Amazing Spider-Man #36
Review by Tobias Clutch

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils by John Romita, Jr.
Inks by Scott Hanna

Published by Marvel
Price: $2.25

My Verdict: Spider-Ham.

Yes, I bought Marvel’s much-ballyhooed “handling” of the World Trade center disaster within the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.

I’m sure they intended for this issue to be a somber, touching, uplifting, and – ultimately – inspiring look at the tragedy.

It’s a shame that the book is none of those things.

What is it, then?

It is an overly-written mish-mash of grandiose pontification and theatrics, wrapped within the shell of Spider-Man contemplating the devastation of the Twin Towers’ destruction and ordinary civilians asking him, “Why?”

“Why weren’t the heroes there to save us?”

Never mind the fact that Doc Doom tries to blow up NYC every other week--and from the middle of Manhattan launched the Baxter Building into space only to blow it to pieces during the Byrne run of the series.

And therein lies the problem with this issue… In its attempt to be “relevant”, it raises far more questions and head-scratching than an established comic book reality should have to deal with.

Do I think comics should not be relevant? Well, that depends on the issue. Comics can deal with broad social issues quite easily--and quite well. Speedy and Harry Osborne on drugs, anyone? Or famine, or war… I mean, comics are essentially science fiction. Complex social issues can be filtered through the prism of storytelling in order to get the points across without “naming names”.

But when it comes to horrific real-life events--to specifics--such as the WTC disaster, the potency of comic books falls apart. There is no prism, because the “reality” of comic books deal with assassinations, buildings exploding, and even whole nations being wiped off the face of the earth… And then the heroes make it all better. They win the war. They catch the bad guy.

By shoehorning the WTC events into a comic book world populated with flying Norse gods and umpteen ubermen, it cheapens the struggles of the police, firemen, and regular joes who were faced with horror two months ago. I’m sure they would have appreciated having The Thing heaving girders out of the way in the search for survivors.

But he wasn’t.

Now don’t get me wrong… There may very well be a way that the comic world could recognize the disaster and, frankly, Marvel’s for-charity Heroes special was probably where they should have stopped. That honored those who fought and struggled and survived and was in memoriam of those who didn’t survive. It was tasteful as a tribute.

This issue of Spider-Man is not. It is a poorly executed drama play that gives us long, overwrought speeches that cloud more than clarify.

And it’s handled in such a tacky way… and I’ll leave you with a case in point, to sum up the negligible impact of this story.

On one page, standing amongst the wreckage are Magneto, Juggernaut, Doc Ock, Kingpin, and Doctor Doom (within feet of each other, at the same time). Super-imposed on this, we get Spider-Man’s corny voiceover about just how devastating the tragedy is-–so much so that even enemies cringe at the brutality of it--mind you, these are enemies that kill, murder, maim, and destroy on a regular basis. The capper on this incongruous scene? A close-up of Doctor Doom’s eye as he sheds a tear.

I would call this book crass, exploitative, insensitive--well, I could call it quite a few negatives. In the end, though, it’s just bad. If you want to buy a comic that is a fitting tribute/memoriam, buy Heroes. If you want to shake your head at what misguided intentions--and marketing--have wrought, buy this.

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