You’re reading The Complete Infinite Crisis, a Comprehensive and Encyclopedic look through the universe-changing superhero event published by DC from 2005 to 2006. Shelfdust are proud to provide a complete overview of the story, and everything that happens in it. Just as we were really starting to explore the story, however, we’ve had to ask for a bit of help about the first issue from an expert in the area.
Everything has led us to a story called “Crisis of Confidence”, in which Zatanna apparently mind-wiped a bunch of superheroes to make them forget about something bad that happened? We’ve had to turn once more to our resident Zatanna expert for this – Andrea Ayres, please explain what’s happened!
We’ve just found out that Zatanna mindwiped a bunch of villains during a story called Crisis of Conscience. Um… what was that all about?
Andrea Ayres: WHAT INDEED. What a mess. An absolute disaster for timelines Steve. For a brief refresher, Identity Crisis saw Zatanna using her magic to wipe the mind of Doctor Light, Batman, Martian Manhunter and Catwoman. Zatanna altered Batman’s mind after he tried to stop the plan to alter Doctor Light’s memories from moving forward. The hope was to erase the memory of the horror Light inflicted upon Sue Dinby (also wife of Elongated Man) and reduce the threat to others. So basically we are finding out how deep these consequences go. And guess what? They go deep.
Zatanna also used her magic to remove the memories of the Secret Society of Super-Villains after they discovered the identities of members of the Justice League. So that’s not great because you know, anytime you mess with a timeline in some way it tends to backfire. This is, at the very least, what Star Trek has taught me. Zatanna’s behavior has serious consequences in the present but they reach far into the future (see: Catwoman #50-51 and Gotham City Sirens #17-19). Zatanna repeatedly claims to know what she did was wrong, both in the present and as she was preparing to perform the mindwipes. Each time, however, she was able to put away her own moral compass for what she believes is the greater good. The question we’re dealing with here is, is that enough of a reason?
And THEN we found out she also mindwiped Batman? Forget the “how” – WHY would she do that?
Ayres: Well, Batman was opposed to the mind wipe in the first instance and he certainly wasn’t keen on them becoming a regular occurrence. He viewed it as a violation and a boundary that, if crossed, could never be undone. No matter the rationale, no matter if the team viewed their goals as altruistic to perform a deeply inhuman and immoral thing like wiping someone’s memory, was simply a line Batman could not and would not cross. The Justice League felt like they had no other choice and Batman was standing in the way. The decision to wipe Batman’s mind puts a deep and horrible chasm between Batman and Zatanna. I mean, how could it not! In this story we see Zatanna making vague efforts to apologize.
Each member of the JLA is impacted by Zatanna’s behavior. So often apologies seem to be in service of the individual offering it up. It is done as a way to absolve the person of the negative feelings we have to deal with when we have wronged an individual. Zatanna can apologize to Batman for wiping his mind but that doesn’t mitigate the damage or harm done. Apologies, like the one Z attempts numerous times throughout “Crisis of Conscience” come with a side of burden-shifting. It’s saying, “There I have apologized, now it’s up to you to forgive me.”
Batman isn’t the only one peeved off at Zatanna, however. When the League suggests wiping minds again, Superman will have none of it. None of it (part 4):
“The Secret Society didn’t endanger the people we love. We did. The minute we chose to spend our lives fighting for justice we made targets out of everyone we love. And now we want to make the Society pay for the choices we’ve made? I don’t think so.”
Oh ‘eck. What happened to Zatanna afterward? How did she react to all of this?
Ayres: Zatanna is only beginning to untangle how much she owns her own actions and their associated consequences. She’s nowhere close to being ready to accept them or take full responsibility for them. In this series we see Z engaging in some self-deception, she’s defensive and she believes that a simple apology to Batman should be enough to mitigate the damage she has done.
When the League is challenged again by the Super-Villains Zatanna quits the JLA and escapes to Themyscira where she seeks assistance from Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman implies that Zatanna will likely have to make the difficult decision to use her magic in a way she finds morally objectionable and harmful in the future. Foreshadowing much
The League is attacked by the Society, this time with the aid of Despero who uses his telepathy to control members of the JLA. Perfect. A REAL ethical and moral humdinger for Zatanna.
Which is worse? Despero controlling people or Zatanna engaging in another mind wipe?
Which is good, which is bad?
What is being presented throughout this series is that it’s quite morally ambiguous. We find it easy to rationalize Zatanna’s behavior because we want the heroes to win and villains to lose. What’s lost in this black and white thinking is the known and unknown cost of Z performing each mind wipe. Does it make it easier for her to justify this behavior she claims to know is wrong in the future? Does it matter?
It definitely matters. But it is a tale of the challenges each of us is presented with every day. All any of us can do is make the best decision in the moment with the information we have available. Sometimes we make the wrong choice. Sometimes we make the convenient one. Zatanna is the culmination of her choices and she will be asked to deal with the consequences; just as we all are, just as we all do.