IDENTITY CRISIS was, without doubt, one of the most controversial stories told in DC Comics for years. It changed elements of a fondly remembered Silver Age of comics and used what some perceived to be gratuitous violence and rape to merely boost sales.
Never intended to be a tie-in with INFINITE CRISIS, its content was built upon within INFINITE CRISIS and the DCU as a whole.
Issue #1: Told in a series of flashbacks leading up to a point described as “Now”, it begins with Elongated Man and Firehawk maintaining surviellance on an armoured battlesuit that two street level gangsters are trying to sell. The villain Bolt is attempting to buy the battlesuit and is using the Calculator – once a hackneyed villain, now an information broker for supervillains – to find out as much as he can before making the purchase. Bolt attempts to take the suit without paying and is gunned down by the gangsters; as Firehawk and Elongated Man try to intervene, he receives a call from his wife Sue who sounds as if she is in trouble. Ignoring Bolt and the armour, Firehawk takes Elongated Man home where he finds the murdered body of his wife. Various heroes are called in to examine the scene of the crime before the funeral of Sue takes place forty-eight hours later. Following the funeral, heroes team up and pursue their own ideas and hunches in order to find the killer, leaving a small group of heroes with Elongated Man who suspects Dr Light.
Issue #2 The heroes who stayed behind with Elongated Man are joined by Flash III and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner who demand to know why they suspect Dr Light. As the team travel to where they think Light is, they tell the two newcomers of how Light had, during the satellite era of the Justice League of America, managed to get aboard the satellite and found Sue Dibny alone. Though she signalled the heroes, they could not arrive before Light had raped her. With Light captured, Elongated Man took Sue to a hospital leaving the remaining heroes to deal with Light who, at this point, was claiming he would attack all of their loved ones; unsatisfied with merely making Light forget what had happened, they voted to alter his very personality, rendering him less effective. Convinced the League will come after him for Sue’s murder, Dr Light enlists the help of Deathstroke for protection. Meanwhile, Dr Mid-Nite learns that, whatever else he had done, Light did not kill Sue Dibny.
Issue #3: Deathstroke, portrayed here as a master tactician and incredible fighter, manages to defeat most of the League quickly and with a minimum of effort, only losing his temper when Green Arrow thrusts an arrow into Deathstroke’s blind eye. As the heroes pile on to Deathstroke, the watching Dr Light is struck by the resemblance between that fight and the time the heroes attacked him before wiping his mind. In a rush, his memories return and, in a blinding flash, both he and Deathstroke escape. By the time the League recover, Superman has arrived and informs them that Dr Mid-Nite has confirmed Light is not the killer. Green Arrow tells the Flash that the League had often made villains forget the heroes’ secret identities – as they had done with the Secret Society of Super Villains in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #167-168 – in the past but altering the personality of Dr Light was something else. Meanwhile, Captain Boomerang struggles with summoning the courage to face his illegitimate son and Robin’s father, Jack Drake, worries about his son’s activities. The issue ends with an attack on Jean Loring, the Atom’s ex-wife, which leaves her hanging by her neck.
Issue #4: The Atom finds his ex-wife hanging and manages to free her before she dies. Some hours later, Green Arrow has Superman examine the room and, with the help of Oracle, they determine that the villain Slipknot is a likely suspect. Arrow and Wonder Woman interrogate him but he knew nothing. Meanwhile, several villains have begun swapping stories and it is revealed that Dr Light has told others of what the League did to him in the past. Captain Boomerang finally talks to his son and discovers that he is as good with a boomerang as his father. In an attempt to speed up the investigation, Green Arrow contacts the one time Green Lantern Hal Jordan who is now the Spectre but, despite his links with the supernatural, Jordan cannot reveal who the killer is. At the end of the issue, Lois Lane receives a note claiming that she will be next.
Issue #5: The villains who had been gathering and sharing information are tracked down by the League and question while, at the same time, other heroes tackle other villains. As one band attack the Shadow Thief, he manages to kill Firestorm. The Atom and Jean Loring, scared by the attack on her, get back together while Captain Boomerang and his son practice with their weapon of choice and, during the practice, reveal that the son also has super-speed. After Robin leaves his father to go on patrol, Jack Drake discovers a note and a pistol and fears his life is in danger; he uses Robin’s communicator to contact Oracle who, in turn, contacts Robin and Batman who return as quickly as they can. Captain Boomerang breaks into Drake’s house and the pair kill each other.
Issue #6: Batman and Robin get to the Drake household too late to help Robin’s father; Boomerang’s son attempts to see his father’s body but is rebuffed by federal agents. Heroes and villains alike turn to their families and, for the most part, the heroes think the killer of Sue Dibny has been caught, laying the blame at Captain Boomerang’s feet. The Flash tracks down Green Arrow and tells him that, when Dr Light remembered the League mind-wiping him, his memories had shone out in the light; in that image, Batman had been present which Arrow had not mentioned. Gradually, Green Arrow admits that during the mind-wiping of Dr Light, Batman had returned to the satellite and attempted to stop the League from what they were doing. To stop him, the League removed ten minutes of Batman’s memory. Batman himself is busy looking at the evidence of Sue Dibny’s death as are Dr Mid-Nite and Mr Terrific; the latter find two tiny footprints in Sue’s brain at the same time as Batman deduces the Atom’s involvement.
Issue #7: As the heroes try to find the Atom, he is at home with Jean Loring who, casually mentions the note sent with the gun to Jack Drake. That the note was present was never released and the Atom realises that it must have been Jean who sent it and the gun. He then asks if Jean killed Sue only to be told that she hadn’t meant to. She then reveals that she had used one of the Atom’s old costumed to shrink down with the intention of causing Sue a mild injury but had killed her by accident. Her motive was to scare the heroes into returning to their loved ones, including bringing the Atom back to her. He realises that Jean is insane and has her committed to Arkham Asylum before vanishing into the microscopic world. The heroes begin to return to their lives with seemingly the Flash the only one worried that Batman doesn’t know his own mind was wiped.
The ramifications of IDENTITY CRISIS would be most obviously explored in explored in Crisis Of Conscience, the JLA storyline that ended as INFINITE CRISIS started.