On a day like 9/11 you have to take a minute to sit back and reflective not only on the tragedy that everyone alive witnessed that day but on life itself. Now you may ask what the hell does a site dedicated to reviewing comic books have to do with thoughts about one of the worst attacks on American soil? Because like anyone, comic artists and writers had to find a way to rationalize the horrific events they had seen. With Marvel Comics especially, New York City is just as much a character in all of their work that simply ignoring it would have been offensive.
Which brings us to The Amazing Spider-Man #36. Written by J. Michael Straczynski and beautifully drawn by John Romita Jr., it’s a piece about Spider-Man feeling incredibly guilty about the events he has to see.
The first image, for anyone alive that day and witnessed the tragedy, will kick you in the gut. You’re numb and brought back to that day. Each panel afterwards you get closer and closer to Ground Zero. Spider-Man witnesses the scene as people too afraid to comprehend much of what is going on ask where he and other heroes were. “How could you let this happen?” is asked over and over. While it’s addressed to the heroes in this story, people were asking that of government in real life. How could this happen? How?
I remember that day. I was living with my Mom at the time because she had discovered earlier in the year that she had a brain tumor and needed some in home help after the first of her many surgeries. I woke up at 11:28 am that day. While the television was on in my room I didn’t glance at it. I stepped into the living room to see my Mother crying. Being that she was a couple weeks past a major surgery I asked what was going on and she pointed to the television. NBC News was on and Tom Brokaw was talking over the rubble of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Numbness spread over me. When you’re encountered with such evil you don’t know how to respond. You wish there was someone like Superman that could rip off his shirt and grab the planes, force them to the ground, and fly the terrorists to prison without anyone losing their life but that is just fantasy. Throughout the rest of that day I witnessed the images on the screen, trying futilely to hold back tears until 8:00 pm on the dot when CBS News showed the first images I saw of people that had jumped from the buildings to avoid the fires. My mother and I wept for what seemed like hours.
As the days passed life slowly got back to normal, as normal as we all could make it. The country had to find ways to deal with everything we saw that day. Comic books had to find ways to deal with what happened as well. One thing some entertainment companies tried to do was erase the image of the World Trade Center from future movies, much like the first Spider-Man movie did.
While I get why they removed it, I think in hindsight it was a bad move. You can’t either ignore or forget that something like that happened. (Now granted for the Spider-Man movie they did have some images from Ground Zero where they interviewed people in the montage where people were talking about Spider-Man.)
The most haunting image from the comic is the brief encounter Spider-Man has with a little boy who is waiting for his Father. Spider-Man tries to get him to safety but the boy says he must stay because then his Father will be ok. Then this.
The only issue I had with the comic was the inclusion of Magneto and Doctor Doom. I get where they were going by adding those characters, trying to show that even folks we consider bad deep down know that the loss of innocent people is just wrong but they chose the two most unlikely characters that would honestly care. And having Doctor Doom shed a tear when in his native Latveria he’s a brutal dictator doesn’t make much sense. Magneto is a complicated character for sure, not a bad guy in the traditional sense, but he could care less about humans who he views as inferior. I don’t think he’d much care this event happened.
Is this comic a bit corny? Yes. Is it a bit syrupy in terms of the message it is trying to convey? Yes. But we needed to hear this message at the time the comic came out. Marvel did an amazing job in showcasing how their characters would react to a real world tragedy. This issue is why comic books are made, flaws and all. There is no reason to rate this issue because of it’s importance to the industry. I’ll just leave with this thought.