Welcome to a special edition of Free Comics Now! Reviews, with a great thanks to Comixology (we couldn’t do it with you). It’s special for a couple reason. First, it’s not an issue #1, as many of these reviews have/will be. But secondly, and more importantly, it’s a comic that dealt with a serious, real-life issue that affected our country and most of the world in some way. I’m speaking about Stand Tall, the 9/11 Spider-Man story.
It’s hard to put aside the emotional reaction to 9/11 to talk about the comic as just a comic, and I don’t think anyone would. We all remember seeing the horrific ordeal, or hearing about it. Many knew people who were there or had friends that did. Nothing will ever take away from that pain and devastation and no matter what I may say about the comic itself, the heroes who were there, in our universe, not the MU, always deserve respect. Now that I’ve set a somber tone, let’s look at the actual issue.
The cover is black. No webslinger; nothing except the title and number. Solemn and serious. It tells us on page one that this issue is interrupting the normal storyline. This was published in December of 2001, a few months after the attack on the twin towers, which was probably a combination of waiting as not to capitalize on the event and also getting the issue put together. The story is about Spider-Man witnessing the aftermath of the attack and helping out with the clean-up and rescue alongside several other prominent figures such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. He is confronted by angry, sad, and confused civilians that ask him why. Why it happened, and why he didn’t stop it. He has no answer for them, but wishes he did.
Spider-Man is New York, so it makes sense for this story to take place in his series, although I think it would have made even more sense to happen in the pages of Captain America. We see him in the issue, but only briefly, and he doesn’t talk. There is very little dialogue throughout the issue and most of the text is from Spider-Man’s internal monologue. The superheroes aren’t doing extraordinary things here, or punching the bad guys (see below). They are just helping. Spider-Man even mentions that they aren’t the real heroes here. Those are the men and women who risked their lives to save others and rushed into the buildings to try and get people out.
I’m almost afraid to mention things that I dislike about this issue, mostly because I fear I’d be branded as un-American, but it is my job as a free comic reviewer. One of the things I noticed that seemed off was the inclusion of the supervillains. Dr. Doom, Kingpin, Juggernaut, Magneto, and Dr. Octopus are all there at ground zero. They aren’t helping, like the heroes were, but are just staring, looking sad. Doom even cries. I’m not the only one who found this odd. Check out cracked.com’s column about it. I can only see Kingpin realistically being upset, because he probably owned part of the towers or had some shady dealings happening within them. But Doom? I mean come on, Doom hates America. It would have been more believable if he had been the one who hired the terrorists. Also, I’ve never really been a fan of John Romita Jr. I know he’s widely regarded as one of the greats, as his father was, but I just don’t like it. I thought JR senior was okay though. JRJR’s people are too rectangular and there is just an overabundance of lines everywhere. I think his buildings look good, but I dislike how he does people.
I am glad that I was able to get this issue though and I think it is a great way for a younger audience to be exposed to what the world was like after 9/11. It gives a fair amount of information without sounding like a textbook and ends with a positive message. I think that it is only right that this issue is free and I feel that it always should be. Reading this took me back to high school on that fateful day and gave me pause. Read it. Own it. Don’t forget about it. And, most importantly, keep standing tall.