Help Me Understand! Why Do You Dislike Identity Crisis?

It has been a while since I have read this but I remember enjoying it for the most part. I had the obvious problems with Sue, as has already been mentioned here. There are other things that can be done besides that for a traumatic backstory, and there was really no need for it.

I am a big Tim fan, so I liked that he got some time in the series. It sucked that his father was killed off but I did think it was done well.

I’m not usually a murder/mystery fan in comics but I did like this one. Though, if I remember right, the final reveal was well done, but the motivation for the murder was terrible.

Someone else here mentioned that the women characters in this weren’t well written. And I agree with that. I think if I went back and re-read this with the DC knowledge I have now, I believe I probably wouldn’t like it as much because of that. But overall, I did enjoy this originally, with just a couple problems.

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The violation of Sue Dibny was just too far to go. Even though I liked other elements of the story, none of them were worth the gross vibe that they used as a primary plot mover. Over time, the good elements diminished in my memory, but the gross element loomed larger and larger. Characters were painted into corners they couldn’t get out of, at least until things were reset. I gave away my copies. I knew I would never want to read it again.

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I only read identify crisis this year so there might have been context from the time that I missed. But I really enjoyed it.

I felt like the rape was a plot point that made sense that pushed the heroes to take away dr. Light’s memories. Light violated Sue therefore the heroes felt justified violating him. I don’t think it was senseless or could have been removed and given the story the same stakes. It wasn’t a girlfriend in the fridge scene.

The last couple pages showing how Sue’s death effected everyone was moving and showed how important she was as a character in that universe.

The ending of a world can feel like the loss of a life, and a loss of a life is always a tragedy. Change is the only constant. Art is subjective. For me, I actually enjoyed the story. I never read it until I saw this thread. I’ve heard bad things about Identity Crisis, but never read it. I also saw that many didn’t care for Heroes in Crisis. I enjoyed it. I mean, until I got to the ending. Coincidentally, this is also how I felt about, Identity Crisis. They are different. But, first I want to talk about my initial problems with the story, next what I believe are blatant examples of how the story is flawed, and after that talk about how comics are a bittersweet medium.

{{{{Disclaimer: There WILL be . Read the story then come back to my post}}}}

I feel compelled to reiterate that I actually enjoyed the story for the most part. To be transparent, I read this book with the intention to enjoy it while looking for reasons why others could hate this story. To start, I personally would have never read this story after the initial pages. I may or may not have read this arc after the 1st issue. Why? It was a drag to start. The story asks the reader to care about, frankly, obscure characters. I am not that familiar with Elongated Man, or FirebirdGirl(?). Moreover, I was initially confused as to who was the narrator of the story. I legitimately kept thinking, why should I care, and who is the narrator. It wasn’t until I deduced that the author wants the audience to care for these characters because they will be essential to the story. Moreover, the death was confusing to me. I was lost as to how Elongated Man knew, why we were supposed to care about Deadbolt (or whoever he is), and what was so important about the Calculator. It felt like a lot to ask for the reader. Maybe at the time it made more sense with the comic climate, but for me, initially, I was left confused.

The story does pick up and it is a solid read for me personally. However, that does not mean I did not see flaws. IMHO(in my honest opinion), every form of creation has flaws. It’s natural. What we chose to focus on makes something great or terrible. That’s why people love The Dark Knight film even though it has several flaws and people don’t care as much for The Dark Knight Rises even though it is a very well made film as well. But I digress, the story was solid. The writing was solid. However, there are some aspects of the writing that leave something to be desired**. The tropes that I wasn’t the biggest fan of and I can understand why someone else can not tolerate are,** the use of shock value, the red herrings, and worst of all the woman in the fridge trope. A lot of the creative writing choices made felt like they were made for the sake of shock value. They did work. However, again, I can understand why others will not tolerate this choice especially because they all differ. The easiest one to point out is the, Dr. Light scene when he finds Sue. I understand that it is important to show the world the ugly truth. I would still argue that there is a more respectful way to highlight this ugly truth. For me, we don’t need to see that much. This is always, always, always a complaint of mine. Every medium is different, but, this might be the Dad in me, this is a comic book, not a gritty crime docu drama. I understand this is what the author was going for, but as another user stated, it came off as crass and distasteful.

The other shock values are, what I consider, unnecessary story elements. Boomer being a father, Slade beating the Justice League with ease, Zatanna mind wiping, the death of Tim’s father, and Batman. How are they unnecessary? Better question, what do they add to the story besides tension that is left unresolved and shock value? There are arguments to be made why these choices are necessary for the overall plot, but they failed to be proven to me by simply finishing the story. Boomer being a father added more weight to his death, but why was his death or Tim’s father’s death necessary? Slade beating the League created tension, but what else does it add? Zaranna mind wiping adds another layer to the story, but why did it have to be Zatanna? And, Batman, is… the biggest complaint, because I do not understand why his “arc” is even in this story besides adding superficial tension and shock value. Again, it worked, but I utterly understand why another reader would not tolerate these creative decisions. Moreover, I must add what I mean with the notion of “needing” to add to the overall narrative. My paradigm for storytelling is that there must be a lesson or argument to be made. The overall narrative should have an overall lesson/argument. The lesson or argument I got from this read was, everyone is flawed. This does work for the choices but not by much for me. It doesn’t feel necessary. It felt like shock value for the sake of tension which was kinda superficial, IMHO. In addition, I also felt that some choices were made to simply say, I GOTCHA!!! This leads me to the other example of how the writing left something to be desired.

The red herrings are a stable for narrations. I am a big fan of them. So much so that I expect there to be red herrings and I have multiple conclusions prepared while consuming a story. Sometimes I predict the ending, other times I prefer the ending I created, and on rare occasions I am shocked and applaud the decision. I am also jokingly tough on myself for not seeing the brilliant choice that the creator made. That being said, the red herrings were a bit ridiculous. Not because they didn’t make sense, but because the explanations why they were red herrings and not the actual killer was ridiculous. Dr. Light makes total sense, then the added twist makes even more sense, but it was a red herring because she died before she was burned. Okay, that’s logical. It makes sense that it is SlipKnot, especially with the Suicide Squad connection. The lasso proving it is not him, still makes sense because again the Suicide Squad connection. Boomer makes sense because he’s viewed as a loser and again Suicide Squad connection. The Calculator makes sense because of the typical, it was the person in the background pulling all the strings, and we haven’t shown you all the information yet. It not being the Calculator, makes sense because he had nothing to gain, arguably. Because one could argue that the killer wanted to cause chaos, destruction, and distrust within the league.

The part that ruins everything is the final twist**. Why?** Shock value? I GOTCHA Moment? This part is poorly written and I understand if others choose to not overlook it. Why did she do all this to get Ray back? From the start of the story, we know that Atom still loves her. Why do this? How did she know about Dr. Light as a cover? Why did she have a flame thrower if she never planned to kill her friend? Why did she tie the knot in a distinctive way? How did she know? It’s very very very cartoony. Which is fine by me, but I understand why it’s not for others especially when the start of the story is a tone of it being hyper realistic. This is made worse because it is never fully explored nor explained. Additionally, the mind wiping is also not fully explored or explained. Most of the substories are not fully explored or explained, which are also arguably the main stories because the initial story kind of gets put to the side. We hardly see Elongated Man after a while it becomes Green Arrow, Tim’s, Boomer, and Batman’s story. The writing at the end felt like, i-Gotcha moments. You thought Batman was going to figure it out. He’s not cuz he doesn’t want to. You think there will be consequences because Kyle and Wally found out about the mind wiping, there’s not because, because, heroes endure.


Honestly, the story is arguably kind of meaningless which makes all the shock value decisions even more reprehensible and undesirable. Tim is drastically changed? Why? For the sake of change? That’s a poor argument to make a decision. We find out something horrible about so many characters. Why? To understand that everyone is flawed. Okay, and the rest of the decisions add to that how? The death of Tim’s father adds little to the notion/argument/lesson that everyone is flawed. The same can be said about other creative choices. Because these big choices added little to the overall lesson/argument of the story but did impact the stories of these characters for the future. That being said, I did enjoy the story. Is it flawless? No, but nothing in this world is without flaws.

Lastly though, this is sadly a truth about the medium of comic books. They make stories meant to give us an adventure, wonder, explore emotions, and also wrap it up so not much changes. Furthermore, a new writer can do whatever they want, there is no possible way that every writer will respect and research everything every other writer before them has written about every single character they are choosing to use for their story. In addition, I personally feel like the medium of comic books encourages writers to create something new at the start but doesn’t really encourage writers to have a planned ending. Most comic book stories, for me personally, start off strong and end poorly. This isn’t surprising given the fact that they are writing a single issue at a time without ever knowing what the “end” is because comic books are not designed to have an ending. They are designed to continue. That’s why we have reboots and that’s why Batman is not an old man in the popular canon. If there was a planned ending then maybe this story and others stories like this wouldn’t get such a bad rep. If there was a clear plan for every character in this story and the writer had complete freedom, then the choices made would have a stronger impact and could have been better received than an ending that, in a literal sense, repeatedly states that everything will go back to normal, because, that’s what heroes do. If there isn’t any consequence for mind wiping, then why bring it up? If everything is supposed to go back to normal, then why did Tim’s Dad die? But, that’s comic books. For me, I’ve made the personal decision to take every author’s run with a character as an alternate universe. It works wonders for me*. Scott Snyder’s Batman is not Tom King’s Batman. They are each from different universes.* What else can we do? This is the world of comic books.

So, to recap, we explored my initial complaint, viewed some examples of writing choices that left something to be desired, and then took a dive on how bittersweet comics can be. To reiterate, even with all these flaws/mistakes, I heavily enjoyed reading this. Art is always subjective. Therefore, I understand why people cannot overlook these flaws. Make no mistake though. Every art form has flaws. What we choose to overlook and not tolerate is based on our personal tastes which is also consequently possible to change in time. Nothing lasts forever. It’s what makes today special, because it will never be the same again. This is a sad but beautiful truth. So, hopefully, we can cherish our good times a little bit more when we realize that they will never be recreated. Thanks for reading. I appreciate it, even if you just took the time to scan through it. Stay blessed. [ x ]

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I think you stumbled on to the solution for something that I’m constantly complaining about. I’m constantly complaining that DC has lost continuity. They build incredible epics, and then they reset everything. They take all the reader’s interest and goodwill, and they throw it away.

And I think the solution that you allude to is, “stop screwing with the main characters!” James Bond has never changed, and he’s still exciting and interesting.

So take that theory and apply it to some of the DC classics. The Dark Knight Returns, for example. By the end of the story, Batman is still Batman. The Great Darkness Saga: none of the heroes or villains turn into something new. Take the first five years (five years!) of the Superman triangle years, he’s still the Superman we all know.

Then look at some of the biggest universe-shaking successes: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Invasion!, the first few years of Vertigo. These events happen, and all sorts of changes happen. But the vast majority of our heroes don’t change. Minor heroes get redefined, new characters are introduced. But the readers keep coming back, again and again to see their favorite heroes take on new challenges, new situations. The readers leave when their heroes disappear and turn into something new.

I think that’s why fans have such a problem with Identity Crisis. I think that’s why New 52 is largely seen as a failure. Fans want the things that made them fans in the first place.


I am crazy late to this discussion. I saw it while it was going on, but I hadn’t read Identity Crisis straight through and wanted to give it a fair shot before I unload on it.

I’ve given it a fair shot.

Now I’m going to unload on it.

The rest of this post is going to be copy-pasted from the review I’m writing for TornadoSoup’s 2020 Reading Challenge thread (hence the spoiler-blurring that’s probably unnecessary for this one):

OK, this is an event that’s been debated to death and back for years. Given that I fall, as is my consistently cantankerous custom, on the “against” side, let me start with some positives.

The art is very good. There are some really strong emotional beats. I like murder mysteries, I like personal drama, I like ethical dilemmas, and I like dark secrets. I believe everyone (except for Dan DiDio, maybe) went into this with the best of intentions, and it’s the sort of story I might like. And while I like Sue Dibny and think her being dead is a long-term problem for later stories because now nobody can use her anymore, I admit that this story works best if the person who died is someone everyone—characters and audience—cares about.

As far as being positive about this goes, I’ve just about hit the end of my rope.

So, OK, first thing’s first: If you’re going to kill off a beloved character so you can have a murder mystery, have the murder mystery make sense. Jean’s entire plan would have been completely unnecessary if she’d just said four words to the right person: “I miss you, Ray.” Not only did she leave him in the first place, there is no logical nexus between what she wants and what she did to get it. It was just sort of vaguely hoping that the thing might sort of happen as an indirect result. I think the “You’re insane” line was intended to deflect these questions, but it’s a cheap excuse at best. It’s “Trust me, there’s a reason, but you wouldn’t understand it.”

And the investigation makes no sense in light of the solution. Supposedly, there was no forensic evidence because the killer was microscopic, except that’s not actually true. The killer had to and did grow to full size to use the flamethrower (Why did Jean have a flamethrower?!).

And the investigation into all the metahuman fire villains is completely ridiculous because the weapon—and I’m not blurring this because it’s readily visible in the first issue—is a completely mundane flamethrower. Not only does no one consider that it could be the case, I imagine there would be some sort of evidence to distinguish it from the more sci-fi powers and weapons these other villains use. Like traces of the accelerant or something.

And you know what? I just thought of another problem with the killer’s plan. So, Jean just wanted to scare Sue. So let’s assume she did that successfully. How would Sue know she’d been attacked and not just had some other health problem? She’d have no way of knowing that the sensation she was experiencing was a tiny microscopic person inside her skull squishing her brain. And if she did know that, everyone would immediately look at the Atom and it would get tied back to Jean Loring almost as fast. The plan only came as close to working as it did because Sue died.

Every time I think I’m done talking about this, more plot holes occur to me. So, the next problem is that I don’t think the Atom’s phone line trick works with cell phones. But let’s assume it does even though that makes even less sense than the original gimmick. I also am pretty sure that she should have blown up when she shrunk. I read a throwaway line in some other, earlier issue of a different series mentioning that Ray fixed that problem, but Jean is explicitly using one of his old belts, which were the earliest version of his size-changing gear.

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about Doctor Light and the mind wipes yet. Well, first of all, that would be a good name for a band. But second of all, none of that crap had anything to do with the actual mystery. We learn that it’s a total red herring less than halfway through the story.

First of all, I don’t think we’re allowed to even say the word for what Light did to Sue on here, which should give you some idea of how unnecessary it is. So, it’s this over-the-top, gratuitous, retroactive attack on a character who’s already dead, and it doesn’t even affect the story.

Second, mind wiping Light himself is… I’ve gotta be honest. I actually kind of like that. It’s interesting. I’d like to know more about what was going through Zatanna’s head at that point, but overall it’s a good moment.

Third, mind wiping Batman is a ridiculous shock-twist that obviously exists just to trick you into thinking the whole flashback thread wasn’t completely irrelevant. I mean, they were taking a vote, so count this as a vote against. That would deadlock them. If only there were someone directly affected by this who they could talk to as a tiebreaker. Ask Sue what she thinks, you morons.

Instead, they unanimously agree to brain-whammy someone who is ostensibly their friend for being upset that they’re lobotomizing someone. Way to go, heroes. It’s also really weird that this second, even more morally questionable decision is unanimous where the first one, which you could make a plausible argument to defend, was split.

This event could have been so good if it were, uh, actually good.


Loving this in depth, fresh take! Thank you so much for it! The more I’ve reflected on this thread after all these thoughtful responses has definitely shifted my perspective on Identity Crisis. I still enjoy it and I really enjoy a lot of stuff it has, but I think I’ve had nostalgia goggles on it for a long time that’s had me overlook some of its flaws. No longer my favorite comic series. I still really enjoy it, but I appreciate people like you in this thread who have made me think on it more deeply. Thanks for taking the time to write this up!


The DCU’s version of Elon Musk probably just has an accelerated timeline for certain inane projects. He had to use LiveJournal to spout his offensive inner monologue, there, but otherwise…

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I personally don’t care for murder mystery stories. Jean Loring’s motivation isn’t something that works for me. Not big on the Captain Boomerang subplot either. Tim Drake didn’t need typical Bat Family tragedy to be interesting. Just my feelings back then. I haven’t read it in 15 years.

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I initially loved it. It was first Justice League story I read and I’m always excited for a murder mystery. But on subsequent readings I look on it less charitably. I think some panels are bit too much. For example, Ralph literally falling apart at the funeral. Or the visualization (however subtle) of Sue’s attack. I think its a fine read, but I don’t know if I’d put it on the “must read” lists.

I have a very similar stance on it after this thread. Love murder mysteries, one of the first JL stories I read, etc. I actually did like the imagery of Ralph falling apart. It’s gorgeous and haunting and perfect for the moment.

That said, this thread made me realize that the way it handles women and the overall situation for Sue is very exploitative and objectifying towards women. After a re-reading, I have to agree. I still like a lot of the concepts in the story and I think the way it breaks down the JL and views them in a different light is really cool. But there were better ways of handling it.

I like the story still, but it’s no longer my favorite.

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I suppose my distaste comes from the fact that when I came into reading the Justice League books full time, Ralph and Sue were Full-time members of the JLE Ralph was out with the other Leaguers on missions and Sue was part of the support staff at the Embassy (handling monitor duty mostly and working with Catherine Cobert, the League’s U.N. Liaison)
DC Unfortunately was trying it’s best to wipe out any and all references to the JLI years. Which is strange since the second JLI reunion had just wrapped up in JLA Classified and was very popular among long-time readers. Sue was actually the first victim in a series of killings over the next few years that made it look like someone had called “Open Season” on the JLI (Blue Beetle, J’onn J’onzz, Rocket Red and Ralph himself would all be shuffled off the mortal coil within the next year or two)
Killing off a Superhero (even a minor one) to raise the stakes in a dramatic situation is one thing…
Killing off multiple Superheroes and supporting characters in rapid succession to show “This world isn’t safe!” is just excessive and unnecessary. (Even worse when the heroes that are being killed off are all remembered for being their time in the League’s history that The Powers that be would like to forget!)

Idk, I appreciated IC’s willingness to kill off important people. Comic books frequently lack stakes because they’re unwilling to kill of heroes in any substantive or permanent way. Identity Crisis showed the stakes of the job, gave consequences to their actions, and was an emotional ride. It was finally willing to do what comics were refused to for a while. I also just really enjoy a good murder mystery, and doing it with heroes is interesting.

Now don’t get me wrong, a lot of my views on this story have changed (you can see some of my most recent posts on this thread to understand how), but it’s not because it killed off characters.

not sure anyones said this but I just realized that Zatanna is essentially a plot device, you could replace her with random magic or sci-fi object number 12 and nothing would change. sure later stuff have it having an effect on her and bats relationship but that’s not in this story. which brings me to my essential problem with this story all the woman except Jean Loring exist simply as a plot device. sue is victim and catalyst, Zatanna is magic object and canary and others are just there? and jean’s motive makes no sense and to me feels kind of misogynistic

The way IC objectifies and exploits women was a big criticism when I first posted this thread a few months ago and was the key factor in having me re-evaluate my viewpoint of the story. It was something I never really considered when I first read it because (as a cis dude) that’s something I’ve never had to personally deal with. But I can definitely see it now and am disappointed in the story because of it. I still enjoy aspects of IC, but it’s definitely no longer my favorite.

That’s a tricky thing with magic characters in general. Sometimes it’s very easy for a story to have some crazy, seemingly insurmountable problem only to be solved on the last page by just the right spell. I used to not like magic-based characters for this reason, but if they’re written well they can be good.


i don’t mind magic being an instant solution what i dislike is that Zatanna has no voice of her own in a story with a secondary plot that revolves around her magic