June 19, 2004

Identity Crisis # 1 (Review)

First, I have to admit - I love comics. Had started as a kid with three books (Superman, X-Men, and Hawkman), remember the three-coverless-in-a-plastic-baggie-for-29-cents package deal, and fell back in love during the Watchmen/Dark Night/Crisis on Infinite Earths revival. Yes, I read "literature", but I also really enjoy graphic literature...and right now, I am still in semi-shock over how good comics have become.

I am talking about the first issue of the well-hyped Identity Crisis mini-series by DC. Brad Meltzer (who wrote the book) has created a really cool mystery featuring super heroes. (For those of you who aren't familiar with his work - and I suggest you do so - he has a very clean, very gripping style - in short, like John Grisham with talent). This is the kind of comic you want to give friends to show them not just that comics aren't for kids...but that the best writing isn't necessarily in prose.

It's hard to discuss without spoiling, but I will give it a shot - it begins with two heroes on patrol, with great back-and-forth dialogue that you don't find in comic books (and slightly reminiscent of James Robinson's Starman). The story progresses in snapshots of time - between "now" and selected fragments from "now". Ultimately, 2/3 of the way into the book, we see the first sign of a mystery - a corpse.

The deceased...several people have commented on how inappropriate/cheesy/unnecessary the death is...which I think is Mr. Meltzer's intention. If he had killed off, say, Crazy Quilt (a bottom-tier villain), it would not have the kick-in-the-gut resonance that it does. It then goes into the investigation, a funeral...and then one of the best, couldn't-see-it-coming cliffhangers that I have ever experienced. (Having read issue one about 4 times, it still crackles and surprises).

Kudos also to Rags Morales - I've always been a fan of his DC art (in both Hourman and Hawman), and here, his art is really crisp and allows the heroes to shine at the forefront. (My only quibble - his Metal Men don't seem all that impressive; but hey, it's only the first issue). His art serves to compliment the plot: here, the heroes seem both larger-than-life and human all at the same time.

In short, this comic has done what very few comics have done for a long time - make me wish the days would go by faster, so that I could pick up the next issue. (And shame to Marvel for putting out the amazingly sucky Identity Disc at the same time - that book is a crime against nature). There are very few pleasures left in this world...thank God Identity Crisis is one of them.

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