JLA #115 (August, 2005)
“Crisis of Conscience, Part One”
Writers – Geoff Johns & Allan Heinberg
Penciller – Chris Batista
Inker – Mark Farmer
Letterer – Ken Lopez
Colorist – David Baron
Assistant Editor – Michael Siglain
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $2.50
Welcome to October! I wasn’t sure if I was going to attempt a another #boohauntedblog horror-themed month like we did last year. Seeing as though it almost burnt me out last time around, I figure we’ll still talk some horror… however, without the daily mandate.
Not quite sure how we’ll approach it either, as over the next few weeks, the wife and I will be moving house… so pretty much, our daily discussions may become relegated to “whatever book I can reach” while things are moved, stuffed, boxed, and made wildly inconvenient rather than rolling with any sort of schedule.
For folks looking for a scare, I’m happy to report that my bloggy-brother Mike Carlyle over at the Crapbox of Son of Cthulhu is going daily and full-on “Creepybox” this month! Give him a look eerie, err… every day!
We open on Mars, with J’onn doing that thing where he picks up a handful of dirt and lets it fall through his fingers… he seems to do that every time he visits home. Meanwhile, back at the Watchtower… the JLA is in the middle of the mother of all arguments. Hawkman and Green Arrow are going at it like never before… however, today it has nothing to do with their politics… or even chili recipes… today, it’s about a secret the League has long kept. A secret that Wally has decided Batman ought to know about.
J’onn returns. Overhearing the commotion, he asks what’s going on… and more importantly, what is this “secret” they’re all talking about. Wally invites him to read their minds and find out… to which, J’onn finds that he cannot! Ya see, Zatanna used her magic to block Martian minds from prying. Suddenly, newly Rebirthed Hal Jordan pops in to try and reason with Hawkman. He suggests coming clean and owning up to past mistakes, after all… he might just know a thing or two about that. Hawkman dismisses him, and is steadfast in his position that what the League had done was no “mistake”… rather doing what needed to be done.
Now, here’s where it gets sticky. Knowing that the beans are about to be spilled, Hawkman makes for the door… Hal blocks him in. Next, we flashback to the League just prior to Firestorm joining up. Hal explains that the Secret Society of Super-Villains had somehow discovered all of the League’s secret “civilian” identities… and so, Zatanna’s magic was used to erase their memories.
Okay, so far… I’m not completely on board, but more or less… no harm, no foul. I mean, just about every issue of (pre-Giant Size) X-Men ended with Professor X engaging in the ol’ mindwipe. Here’s where it gets stickier… During Identity Crisis (which we’ll discuss a bit in the review portion to follow), it was revealed that Dr. Light once attacked and raped Elongated Man’s wife, Sue Dibny. When the League caught Light… they voted to have Zatanna, well… not so much mindwipe him… more like lobotomize him. This explains how he was often depicted as rather bumbling and ineffectual rather than any real threat.
But… we’re not done yet. Ya see, during the magical lobotomy… Batman popped in, and tried to stop the proceedings. And so, the League went ahead and wiped Batman’s mind too! For good measure, they hid the memories from Martian Manhunter, just in case he accidentally read an errant thought from a teammate.
Now… Hawkman is still adamant that, given the situation, the League acted properly. J’onn makes his position clear… altering the mind of another is the worst violation. Hawkman continues to argue, before Wally brings us back to reality. He fears that the secret is out, as he’s heard rumors from the Rogues. Also, Batman hasn’t responded to his League signal device. J’onn plainly states, “He knows.” before suggesting his teammates “fix” things. Well, given the way they’ve “fixed” things in the past, you may wanna be a bit more specific J’onn!
We shift scenes to Belle Reve Prison where Debbie Darnell, former flight attendant for Ferris Aircraft (and, err, Star Sapphire) lay in a medico bed. While a pair of pervy prison guards watch over her, she is awakened by the Star Sapphire Gem… and, an off-panel benefactor.
Back at the Watchtower, Zatanna feels super guilty for her trespasses. Hal tries to comfort… flirt… comflirt with her, telling her that when everything went down she was still a rookie Leaguer… she was basically just following orders. She seems somewhat appreciative of his efforts, but lets him know it isn’t necessarily the action itself that’s worrying her… it’s that, if given the opportunity… she’d probably do it all over again.
Their chat is interrupted by an emergency call from Happy Harbor Rhode Island… it’s Red Tornado… well, most of him anyway. It’s clear that he’s been messed up pretty bad. Suddenly… another distress call comes in, from Opal City… it’s Ralph Dibny!
The League splits into two teams to handle the emergencies. Hal, Ollie and Dinah head to Happy Harbor. Upon arrival, Reddy tells them it’s all going down due to “the Secret”… and I don’t think he’s talking about the little ghost girl from Young Justice. Spotting their enemy, Dinah gives a sonic scream… however, instead of her normal concussive waves… she just coughs up a bunch of black birds! Ollie draws on his bow… which he finds is suddenly covered in thorns!
Hal… just gets paralyzed, which is nowhere near as fun. We see their foes are Felix Faust, Chronos, and the Floronic Man… oh, say it ain’t so Floro! You’re a New Guardian, dammit!
At the same time in Opal City, Maryland… Maryland? Okay. Anyhoo, we join Ralph Dibny as he makes a mad rush (and reach) for his cupboard to grab his last bottle of Gingold. I notice that he’s not wearing his wedding band here… not sure if that means anything, or if it’s a plot point I’d forgotten about. Just stuck out to me. Anyhoo (again), as the world around him spins into a vortex, Hawkman swoops in for the save. He is accompanied by Zatanna and Flash. We see that their foes include Star Sapphire, the Wizard, and the Matter Master.
Meanwhile… in Gotham City, Catwoman is beating down Firefly. Batman arrives to stop her from going too far… then demands she hand over the stolen diamonds that she recovered from the baddie. She begrudgingly hands them over… asking if an exchange of diamonds means they’re engaged. Hmm… Anyhoo, the potentially touching moment is interrupted by the arrival of the Martian Manhunter.
J’onn tells Batman that there’s something mighty important they need to discuss… however, before they can, they are interrupted (lotsa interruptions today!) by the entire Secret Society of Super-Villains! What’s worse… the Wizard greets Batman as “Bruce”!
Okay, a little background. Identity Crisis… don’t wanna say too much about it, because I’m pretty positive we’ll eventually discuss it long-form here on the blog. Hell, for a story that “status quo changing”, it’ll very likely get a Cosmic Treadmill episode somewhere down the line.
I will say that… hmm… part of me absolutely hates it, while another… I dunno… doesn’t? It’s far from a story that I’ll ever say I liked, however, it might be the best example of an “event” that actually, as we like to say, “stuck the landing”. Identity Crisis was unlike any event that came before it… and hell, even as I was reading it, I wasn’t sure how they could possibly make it “stick” in DC continuity.
I mean, surely they wouldn’t leave Dr. Light as a rapist/murderer, right? I mean, he’s not that terribly important of a character, but still… this is levels of irredeemable that won’t be able to be walked back. This is going to, in a way, taint every prior Dr. Light appearance. Added to that… the Justice League voted to lobotomize him!
… and then, they mind-wiped frickin’ Batman! Even if the story ain’t my cup of tea, I gotta hand it to ’em (DC) for for their willingness to “commit to the bit”. This didn’t get “Cosmic Cubed” away… and has been a scar on the face for the League ever since (reboots notwithstanding, of course).
I think it was with this arc in JLA that many DC readers realized that Identity Crisis wasn’t going to just “go away”… it wasn’t going to be relegated as an Elseworlds, or something to only be addressed when convenient. While not a “Crisis” in the comics-classical definition, Identity Crisis did signal a sizable shift in DC’s landscape… characterization, storytelling… so many things changed. Not all for the better, sure… but, also… not all for the worse, either.
This issue features some great conflict… and reactions from each member that more or less fit in with their established personalities. This isn’t Civil War “square peg into round holes” characterization… at worst, it’s amplification of the Leaguer’s basic archetypal traits to facilitate the story. Worth mentioning, it seems pretty clear that Johns is enjoying having Hal interact with/as part of the JLA again!
Overall… despite my hesitance to recommend anything Identity Crisis-related, I cannot deny that this was a more-or-less enjoyable read. I don’t think I’d jump in with this issue if you haven’t already read Identity Crisis… which, err, is to say… yeah, I guess I’m recommending checking out Identity Crisis. It’s not anywhere near my favorites, buuuuuut… whether we like it or not, it is a thing that happened. It brought with it some crazy changes… and like it or not, it probably shouldn’t be ignored.
(Not the) Letters Page: