As someone who spends most of her time reading (and writing) literary fiction, I have a hard time writing about graphic novels. I am unsure of what metrics to use to measure their success or failure, and spend a lot of time trying to determine what those might. Just when I get myself worked up into a nice confused tizzy, I kick myself in the ass and go back to the most basic question we should ask of any piece of art we’re trying to talk about, does it work?
Identity Crisis, a graphic novel written by Brad Melzer and illustrated by Rags Morales, works. Going into the book I was a little leery. My friend Wolfdogg had loaned it to me, and he has the distinction of being the person who has suggested some of the shittiest books I’ve ever read.
But when it comes to graphic novels I’ve learned that he can be trusted. He has yet to steer me wrong.
So anyway, Identity Crisis is basically a murder mystery featuring superheroes. It’s all kinds of awesome. It opens on the Elongated Man reminiscing about his courtship with his wife and their relationship over the years. Of course just as we’re all smitten with Mrs. Elongated Man, we learn that she has been killed.
The Justice League is pissed and on a quest to find out who is behind the gruesome the act. What unravels is, like I said, a murder mystery with all kinds of twists and turns. While I’m not generally a fan of genre, this one works because it has pictures and superheroes. And, besides, who doesn’t want to see Wonder Woman deliver a eulogy?
Being that I’m not a hardcore DC comics (or any comics for that matter) fan, I wasn’t shocked or appalled by what I read in Identity Crisis (okay, I was shocked once with what they did once to Batman, but I won’t give that away). I was, however, wholly captivated by the story. It’s a cliche to say it, but this a real page turner.
I gotta admit I was a little disappointed when I found out whodunit. But I think this is often the case with the mystery genre. The author holds back that little bit of crucial information that had it been revealed within the course of the story, you might have been more in tune with who the possible suspects were. I know it sounds like they’d be giving away the ending, but a writer with serious chops could have their characters stay emotionally honest while still ratcheting up the tension and casting doubt on all those involved.
But still, Identity Crisis is pretty damn good even if the ending leaves you feeling a bit tricked.