Monday, December 19, 2005

Booknote: Identity Crisis

Title: Identity Crisis
Author: Brad Meltzer. Penciller: Rags Morales. Inker: Michael Bair
Publication Information: New York: DC Comics, 2005
ISBN: 1-4012-0688-3
Genre: Graphic Novel/Comics
Subgenre: Adventure/Fantasy/Superheroes

This is a compilation of a DC series of the same title. I did not know much about the author other than he was a writer of mystery thrillers. Well, this shows in the book. When the wife of the Elongated Man, a member of the Justice League, is murdered, it puts the rest of the superheroes on alert. It seems the killer knows their identities, and as result, knows who their loved ones are. The book reads like a thriller where readers are hooked wondering who is the killer until the very end. Like a good thriller, you have twists, and it is the person one least expects. In this regard, it is a very engaging book. However, the book is also engaging in the portrayal of the superheroes, for the murders are not the only element unraveling. Secrets from the past come to haunt them as well, and some decisions made in the past are now catching up to them. Some of the members have been keeping secrets from the others. It involves a moral choice. All I will say is a paraphrase from a line in the book: never understimate what others may do for the sake of those they love. The strength of this book, according to some critics I have read, is in the portrayal of the heroes as human beings. I think this is extremely accurate. For all their powers, they are vulnerable and moved like any other person. This is very well presented in the book.

The art on this graphic novel is excellent. It's not just the portrayals of the heroes and the settings. It is the use of light and shadows. The choice of what details to emphasize and which details to leave to the imagination. The art is another reason to buy this book, but when you combine it with the story created by Meltzer, you have an excellent book. I read it in two nights, and only because I started reading it late the first night. I think that fans of DC Comics will approve of this book. I will warn that for some readers who have not read DC Comics for a while, the fact that the heroes have evolved over time (in terms of generations, and so on) may throw people off a bit. For instance, keeping track of the current Flash as opposed to the one he succeeded. Since the heroes often refer to each other by first name, given that they know each other, it may throw casual readers off briefly. However, since the story is so engaging, you can catch up in no time. I know I did. It may make you want to seek out other stories and comics as a result. I probably will. I will probably reread this one soon as well.

The compilation includes a gallery of various covers that were used for the comics during the various printings. It also includes a section with commentary by the author and the artist in which they go over their favorite scenes. For those interested in the art, how it is done and how it works, this is a good read. I found it very interesting, and it allowed me to appreciate the story better.

Public libraries with graphic novel collections will definitely want to buy this one for their collections. I would venture to say that some academic libraries with popular culture collections may want to grab a copy as well. This is one I highly recommend.

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