Back in 2005, Geoff Johns, with Allan Heinberg on the art chores, batted cleanup after Brad Meltzer’s “Identity Crisis” event of the prior year. Back then, every year the Justice League had a “crisis” event. The story dealt with the aftermath of Zatanna wiping the minds of the bad guys who knew the secret identities of all the major JLA-ers (Batman, Superman, Flash, etc.). She also had to wipe Batman’s memory, since he dissented from the team’s decision to alter the minds of their enemies. The story was surprisingly complex and character-defining, especially since most “events” focus on story beats and action, not personality.
That’s why I’m doing 5 panels on JLA #115-119.
In fact, there are many elements in the Crisis of Conscience event that are almost instructional on how to make an event work well.
It starts with big sweeping gestures, to introduce the conflict to casual readers and establish each player’s POV.
The war-like, “end justifies the means” players like Green Arrow and Hawkman, think Zatanna did nothing wrong. But the characters who rely on a strong moral center–especially Batman–object to what was done.
Superman recognizes the inherent conflict here. It’s kind of like the old hypothetical whether it would be wrong to go back in time and kill Hitler before he became evil…
Rick Remender did a similar storyline in Uncanny X-Force, when Wolverine, Fantomex, and the crew had the opportunity to kill Apocalypse as a child. The whole AvX event also asked the question whether it is okay to reshape the world if your intentions are good and your power is adequate. But neither of these storylines did it as well as Crisis of Conscience because the JLA story had multiple layers, and didn’t limit itself to “pro” and “con” arguments.
In fact, the big villain who fights the JLA in this story is a mind-controller, which adds further depth to the exploration of the issue:
Green Lantern betrayed the league in another circumstance. Batman did as well (Tower of Babel). Now both of them are controlled by Despero, and have to fight their fellow leaguers. At one point, Hawkman says tells Batman to fight Despero’s control and says “This isn’t you!” to which Despero responds, “I wouldn’t be too sure of that!”
This is the JLA version of Avengers: Dissembled. The team is breaking apart because they can no longer trust each other.
Batman (as always) has the most interesting storyline here. He begins the tale in a vignette with Catwoman, explaining to her why he’s so upset with all this.
But of course Batman doesn’t trust feelings. He’s even looking rather blank, out in the distance, while Catwoman says it to him.
And then, in the end, he explains to Martian Manhunter the core of his conflict: Does this mean that Catwoman doesn’t really love him?
In other words, can he even trust feelings?
I haven’t spoiled this story for you. There’s still plenty ore to mine there. Great comic, well worth a buy.
Check it out.