So I finally read Identity Crisis. And if you think you know where this is going, well, you're most likely correct. But I'll try to keep it short.
It's all about the power.
I've read numerous places that DC Comics gave Brad Meltzer a list of characters that it would've been okay to kill off in this story in order to give it more impact. The Martian Manhunter was on this list, as was the Atom. So was Sue Dibny, wife of stretchy sleuth, The Elongated Man. Meltzer figured that anything he did to the former two characters could later be reversed by editorial edict or a writer with an interesting new idea for either of them. He wanted his story to last. He wanted it to make an impact. He wanted it to have power.
So he kills off Sue Dibny. But he isn't content to just kill her off. First she's killed. Then her corpse is immolated. And then she's retroactively raped by one of the lamer supervillains in the DC pantheon (and considering that's a group that includes the likes of Kite Man, that's saying something, boys and girls). But even that's not enough, as this last event is then trivialized by never being mentioned again throughout the course of the story.
So it wasn't enough for him to kill the character or desecrate her corpse; he has to have her violated, humiliated, and then treated as if none of that actually matters. Meltzer had to show his power as a writer over her fate. He wanted to write one for the ages.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who’s going to run around calling Meltzer a rapist or a sicko or anything; my grip on reality is actually pretty strong, believe it or not, and I’m aware of the difference between writing a story involving these acts and actually going out and committing them. And also, I’m not one of those people who suddenly decided after reading this that Sue Dibny was my most favoritest character ever and that what happened to her in this story is evil and horrible and an abomination before the Lord or whatever internet people say. I will say, though, that she was a character with a long, rich history who deserved a more dignified, respectful exit than she received. Brutalized and then dismissed as a plot point (an intentionally misleading plot point at that) is no way go for such a creation.
I am merely saying this: rape, torture, degradation, murder… these are ugly, brutal acts designed to flaunt the power of the perpetrator over the victim. And Identity Crisis, to an obviously far lesser but still undeniable degree, was designed by Brad Meltzer to flaunt his power as a writer and shaper of children’s comic book heroes.
(And yes, I know, POW! ZAP! Comics aren't just for kids anymore! But guess what? These particular characters have always been and will always be primarily children's characters. Tart 'em up all you want, that's always going to be the truth at the end of the day. You don't see anyone trying to make Peter Rabbit into a fanatical cult leader, or Paddington Bear into a political prisoner, so why should anyone want to make Dr. Friggin' Light into a sex offender? But I digress.)
In the end, I’m not sure what I find more distasteful: that Meltzer thought this story was a good idea, or that DC editorial did.
But my opinion ultimately doesn’t matter to either party.
It’s all about the power.