The other day I finally got to read Issue #36 of The Amazing Spiderman, which was the issue that centered on 9-11-01. I remember reading a lot of laudatory stuff about the issue at the time it came out, but reading it now, two years later, I don't know -- the sentiments expressed are fine, but they're really the same sentiments expressed pretty much everywhere else anyone's written about 9-11-01. And when some horrified bystanders demand of Spiderman, "How could you let this happen", well -- that just dragged in the Giant White Elephant into the story. How could anything like that happen in a world with superheroes? How could all those superheroes fail to stop such an act? The writer, J. Michael Straczynski, can only offer as an answer that "We couldn't imagine this", but really, that doesn't cut it, does it? The same heroes who have literally saved the earth from destruction couldn't thwart something like a pair of airplanes on a bright late summer morning?
Well, OK, even if I can totally buy the idea that the whole thing happened too fast, that the heroes' attention was elsewhere at the time, why couldn't they do anything to save all those people trapped in the higher floors? Some of those folks can fly, you know -- couldn't they catch the poor souls who decided to jump rather than burn or choke? Surely Storm of the X-Men could have used a localized icestorm to slow the fires as they burned? Surely the superheroes could have done something other than lift girders from the pile of wreckage. And even if I grant that they could do nothing to stop the planes, and even if I grant that they could do nothing to help until the Twin Towers had fallen, what then? Why didn't they band up and take on Al Qaeda?
I probably sound snarky here, and a little like the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. But there was just a terrible sense of falsity in this issue that deflated the whole enterprise for me as the reader. I know that such a catastrophic event poses problems to storytellers who are writing continuous stories set in real-world places, and I don't know how it could have been dealt with best. But this issue just seemed...wrong somehow. False. As if the writers were trying to have the best of both worlds. I'm just not sure that a world with superheroes can even admit the kind of evil the real world witnessed on 9-11-01.