Friday, July 23, 2004

All in Color for $3.95

I'm trying to remember if four dollars seems like any larger a chunk of my change than ten (or twelve) cents did back in the day. Memory fails: I have no idea.

The second issue of DC Comics' Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer is out, and apparently being beaten to death and the body burned isn't indignity enough for Sue Dibny. Now we learn (spoilers ahoy) that, some years ago (thirty years ago in real time, but probably no more than five in comic-book years), she was attacked and raped by Doctor Light.

I liked this kind of story when I saw it in Alan Moore's Watchmen, and I may yet like it here, when it's finished. But the characters in Watchmen were created for the purpose of telling that story. Reading Identity Crisis is like watching Laura Petrie get raped.

(There was, in fact, an episode of the Dick van Dyke show in which the subject of wife-beating was addressed. The guilty character was a never-again-seen guest star, the unsavory acts were safely off-screen in the guest's back story, and the episode simply didn't work. Wife-beating doesn't belong in TVLand. The jury is still out as to whether it can belong on Earth-1.)

Dr Light broke into the JLA satellite and was discovered by its only occupant at the time, Sue Dibny. She had plenty of time to sound an alarm, did so, and in fact told him that she had done so. He could have escaped. Did he figure he still had time to do what he came for? Then why didn't he do that? Or WAS attacking Sue what he'd come for?

So, while Light's on the floor on top of Sue, the first of the heroes arrives: The Flash. He takes one look at the scene and throws Light across the room (and who wouldn't?). The rest of the current League follows soon after and, in response to continued hostility from Light, beat the tar out of him.

And this isn't even the part of the story that the author intended as the Big Wham.

After Ralph has taken Sue to the hospital, while Light is huddled on the floor imprisoned in Green Lantern's beam, Light taunts the League, saying he's going to find ALL of their loved ones. He uses his light-based powers to create a holographic replay of what he did to Sue, bragging that his fellow prisoners in whatever jail they send him to will enjoy the "show", "My Date with Sue." (Why did he provoke the heroes so severely? What did he hope to accomplish? What was he thinking?)

After a few minutes of this, the League got so sick of it that Zatanna (the resident magician) put Light to sleep. He could have been maintained so indefinitely. Light could have been held in solitary, and would have been on the League's say-so, to prevent the "show" he was threatening to give to his fellow inmates. The need wasn't immediate. There was no hurry.

But Our Heroes were deeply affected by the crime they'd witnessed. "How many times are we going to go through this with Light?" Lock him up, watch him escape, catch him again, lock him up, watch him escape, where does it end?

All they wanted to do was, as Hawkman put it, "clean him up a little", when they sent Zatanna into his head, magically. And she screwed it up. She scrambled his mind. She changed him into... a joke. A pathetic loser who was just as much a criminal as he ever was, but incompetent. He went from being a Justice League-level threat to a clown that any randomly-chosen Teen Titan could handle without breaking a sweat.

A super-villain on training wheels.

And then, while relating this incident to today's Flash and Green Lantern, Green Arrow drops one more grenade: Light wasn't the only one they "fixed". To be continued. (This is #2 of 7.)

So, what did I think?

Brad Meltzer's story is provocative. It's got my attention, and I'll keep reading. Rags Morales' art is first-rate. I just wish, as with Watchmen, they'd created new characters to kill off.

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