Identity Crisis #5 Review

Reviewer: John Babos
Story Title: Father’s Day

Written by: Brad Meltzer
Pencils by: Rags Morales
Inks by: Michael Bair
Colors by: Alex Sinclair
Letters by: Kenny Lopez
Assistant Editor: Valerie D’Orazio
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics

When I write reviews, for whatever reason, I always start with a commentary on the story itself that usually involves a critique of the writer’s work. However, I have quite a bit to say on how the story let me down, so I’ll start with the ONLY bright spot of the issue: the art of Rags Morales and Michael Bair.

The art has been the strength of this mini-series. Rags’ expressive facial features really help capture the mood and state of mind of his characters. Its a style that’s perfect for the “thriller” or “mystery” elements of the tale (that becomes more and more diluted with each issue). His dynamic pacing really convey the action when battles ensue.

While I have mentioned numerous times in previous reviews, on our forums, and in my Near Mint Memories columns, that I have an issue with the lack of the Comics Code Authority with this series and the graphic nature of some of the scenes in the earlier issues, it really is in a way a compliment to the great art by Rags and Bair. Their art is so gorgeous and “real” in many ways that a lesser artist would not convey or move me with the previous moments of graphicness as this team has. I had an emotional reaction to previous issues that, I imagine, every creator hopes to do with readers.

This issue has toned down the gratuity and, from the art side, is the most all-ages accessible issue to date.

However, on the writing side, this is the weakest effort so far. My critiques of previous issues were not a complaint per se of the overall story, but about how certain parts were portrayed – particularly the death, “presumed” death scenes, and maiming scenes. I’ve always believed in the “Jaws” principle that less is more. If you exercise the audiences mind around the death or impending danger that the horror of the moment is actually more “real” to the audience and you make a real connection with them. Seeing a character raped and years later killed in an as-graphic-as-you-can-get-without-slapping-a-mature-readers-label-on-it way is more condescending to the readers and actually makes the scene(s) cheap and makes no in-story connection to the reader. Yes, folks would talk about that scene, but its about the writer and not the story. Its about “how” the scene was delivered, not the “why” of the story. Its similar to when Dan Rather, a journalist, becomes the focus of media story that should be actually about the President of the United States. The writer or journalist should never overshadow the story. When they do, it really shows their weaknesses in their craft.

Anyhow, there really aren’t any major movements on the main plot in this issue. Yes, many of the DC Universe (DCU) heroes go hunting down villains to try to track down the identity of the superhero family stalker, but the real story is about Meltzer shoehorning DC status quo “changes” in. That way Identity Crisis will have “real impact” once it wraps.

The first status quo change is retroactive in nature and more of an explanation as we all know there is a new Firestorm in the DCU. This issue explains, in an anticlimactic and brief way why Ronnie Raymond is no longer Firestorm. While the “why” is intriguing and paints Ronnie in a heroic light, the “how” Meltzer delivered was weak and not a meaningful or satisfying send-off for a character that had been around for 30 years.

The last real issue with the, um, issue is the cliffhanger ending. It impacts both a villain-in-the-making and an iconic DC hero.

The status quo change for the hero actually weakens the premise that the hero fights under. As the character close-to-home that dies was actually an interesting twist for the hero and something that made his adventures and backstory somewhat unique. It added an element of conflict between the character that passed away and the hero’s mentor with the hero squarely in the middle. The now-presumeably-deceased character was a solid plot device that now removed almost makes the hero a carbon copy of previous iterations of those who wore the mantle he now sports.

The impact for the villain-in-the-making is more interesting as he can have two potential archenemies. One that is a natural and one with the hero I mentioned in the previous paragraph. The mystery around this soon-to-be-villain’s parentage also adds a dimension to him that should be explored in whichever ongoing series he will become a recurring rogue in.

I know the last two paragraphs may seem cryptic, but I’m not a fan of spoiling plot details for you. If you’re intrigued by my comments, buy the book.

In any event, this feels like a “filler issue” as there is no major movement on the main plot of Identity Crisis.

Solid art, but a rather weak story.