly the same time, so that no one will be around to ask questions. I just hope no one questions why this third murder was different in every possible way from the first two!”

“Ha, what do you know? No one seemed to care that the first two murders were performed by a SILENT AND UNTRACEABLE PHANTOM and the third one was a fat guy kicking down a door going “HEY I’M CAPTAIN BOOMERANG AND MY MURDER OF YOU IS GOING TO MAKE ME REAL FAMOUS! ME, CAPTAIN BOOMERANG, MASTER OF THE BOOMERANG. THIS ONE MURDER, NOT THE THIRD IN A SERIES, WILL CERTAINLY PUT ME ON THE MAP!” Nope, that didn’t raise any red flags at all for anyone. And my husband’s back with me! Everything’s coming up Jeannie! I sure hope I don’t accidentally blurt something out that only the killer would know right before I have sex with my superhero husband!”

“Shit.”

~fin~

Posted in Blurbs · Read more by Chris Eckert

20 Responses

  1. Chris, you know that Meltzer will come up with another crying DC superhero story again later but thanks for the entertaining post. Whose work is worst Loeb or Meltzer?

  2. Fantastic post.

    @Vince, Its funny that you bring up Loeb along with this because I felt the same thing at the end of The Long Halloween that I felt at the end of Identity Crisis.

  3. Also, why does Wonder Woman want to maker her lasso into a noose? …Sorry, just couldn’t get past the cover to that issue. I guess at least it wasn’t one of the many covers in the last few years that give away the end of the issue so that you never even have to read it to begin with… ya know, maybe that woulda been better in this case actually.

  4. They spoil the end of issue five on the cover, and that’s only a month after the goofy noose cover. Michael Turner covered both bases!

  5. That’s RIGHT, I’d forgotten all about that one. Ah memories… wait, ya jerk, thanks for dredging up all the bad memories!

    Maybe you can turn these reminders into a weekly feature. It could be fun in a masochistic kind of way.

  6. Yup. I actually liked Identity Crisis, particularly issues 5 and 6. I thought it was a pretty interesting thriller with a mediocre ending. The “mystery”, though, made no sense at all.

    Somehow that’s a bit more disappointing from Meltzer than it is from Loeb, maybe because I have the impression that Meltzer is capable of better. His novels are not brilliantly constructed by any means but for the most part they’re coherent and reasonably entertaining. Loeb pretty obviously has no idea how to structure a story at all.

  7. “A Reminder: Identity Crisis Was a Terrible Mystery”

    Next you will remind me I have to breath or I’ll die?

    Still, a good and funny article.

    Personally didn’t hate or particularly like Identity Crisis, since I’m a big fan of Rags and, while really, really stupid, watching Deathstroke just pummel all those guys into tar was hilarious.

  8. Chris: this is the best thing since Downcounting. A regular series of first-person accounts of story snafus like this one would be most welcome!

  9. You kind of ignore the stupidest part. Jean’s original plan was to create a threat to the superheroes and their families. However, she does this by trying to give Sue a minor stroke, or something? Would the whole superhero community really band together against minor strokes?

  10. Geez, Chris. It’s just a comic book. I mean, Herbie the Fat Fury bops unlikely “Lionosaurs” with a lollipop!

  11. I haven’t picked up the third volume of Herbie Archives yet, but I hope your comment to this post as is as close as Herbie ever ever gets to the tone and content of Identity Crisis. I don’t know if I can handle Ticklepuss having a heretofore unseen pattern of sexual abuse.

  12. [...] HORROR! Chris Eckert does his civil duty in reminding everyone just how terrible Identity Crisis was: “Oh no! It appears that my untrained walking on Sue’s brain has caused her [...]

  13. “As Jean says the words, my stomach sinks down to my testicles”.
    *goes and has a lie down…

  14. Identity Crisis’ main problem is that the villain and victim made no narrative sense.

    By the point of Identity Crisis, Ray Palmer’s identity was public knowledge. Ralph Dibny never kept his ID a secret. Why would everyone else be worried about their loved ones when there was no evidence of anyone with intimate knowledge of secret identities. It even diminished the reasons for wiping Dr. Light. He threatened their loved ones with no apparent means to identify them. He raped Sue, wife of a publicly known hero, while in the JLA satellite.

    This is mainly because the ones who made more sense were off the table due to temporary cases of death. If Barry and/or Hal had been alive at the time, Iris and Carol would have been better candidates. Carol has her Star Sapphire history, which gives her means and a history to explain mental instability.

    We’re also treated to the World’s Greatest Detective and a slew of advanced technology that can’t immediately tell the difference between a chemical fire and a laser blast. Then there’s the whole “It couldn’t have been Dr. Light because the murderer used a flamethrower” defense. It never occurred to anyone that someone trying to conceal their identity might NOT use their traditional powers?

  15. “Then there’s the whole “It couldn’t have been Dr. Light because the murderer used a flamethrower” defense.”

    Didn’t you know? Whenever Zatana does a mindwipe on somebody she ALWAYS removes thier ability to operate a flamethrower…. due to her secret love of J’onn J’onzz. That’s why she accidentally destroyed the rest of his race in an effort to get him to liker her. (She was really just trying to give them Martian strokes, but well, you know…)

  16. [...] Chris Eckert retells Identity Crisis from the culprit’s point of view. Warning: [...]

  17. Still amusing after all this time, Chris.

  18. [...] a reason Identity Crisis is reviled as misogynist trash, and it’s an absolute shit murder mystery on top of everything [...]

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  20. I’m old enough to remember the original comic, some 30 years (!!!) ago, in which Ray and Jean sadly but calmly divorced like the intelligent adults they were. *That* was mature storytelling, not the contrived, misogynistic and nihilistic ultraviolence fanboys lap up nowadays.

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