ProfessorAlan wrote:I was so pleased to hear this as your favorite comic series. I think it is terrific, as well, although it I've found it divisive enough that sometimes I don't mention that I like it, unless I've "pre-screened" the audience. The backlash from the "haters" can be strong, and strangely personal.
As you said, it ushered in a deeper, darker era for DC Comics. It also ushered in a more violent era, and the nature and victim of the violence in Identity Crisis is a sore point for some, as is the ways the heroes behave regarding Dr. Light.
But to me, the character beats, the depth of Brad Meltzer's writing, and the quality of Rags Morales' art put it at or near the top of my list, as well.
I'll try to respond without being personal or with hatred.
The very points you identify as the strong points of the story are the ones that mark this series as the point at which my disenfranchisement with DC Comics truly began. Except for Rags Morales' art - which was superb.
I disagree with nearly all of the character beats. The decision to tamper with Dr. Light's mind (uh, 10-year-old spoiler alert....) is not one that Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, or Hal Jordan would ever have condoned. Nor would Zatanna have ever gone through with it. If this were a modern interpretation of the character, New 52 or even just present continuity, perhaps an argument could be made. But I think it is important to remember that this is "Silver Age" continuity. I felt this to be a basic misrepresentation of the characters.
I thought the decision to kill Tim Drake's father removed an important dynamic from that character. And I feel it was done arbitrarily, out of a sense that "superheroes must have a tragic backstory".
But most of all, this story represents a turning point in the direction of DC Comics. It marks a point where the writers begin not only to explore greater depths of violence and depravity, but to revisit Silver Age continuity and "make it more relevant" by adding elements of deceit and totalitarianism to the characters that was not present at the time. It seemed to me that it wasn't enough that characters were now "grim, gritty, and driven by dark emotions", but it must be shown that the sense of altruism and heroism represented by the Silver Age was really a sham that covered selfish, conceited, self-righteousness.
From a theological perspective, Silver Age heroes demonstrated either the absence of a sinful nature (Superman), the ability to overcome their sinful nature (Flash), the ability to function within a sinful nature (Green Lantern), or the effects of succumbing to a sinful nature (Batman). Post-Identity Crisis, the prevailing feeling is that in order to be a hero, one must embrace the urges of one's own sinful nature. In essence, post-Identity Crisis, there were no heroes, only super-powered demigods acting out of sense of their own importance, a theme that culminated in the portrayal of Superboy Prime as the villain behind Infinite Crisis.
Grant Morrison almost brought me back into the fold with "Final Crisis", but instead of bringing mythological themes and symbology to the continuity, it all fell apart in a series of self-referential existentialism. That's when I tapped out (except for Booster Gold....).
The relationship of heroic archetypes to the sin nature in the Silver Age merits a paper of its own, but let me summarize my thinking. Superman acted without malice or anger for the betterment of not only mankind in general but in an effort to help even the villains overcome their flaws. Flash was constantly faced with the choice of letting the villains win to save people, but chose personal sacrifice as a means of both defeating the villains and saving people. The Flash ultimately killed Professor Zoom, and punished himself for choosing the expedient action over the morally correct one. Green Lantern (along with Green Arrow) began to operate within a framework that acknowledged the universe as morally broken, with a need for outside correction. GL stories portrayed the imposition of outside order on a chaotic world as an imperfect means of living. Batman was faced with an array of criminals who acted according to the dictates of whim or their own selfishness. The character of Batman was less important than the villains, whose actions revealed an utter lack of concern for other people. And these stories were written without extreme violence, cursing, or explicit sexuality. They weren't perfect, that period of storytelling just had a completely different set of flaws.
If I were differentiate the two styles in a single sentence, it would be that one era acknowledged the presence of human depravity and explored it's effects, while the other explored the depths of depravity and wallowed in its expression.
Meltzer's writing is complex and nuanced, to be sure. The story was well-told. I just wish it had been told with someone else's heroes instead of mine.