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'Heroes in Crisis': The New 'Identity Crisis'

more pointless hero deconstruction from DC Comics

Note: This article contains spoilers to both Identity Crisis and Heroes in Crisis.

Identity Crisis was a DC Comics miniseries in 2004. It was a murder mystery: Sue Dibny, the wife of the superhero Elongated Man, is found dead. The Justice League immediately assumes it was the doing of the villain, Doctor Light, who years before had raped her (a fact they made up for this story). Caught in the act by the League, they decided to have Zatanna the Magician erase his memories of their secret identities, and in the process "fix" him of his deviant tendencies. But this ended up screwing up his mind. Just then, Batman arrives. Disapproving of their actions, the League erases his memories of the event as well.

It eventually turned out Light wasn't behind her murder or other attempts on the lives of various heroes' loved ones; it was the doing of Jean Loring, the mentally unstable ex-wife of The Atom trying to get him back (though Sue's death was an accident.) 

The whole story was cringy; from the rape and murder of Sue (a fan-favorite character) to showing the League acting less noble than ever shown previously. 

Now, 15 years later, we have another DC miniseries, Heroes in Crisis which is also a murder mystery. In this one, several minor characters are found dead in a secret sanctuary for superheroes and villains with mental problems. In the end, it turns out that it was Wally West's (Kid Flash) doing; after checking the confession files of the other patients without permission, he was overwhelmed, lost control of the "Speed Force," and caused an explosion that killed the others; he then covered it up to make it look like a murder. Eventually, he's arrested and the dead characters remain dead and their shames become public.

The similarities between both series are apparent: both are murder mysteries, both involve superheroes and their loved ones, both show them as flawed, both involve mental disorders and both have less than perfect resolutions. The question is: Why? Was either of them necessary?

Technically, Identity Crisis fills a plot hole made decades earlier when Doctor Light learned the Leaguers' secret identities but not much came out of it. But I bet the original writers were not expecting such a horrible resolution later. As for Heroes in Crisis, I have heard writer Tom King—who had experience counseling soldiers with PTSD—wanted to explore such themes using superheroes. If that was the case he really mishandled it, though.

Another possible link between both series is Dan Didio, one of the top editors at DC Comics. He's been very vocal against his own company's heroes, going as far as to hint that he had a list of characters he just wanted to kill off. HiC might have just been the excuse for that.

Perhaps the worst (and strangest) part is that last year DC launched "Rebirth" a plan to revitalize their properties, making them less "dark" (since the "New 52" relaunch in 2016 didn't prove too popular with fans) However, ever since editor and writer Geoff Johns, who was the main force behind Rebirth, left his position, it's become apparent they are going back to their darker tones, in this and other comics.

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'Heroes in Crisis': The New 'Identity Crisis'
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