INT. CRIME SCENE, A COZY APARTMENT, WHERE A DARK-HAIRED WOMAN LIES PARTIALLY BURNED ON THE FLOOR. COPS ARE MILLING ABOUT, WHILE MEDICAL EXAMINER HORNER EXAMINES THE BODY CLOSELY. DETECTIVES HENSON AND GRABLER ENTER.
HENSON: What happened here?
HORNER: Cause of death appears to be the burning or smoke inhalation, but I'll have to do an autopsy to be sure.
GRABLER: What's the victim's name?
HORNER: Sue Dibny. Wife of the--
HENSON: --Elongated Man, I've heard of them. One of the few Justice League members with a public identity. Is that why you called the Special Crimes Unit?
HORNER: Well, that, and there's no sign of forced entry.
GRABLER: So the perp was someone she knew.
HORNER: Maybe, but any visitor would have registered on the security systems. There's more otherworldly tech in the intruder alarm than in S.T.A.R. Labs.
GRABLER: So someone got in, did this, and got out without tripping the alarms? How?
HENSON: Maybe a teleporter?
HORNER: Sounds like a good start. I'll let you know when I have more.
HENSON (looking morosely at body): Ever seen anything like this?
GRABLER: Just once, back when I worked homicide in San Diego. A woman and her two kids shot to death in their own home, without tripping the Justice League alarm systems.
HENSON: Whose family?
GRABLER: Animal Man. The whole event ended up being retconned out of existence, but it was pretty horriffic when it actually had happened.
AN OFFICER RUSHES UP TO THE TWO DETECTIVES WITH PAPERS IN HIS HAND.
OFFICER: Are you the SCU detectives?
OFFICER: Justice League report just came back on the victim, you may want to look at this.
HENSON (reading report): Says here that Dibny was raped several years ago by a...Dr. Light. The League apprehended him.
GRABLER: So maybe he came back to finish the job.
HENSON: Don't think so. Says here they altered his brain.
In the super-criminal justice system, sexually-based offenses are considered especially heinous when they happen to fairly minor, comic relief characters. In the DC universe, the dedicated fans who complain about these vicious felonies are members of an elitist squad known as the "Comics Should be Happy Escapism" Unit. "Identity Crisis" is not their story.
Okay, my Law and Order fandom is showing. But I'm a little bit tired of all the pissing and moaning over the "maturation" of comic books. Yes, comics should be escapism, but "escapism" doesn't have to be fluffy clouds and kittens and rainbows. There's as much escapism in the mature storytelling of Justice League Unlimited as there is in the cheery fluff of Krypto the Superdog (which is not to say that Krypto doesn't have good storytelling). Similarly, I find a lot of escapism in following the drama and intrigue and mystery of the rape/homicide stories of Law and Order: SVU, why wouldn't I find escapism in the drama and intrigue of the rape/homicide story of "Identity Crisis"?
Are comics getting darker? Maybe, but it's not a new thing. There was an attempted rape and an eerily similar murder in Grant Morrison's "Animal Man" run 15 years ago. Terra was engaging in a really creepy sexual relationship with the much-older Deathstroke back in the '80s Teen Titans. Catwoman's a former prostitute; the Joker bludgeoned Jason Todd with a crowbar; Superman executed three Kryptonian supervillains; Spider-Man's Uncle Ben...well, you know that one. Comics might be getting a little more explicit with their darkness, sure, but the darkness has always been there.
Not all comics should be explicit with that, and not all comics are. But I liked Identity Crisis and I like the Countdown books. I like Seven Soldiers and Runaways too, and I pick up back issues of Power Pack whenever I get the chance. It's a matter of taste, and I like having variety. I don't like people who act like they want to go back universally to "Biff! Pow!"-style superheroics.
More on this in the future.