in 2002, thriller king brad meltzer penned an arc of green arrow ­stories for dc comics; the books were later collected as a hot-selling graphic novel complete with an introduction by
u.s. senator patrick leahy. this month, meltzer returns to comics with dc's highly anticipated identity crisis, a seven-issue murder mystery series involving superman, wonder woman, batman, and "any other dc character i could get my hands on," meltzer says.

identity crisis centers on two mysteries - a shocking murder and a "dark secret" involving the characters in the justice league of america. meltzer says some dc characters will die and others will be forever altered. it's one of the most hyped events in recent comics history, with some insiders already predicting an impact similar to that of the sandman and the watchmen, which first took comics into the adult realm of ambiguity. for meltzer, 34, it's a chance to bring his novelistic skills to bear on characters he grew up admiring.

"i've always wanted to write a mystery about superheroes," meltzer says. "what fascinates me is this: how do you lie to a woman who has a magic lasso that can make you tell the truth? how do you hide something from a man who can see through walls?"

meltzer says the series will pursue "the big questions" of mortality and morality in the hero's world. however, meltzer is not likely to deconstruct his characters into navel-gazing neurotics. in college, he wrote a senior paper on comic books and propaganda in world war ii, and he remains an old-fashioned believer in the upright caped crusader.

"as corny as it sounds, these are real heroes," says meltzer. "they provide the hope that good can conquer evil, even in the grayest of stories. the thought of putting yourself out there to make the world a better place is a noble, idealistic thought. it's what this country was founded on."