GM Recommended Reading: Identity Crisis

Mystery, drama, action, romance and so much more! The Identity Crisis series, written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Rags Morales, is the perfect match for all you comic book junkies and superhero fans. The series was originally published in 2004 from June to December in 7 issues and became one of DC’s top selling comics that year. Not only do you get a carefully crafted story that seamlessly leads you into the intricate lives of your favorite DC heroes, but you get it in a thriller mystery with a shocking twist!

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Why It’s a Must Read

Brad Meltzer delivers an incredible story that informs those who aren’t well-versed in the DC universe about the known and not-so-well-known heroes while at the same time tying them with their stories from the past (most notably from the silver age of comics).

The craftsmanship of Meltzer’s writing lies in the subtle nuances that reveal each character’s personality. The dialogue between the characters—their humor, arguments, quirks and expressions—make the characters all the more lovable and relatable. Morales praises Meltzer, and rightfully so, not only for being an amazing “mystery writer but a scientist” whose attention to detail shines through carefully scripted scenes. Meltzer also takes great effort in keeping the characters true to their iconic figures which shows through the roles each character plays as the story unfolds.

“I realized I wasn’t writing the characters—the characters were writing themselves.” – Brad Meltzer

Rags Morales’ most notable contribution is not only in the detail of each panel, but the emotions that he artistically conveys through each character. Meltzer’s script focuses heavily on the humanity of the characters and Morales compliments his writing perfectly.

“The reason we were so lucky to have Rags Morales draw this is…anyone can draw…but it’s getting the emotion that’s the important part.” – Brad Meltzer

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The Synopsis

The story begins with “two minor characters”—Elongated Man aka Ralph Dibny, and Firehawk. They are on a stakeout in Opal city while Superman, Nightwing, and Green Arrow are seen in more ordinary settings—at home, training, or with their loved ones. Early on, we are teased with the mystery of this series through Elongated Man’s inner monologue:

“Dr. Fate once told me ‘life is a mystery.’ But it isn’t. Everyone knows how it ends. It’s just a question of when. In a novel, it’s different. There, you start worrying about the main character’s safety almost immediately. Of course, it’s a false worry. Nothing bad really ever happens to the main character in a novel. But if the story opens with a minor character or two…” 

We are not only introduced to Elongated Man’s ideology, but his life as a superhero which, unlike his colleagues, does not include a secret identity. We are informed of how his name is well-known to the world, how he met his wife, and how he knows about the surprise birthday party she is planning for him later that night. After the first 20 pages of the first issue, he is no longer just a “side character,” but the lovable protagonist you will undoubtably root for.

Soon after, we are brought to the reality of his situation through the tragedy that sets the rest of the story into motion. The mystery unravels as we follow our beloved heroes struggle through their greatest weaknesses and the “matter-of-fact absurdity that is inevitably the life of a super-powered person.” We come to know them, not from their victorious battles as heroes but from their inevitable losses as humans.

“In this story we look at death in all its manifestations—not just death of a person, but death of an ideal, the death of a dream, and the death…of self” –Brad Meltzer

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