Having mentioned how well Rucka foreshadowed Wonder Woman’s murder of Maxwell Lord, it’s worth looking at exactly how Rucka accomplished this in the pages of Adventures of Superman. #636 of that series not only directly led to the conclusion of “Sacrifice,” and the resulting changes to the DC Universe, but was also a major (largely ignored) follow-up to Identity Crisis.
Since Greg Rucka took over as writer of Adventures of Superman with #627, Superman had been attacked by a series of villains: Replikon, Xlim, and a pair of new versions of the major Superman villain the Parasite. These villains were clearly engineered by someone — someone who we learned had the name Ruin. The two new Parasites even attacked Lois Lane, revealing that Ruin knew Superman’s identity. In #335, Superman finally tracked Ruin down.
In the fight, Ruin is aided by lights in the ceiling that imitate the effect of a red sun. Superman’s strength is solar-powered, but only under yellow suns like our own. The move not only helps Ruin beat Superman into helplessness: it helps illustrate Ruin’s knowledge of Superman’s weaknesses.
As Ruin explains how he doesn’t want to kill Superman until he’s made him suffer more, and explicitly says he’ll attack Superman’s loved ones next, we see photos of those loved ones on a bulletin board. After Ruin departs, and Superman deactivates the red sun simulator, he gets a look at those photos: Perry White, editor of The Daily Planet; Jimmy Olsen; Wonder Woman; Lois Lane, Clark Kent’s wife; Pete Ross, Clark’s boyhood friend and former President of the United States; Lana Lang, Pete Ross’s wife who still holds a candle for Clark, keeping Superman’s identity a secret from her husband; and Lucy Lane, Lois’s sister. Superman nemesis Lex Luthor, President of the United States before Ross, is there with a red “X” through him, suggesting that Ruin thinks Luthor dead following the events of Superman / Batman #6. John Henry Irons, technological genius who formerly took to the streets as Steel, is there as well. As are reporter Ron Troupe and even Bibbo Bibbowski, an occasional member of Superman’s supporting cast, though mostly used for comedic effect. Understandably, Superman is horrified.
With page eight, we cut to Gotham City as Batman takes down some criminals. As one criminal fires a machine gun, Wonder Woman arrives and deflects the bullet. She’s blind and wears a red bandana over her eyes, following events in her own book. In his typical style, Batman tells her to stay out of Gotham. But Wonder Woman has a message for Batman: “He needs to speak with us now.”
With page eleven, we cut to Batman and Wonder Woman outside Superman’s arctic Fortress of Solitude. The proud Batman has been forced to come when he’s called, a move Wonder Woman says “speaks to the friendship” between the two men. Wonder Woman, who Superman apparently contacted between pages seven and eight of this issue, explains that she’s “never hear him like this before,” adding, “not even after what happened to Sue” — a reference to Sue Dibny’s death in Identity Crisis.
With page twelve, Batman and Wonder Woman meet Superman within the Fortress. Superman tells the two about Ruin, about how he knows Superman’s weaknesses and his identity. Superman seems at the end of his rope.
Page thirteen offers a one-page interlude showing Professor Hamilton, a scientist who has long helped Superman, arriving to examine the enhanced villains Ruin has thrown at Superman and who have been captured and imprisoned on Stryker’s Island. Hamilton is doing so at the request of Lieutenant Lupe Leocadio, the new leader of Metropolis’s Special Crimes Unit (SCU). Leocadio wants to use the prisoner to track Ruin, whose enhanced minions killed a number of SCU members in previous issues.
Page fourteen continues the previous scene as Superman makes explicit the implicit comparison between Ruin’s threat and that ofIdentity Crisis, saying “It’s Doctor Light all over again.” But Superman adds, as if an afterthought, “And I don’t want to make thesame mistake twice.” “What mistake?” Wonder Woman asks. Superman doesn’t immediately answer. “You know what happened?” Batman asks. And, helped by Wonder Woman’s gentle touch, Superman opens up…
Page sixteen sees Pete Ross knocking on Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s apartment door to talk about his crumbling marriage to Lana Lang. Recalling the new humanity added to DC’s characters in Identity Crisis, Pete Ross reveals that Lana won’t walk to him and that the former President hardly gets to see their son, who Lana named Clark. Crumbling, Pete confesses that he doesn’t think she ever loved him, echoing long-standing concerns that she never fell out of love with Superman — concerns Lana long denied but had recently confessed were true to Superman in Chuck Austen’s Action Comics. The former President gathers himself and departs.
Page eighteen returns us to the Fortress as Wonder Woman asks, “How could you be so stupid?” Behind the heroes is a giant holographic display of Dr. Light — itself, nicely, made of light. Superman begins justifying the League’s magical lobotomy of Dr. Light, adding that by the time he learned, “it had already beendone… / …and I kept seeing Lois, my parents… I kept imaginingmyself in Ralph’s place…” An angry Wonder Woman asks Batman if he knew, but Batman — while looking stressed — won’t respond. Superman pleads that “it was wrong, but there wasn’t another option.”
That’s when Wonder Woman drops the bombshell. “Yes, there was,” she says. “You should have killed him.” While Batman stays silent, Superman is horrified at the suggestion of the Amazon Princess, ambassador for Paradise Island’s peaceful ways. But Wonder Woman explains that Dr. Light was a monster, as his actions (Sue Dibny’s rape and threatening the League’s loved ones) made clear. She seems to prefer killing the irredeemable than raping his mind, “murdering his identity.” Returning to the subject over which Superman summoned her, she tells Superman to take Ruin out.
It’s then that Batman speaks. He says he refuses to accept Wonder Woman’s conclusions. To this, Wonder Woman simply tells him these haunting words: “You will, Bruce. / One day.” And with that, she flies off.
Batman stops Superman from following her. And he encourages Superman to do the obvious: “Ask yourself, who do you know who knows everything?” It’s a question that recalls Batman in Identity Crisis asking who benefits from the attacks on the heroes’ loved ones. With this, Superman realizes the truth, speaking out loud: “Luthor.”
We don’t have to wait long to see that Superman’s right. The last page, page twenty-two, shows Ruin reporting to his commander — shown in the last panel to be none other than Lex Luthor.
The issue is an excellent follow-up to Identity Crisis. It is simultaneously a chapter of Superman’s continuing story and an Identity Crisis epilogue, linking the two through the new threat on Superman’s loved ones. What’s more, it adds to both stories: Superman figures out Luthor’s the culprit behind Ruin, while Wonder Woman learns of the League’s lobotomy of Dr. Light.
We also learn that Superman knows what happened to Dr. Light, which had not been shown previously. In Identity Crisis, it’s suggested that Superman doesn’t know because he doesn’t want to know. In Identity Crisis #3, a troubled Flash talks with Green Arrow about Dr. Light’s lobotomy near Superman, who could clearly hear the conversation with his super-hearing, but Green Arrow asserts — in a panel where Green Arrow’s speech is juxtaposed with Superman’s ear — that Superman hears what he wants to hear. Near the end of Identity Crisis #7, Flash and Green Arrow talk again: Green Arrow now asserts that, just as Superman hears what he wants to hear, Batman knows what he wants to know. There’s a lot of ambiguity here about what Superman and Batman know — or consciously care to know — about Dr. Light’s lobotomy or the mindwipes that followed, including Batman’s. With this issue ofAdventures of Superman, the matter’s ambiguous no longer — at least when it comes to Superman.
Batman’s another case. While never made explicit, he seems to know already. While he refuses to admit whether he does or doesn’t, his asking “You know what happened?” when Superman first hints at the incident strongly suggests that he already knows. Moreover, while Batman’s pretty stoic, he hardly seems surprised at the news.
We also see the growing distance between these three core DC heroes. Superman and Wonder Woman seem to have hit a philosophical impasse. And, while Batman helps Superman at the end of the story, his previous silence seems only to confirm that he’s full of secret thoughts that he’s not willing to share with the man Wonder Woman ironically calls his friend.
There’s a lot of subtlety here in terms of mirroring, or continuing, Identity Crisis‘s themes. The fact that this issue’s art is supplied by Rags Morales, Identity Crisis‘s penciller, helps a lot in this, lending scenes such as that between Lois Lane and Pete Ross an added subtlety and weight that strongly recalls Identity Crisis. Had another artist illustrated the same script, this resonance with Identity Crisiswouldn’t have been nearly as strong.
That’s not to say that writer Greg Rucka does anything less than a great job. The real highlight here is the tension between the three DC heroes, all three of whom Rucka hits dead on. It’s no surprise: Rucka wrote Batman for some time, and he was also the writer ofWonder Woman as he wrote this issue.
Although this issue’s title indicates that it’s part one of a storyline, subsequent issues would focus on Superman following Ruin rather than continue to follow up on Identity Crisis. While this issue ends with Superman and Batman still in the Fortress together, don’t worry that you’re missing a follow-up scene. There’s a break between this issue and the next; nothing continues directly. Instead, Adventures of Superman #637 sees Superman intervene when Ruin attacks Jimmy Olsen. Ruin simply teleports away. The real meat of that issue, however, focuses on Pete Ross — first in a flashback, starting the issue, that shows President Lex Luthor letting Vice-President Pete Ross in the files he’s compiled on Superman, including Superman’s secret identity; later, Clark talks to Pete, who tells Clark that Lana’s filed for divorce and begs Clark to intervene by talking to Lana on his behalf. The issue ends with Lois contemplating having a baby. This bombshell continues into #638, which continues Lois and Clark’s conversation directly. So while this Identity Crisis epilogue does play with some ongoing plot concerns in Adventures of Superman, it’s not necessary to read any further for the sake of Identity Crisis or Infinite Crisis plot threads.
Read the Rest
“Your Guide to Infinite Crisis” attempts to spell out and outline the whole of this sprawling, complicated crossover. It has several other installments, organized by the narrative thread under discussion:
The OMAC Project
- DC Countdown
- The OMAC Project
- “Sacrifice” Concludes
- The OMAC Project Concludes
- “Sacrifice” Aftermath
- Tie-Ins to The OMAC Project #6
Day of Vengeance
The Rann-Thanagar War
- A Brief History of Adam Strange
- “Adam Strange: Planet Heist”
- “Adam Strange: Planet Heist” Concludes
- A Brief History of Hawkman
- A Brief History of Hawkman, Part 2
- Hawkman #46
- The Rann-Thanagar War
- The Rann-Thanagar War Concludes
- “Coalition in Crisis”
- The Rann / Thanagar War Special
The Return of Donna Troy
Crisis of Conscience
- you’re reading Identity Crisis Epilogue
- Dr. Light in Teen Titans
- “Crisis of Conscience”
- “Crisis of Conscience” Epilogue