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9-11 VOLUMES ONE AND TWO

A case of too much too late? Or a timely reminder of what we've lost?

By Tony Whitt     March 02, 2002


Cover to 9-11 VOLUME 2.
© 2002 Marvel, DC
[Ed. Note: We have lived through one of the most devastating days in American history. Last September 11, everything stopped and normality was indefinitely suspended as we witnessed the tragedy in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania.

In the days and weeks following that day, we attempted to rediscover our routine and redefine the notion of ?normality.? As still more time passed, the entertainment industry began to reflect our thoughts and feelings, though tentatively, in television, film, books, and yes, comics. In the comic book industry, Marvel chose Spider-Man to stand as its representative in J. Michael Straczynski?s superbly scripted coda to the terrorist attacks, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #36. Strangely, DC had earlier published a near-perfect tribute to the rebuilding of New York and the unquenchable quality of the human spirit in ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #596, an issue prepared well before the events of September 11 even happened.

Anthological tributes followed as well, such as HEROES, but now we turn our attention to two special volumes that give a voice to still more comic book creators who have yet to tell their stories of that terrible day?
]



Now that life (supposedly) has gotten back to normal after the tragic events of September 11th, 9-11 Volumes One and Two may be a bit of a hard sell. My local comic dealer tells me that most people's reaction when they see this two-volume set is "No, no, I don't want to think about that again." Perhaps it's a sign of how much we've gotten back to normal that we're so willing to turn our eyes from a horror that only five months ago we couldn't tear our eyes away from. Instead of being a case of too much coming too late, however, these collections serve as a timely reminder of what we've lost, and everything we still have.

Fair warning: 9-11 does indeed reopen those old wounds, and quite often it truly hurts, especially if one tries to knock back one or both of these books at one sitting. That may be the biggest criticism to level against this collection: there's simply way too much to take in at all once. The best way to approach them both-and I do encourage you to approach them both-is to simply dive in wherever you choose, allow the most striking image to catch your eye, and read until you simply can't take any more. Given the subject matter of these collections, that may be sooner than you think. But rather than risk the same sort of informational overload that has left us all desensitized to images such as these in the first place, stop when you hit that point. 9-11 has far greater impact that way.

As one might expect, "Volume One: Artists Respond," the collection published by Chaos!, Dark Horse, and Image, is the more aesthetically appealing of the two, though it also lacks the formal structure of the second volume. Thus one gets a barrage of imagery with seemingly no rhyme or reason, as one artist after another tells his or her story with a combination of images and words or with images only. Despite the book's stated predisposition to art, the text driven stories make some of the volume's most powerful moments. Fabien Nicieza's recollections of watching the Towers being built and of proposing to his wife there, drawn beautifully by Cliff Richards and Will Conrad, remind us of the good memories many have of the World Trade Center as well as the horrific ones. Bob Harris and Gregory Ruth explore the contradictions that have emerged from the tragedy by asking "Which One Is Real?" Jim Mahfood tells how Arab-Americans such as himself have been affected by the hatred directed at his community. And Pablo Maiztegui and Francisco Solano Lopez recreate the ironic last moments of two temporary survivors trapped beneath the rubble. Amongst the most moving of the purely artistic images are those by Steve Guarnaccia, Dave McKean, Mark Martin, Mike Mignola, Peter Kuper, and Frank Miller. Possibly the most striking entry in the collection, however, comes from Stephen Banes and Guyburwell, who show us that our current desensitization started a lot sooner after the event than any of us is willing to admit.

Cover to 9-11 VOLUME ONE: ARTISTS RESPOND.

"Volume Two: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers And Artists Tell Stories To Remember" (whew!) by contrast is sometimes just as verbose as its title. Sadly, there are several entries that don't quite make it, either due to pounding us over the head a bit too forcefully with the message or due to being just a bit too cheesy, albeit still heartfelt. There are many pleasant surprises to make up for these, however, such as Dwayne McDuffie's engaging Static Shock story, and Ed Brubaker's "Still Life." The structure of the book, which is broken up into "Nightmares," "Heroes," "Recollections," "Unity," "Dreams," and "Reflections," lends the book a slightly more ordered feel than its counterpart, and each section has its own perfect entry. "Reflections," featuring stories by Stan Lee, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, and Joe Kubert, is possibly the strongest section of the entire book. Other notable entries include those by Wil Eisner (the only artist to appear in both books), Darwyn Cooke, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, and Brian K. Vaughan. While there's a bit more dross to plow through in this volume, those entries and others make the experience worthwhile.

Possibly the best argument for buying both volumes is that the publishers will donate all proceeds to charities benefiting the victims, families, and communities affected by the tragedy. Even if you don't want to relive the tragedy again-and many of this stories will make you do just that, in every detail-there's nothing keeping you from buying them and putting them out of sight. Hopefully, though, you'll find that these volumes just as unforgettable and just as difficult to ignore as the tragedy that spawned them.


















9-11: ARTISTS AND WRITERS RESPOND VOLS ONE AND
TWO


Grade: A-/B+


Issue: N/A

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Author(s): Too numerous to
list

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Publisher(s): DC, Chaos! Comics, Dark Horse
Comics, and Image

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Price: $9.95 each

 

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