Identity Crisis - Why all the hate?

I just finished the 7 issue “Identity Crisis” and thought it was a pretty excellent character study with the final twist reveal pretty great. I’ve heard this is a polarizing story but wanted to know why or what the community in general thinks of this arc. The only thing about this story I could have personally done without is all the discussion/issues with mind swiping. Outside of that I’d say this is a pretty good story


Because it’s overtly sexist, the mystery makes no sense, and it’s treatment of mental health issues is questionable at best and offensive at worst. Also, none of the characters act like themselves, and the atmosphere is oppressively dark for something that was billed as a love letter to the Silver Age.


I loved the series, but in my experience, the criticism is all about the rape. Other criticisms seem secondary. People reeeeally don’t like the rape.

There was a good discussion page on this elsewhere where many people
including myself got deep in the weeds on the topic.

3 Likes Linkara’s take, I agree with most of it.

What I hate the most about IC is that it orphaned Tim Drake. You know, they took away one of the things that made Tim unique, and just made him another orphan looking for surrogate father in Bruce. Third time’s the charm?

And yeah, the rape didn’t help, making everything edgy (Silver Age edgy… C’mon…) instead of mature also didn’t. I also heard a lot of characters I’ve only read in IC were acting VERY out of character. The only thing I really liked was Captain Boomerang’s subplot. It was good.

I’ll agree that killing Jack Drake was dumb. It worked for the comic, but it didn’t do anything for Tim’s character and did take away a fun aspect of him. Making matters worse, they killed Stephanie Brown at the exact same time, and the writer of Robin’s series didn’t properly explore either death.


Who other than Jean Loring was out of character?

I think the “r” item has a great deal to do with the book’s controversy.

I don’t find most characters to be out of character. Many we see sides of them we’d rather not.

IC raises the issue well of what happens if “heroes” don’t follow their “better angels”. I find it funny and one of the great hypocrisies of the book is Batman. He is the most offended by it all, yet he is the biggest vigilante of them all, going to extreme measures in his fight against crime. Batman has no moral high ground to stand in, unless heroes start killing villains.

The best example of this is Man-Bat. Bruce has no right to “cure” Langstrom. Stopping him as Man-Bat and taking him in, sure. But, forcing him to revert. There is no valid “moral” reason for doing that. He is guilty of doing exactly what he is condemning. It shows that Batman is a hypocrite and incapable of self-reflection about his actions. His “morality” is the only one that counts.

I think displaying this chink in the bat armor is also a subtle reason some people don’t like the book. It seems to me that the bigger the “bat fan”, the more likely they are to be against IC. Not all obviously.

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@DeSade-acolyte Nope, Batman has nothing to do with it and I’m a big Batman fan. Tower of Babel showed a morally ambigious side of Batman. He has contingencies to defeat his own friends. Also, Batman literally created a satelite which monitored the entire Earth without anyone’s knowledge. Identity Crisis has nothing on OMAC project released around the same time. And I love those stories as a Batman fan.
The main problem of IC are it’s consequences for the DC Universe overall. If it was an elseworld, then sure. Wouldn’t be amazing because the killer has a nonsensical motivation but it wouldn’t be so actively disliked. No one says that Injustice is bad because superheroes die in it, and Superman is a fascist leader. It has no consequences for the continuity. IC made the entire DC Universe edgier (even made Silver Age edgier retroactively), killed off characters like Jack Drake who never came back. I mean IC’s existence led to Heroes in Crisis…

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My problem has very little to do with the simple existence of the rape (I think that the urge to tackle sexual assault and its effects is not inherently bad), rather the way it was handled. Sue Dibny is not a character in IC. She’s a walking plot device that Meltzer does terrible things to as a way of motivating Elongated Man, and thus, the plot.


Loved the fact that brad meltzer took these characters and made them face real life issues that happen everyday in our world and for that this was one of my favorite story arcs. Hopefully there will be more storylines like these that make are superheroes human and relatable!


I liked the series, but being a big Ralph and Sue fan I got a bit weepy.

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As I elaborate on in the other Identity Crisis thread, this idea that it’s wrong for a character to be butchered to motivate the hero is a standard applied in Identity Crisis but not 99% of other comic book deaths.

@BatWatch No, not only IC is criticized for that. There is even a term for it: women in refrigerators. It applies to IC but also many others. It’s just that in here Sue wasn’t a character at all. She had no agency, she was there only to be raped and then to die. Even the original woman in a refrigerator, Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend, at least had some character traits and she was active before she was murdered.


You do realize that the vast majority of
comics start off with a helpless person getting harmed, usually killed, in an action that provokes the hero to action, and that these victims are usually male? How is Women in Refrigerators any more of a concern than Fathers with Boomerangs in Their Chests?


There were a few things I didn’t love about Identity Crisis:

  1. The death of Sue Dibny. Some people are quick to write her off as just Ralph’s wife, but if you read those Elongated Man stories back in the day or remember her time with the Justice League in the 90’s, you’d know she was a pretty special character. And given what happens to her in the story in the flashback, it felt like adding insult to injury.

  2. Yet another story where a writer has to prop up Batman by making other heroes look terrible. This wasn’t the first story to do this, but oh boy was it annoying when it happened.

  3. The Deathstroke battle. Look, I love Slade as much as the next person, but this was the period where they were really trying to make Deathstroke a thing, hence how he could take down a good chunk of the Justice League on his own. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but come on…

  4. THe mystery itself. As many have stated above, the payoff wasn’t worth it. Seriously…Jean Loring? It felt like we were building up to something and then it turns out ot be the Atom’s ex.

  5. I can point to this and Hush as the start of DC’s “Dark Age” This was the time when the company really leaned into the idea of big names over stories and they got really dark for shock value. That’s not to say everything was awful in this era, but it’s right around here you can start to see a change in the company.

Now, this isn’t to take away from those who enjoyed Identity Crisis, because I know it has many fans. For a lot of people, this was either their entry point into the DC Universe or it was the comic that brought them back in. In a sense you could say having someone like Meltzer writing it did it’s job. But for me personally, this story was not my cup of tea.


I don’t blame Meltzer for the problems with the book. I think the actual writing is pretty good, if not all the plot points. No, I blame DC’s daddy-o for the mandated mean-spiritedness.

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The problem with it people have (and there’s a ton of stuff to google) is

  1. Basically what boils down to an argument that the material is too mature for comics. I know there are a lot of angles on this, etc, but that’s what people are getting at. And honestly, while I’m usually for anything can address anything, I think they have a point with this one. Scrambling people’s brains to prevent future threats isn’t just a strange tactic, it pushes against the point of being a superhero. To be fair the comic does the best job possible of explaining and grounding this decision.

  2. Women don’t shine much here. Which I feel is mostly unfounded. Yes, we have a fridging, but only kinda. Our victim is a fleshed out character or feels that way and her death brings up an ethical question, not a journey. But maybe I just have low standards.

I don’t buy the “Sue is the woman in the refrigerator”. Going into IC, she had become a well known and well loved part of the DCU. That is what made the hideous act so repulsive. Sue held a special place in many readers hearts, including mine. So when we abruptly find her dead and and later the truly heinous nature of her death, it rips at the soul. Sue us by far the protagonist of IC. She, even in death, drives the other characters to action. As for Jean Loring, I’m thought it was one of the best twists in comics. We see, in real life, murders of this type often enough. They make no “sense”. “Hey, the relationship is over, move on.” But it is clear their are people who don’t and some go to extreme measures to do some violent, emotionally messed up stuff. No one really thought of Jean as someone who would be capable of such action, which makes her the perfect villain. Is she whacked? Sure, but plenty of people are whacked and are able to hide it until it is to late. Jeffery Falmer’s neighbors that he was a decent guy from outward appearance, but the truth case to the forefront far to late. Just because one is nuts, doesn’t mean one isn’t plausible. It n fact some of the greatest and most vile killers were completely unexpected from an external psychological examination.

I think IC cut a bit to close to home. It’s chaos and the randomness of the acts and perps that make it so disturbing. It reaches into the psyche of characters and their sense of disgust leads some to forgo their “better angels”.

If IC put an idea out there that heroes are not always paragons of virtue. The are used to a certain order in the world. When that order is thrown out the window, there sense of duty and what retribution is acceptable changes. How do the handle such blunt force emotional trauma. And for some they become very human. They step off their pedestals as paragons of virtue.

I’d argue that IC is born from Tower of Babel. Bats goes completely compulsive obsessive and does not follow his better angels, but his paranoia. IC asks the question, what would draw other characters to that point. What breaks them from following their “better angels”. And the much beloved Sue is not known for throwing herself into the fray of battle. When a hero dies, throwing themselves into the fray of battle, it’s pretty well established that accepting the possibility of dying comes with the territory. For someone as beloved as Jean, who doesn’t usually throw herself into the fray of battle, there is a different standard. (Rightly or wrongly people can argue, but it is a fact. Be that fair or unfair.)

@DeSade-acolyte but that’s 100% the definition of a woman in a refrigerator: an established comic book female character who in the particular story has nothing to do except dying/being raped/depowered and those things are not there to explore her story (because she has none) but to provide shock value and motivate male characters. And tell me how many lines does Sue Dibny has in IC? And how did the author deal with rape, a very serious topic? Has he shown Sue’s story dealing with it? Nope.

What is IC about, really? If it’s about a murder mystery, it’s a bad murder mystery, with plotholes, and villain with nonsensical motivation (which is fundamentally wrong from a genre standpoint). If it’s about mindwiping, why is it a red herring in the story, and not the core of it? If it’s about rape, why do we know nothing about the victim dealing with it? The story is a mess.

Mindwiping Batman (their friend, I think) without even giving him a chance to do anything is not morally ambigous. It’s bad. Worse than Tower of Babel by a long shot. Mindwiping Dr Light could be a great moral question. Such a shame the writer/editors just screwed it up.

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I dunno, considering Batman has had his plans to take down other heroes twice as well as his overall unlikeable nature in this period in comics, I was not surprised we got yet another story where Batman is the only “just” person out of all the heroes.