10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: In the Shadow of No Towers (Board book)
In a small series of comic strips originally designed to be printed as large, two-page newspaper spreads, Spiegelman illustrates his personal experiences of the attack on the World Trade Center. He focuses mainly upon four themes: his concern over the safety of his daughter who was attending a school right near the towers, his growing paranoia over the government, the funny but disturbing display of blind patriotism that arose amongst the US population and media following the tragedy, and, lastly, how slow he is at producing comic strips.
Given the emotions still surrounding 9/11, it would take extraordinarily bad writing to fail to get any reaction from a reader, and perhaps that is why Spiegelman is so lazy and sloppy here. I'm sure he felt emotions while he was writing this, and he DOES do a good job of making the reader feel some of his anxiety over his daughter's safety, and some of his anecdotes are interesting (his never-used TV interview about how "American" 9/11 made him feel -- it didn't -- is quite humourous). But overall the writing lacks direction, is amateurish and hackneyed, and surprisingly ineffective at eliciting a strong emotional reaction from the reader given the subject matter. It usually wasn't so much Spiegelman's writing that made me feel emotions, but the memories it drew from inside of me (like the images of people falling from the towers). Without those memories, it was just history.
The problem may in part be due to the format of his stories. In each spread we tend to get a glimpse of a storyline, then we get to the next strip and we see basically the same glimpse of a storyline with much repetition and little progression, rendering his storytelling completely choppy. It reminded me of newscasts where they keep repeating the same "coming up" message over and over again, and when they finally get to the story itself, it winds up being even shorter and less informative than any of the multiple previews you sat through. And sometimes he doesn't even go that far. To illustrate, Spiegelman repeatedly tells you how paranoid he felt. But he does not get his feeling of paranoia across. He doesn't make the reader feel any of his paranoia or really show its effects on his life (other than some lost sleep). And it comes across as completely matter-of-fact. He might as well be telling us that he ate a salami sandwich for lunch yesterday without even describing its taste, his hunger, etc.
Some of his artwork is interesting as he draws upon classic strips from the early 20th century for inspiration, but this technique rarely adds any depth to the story's content. It is interesting style, but that's all it is -- style. It makes for pretty pictures, but fails to redeem the text.
Overall, Spiegelman has nothing new to say on the subject of 9/11. It has all been done far more competently and compellingly elsewhere by numbers too great to count. Ultimately lightweight, Shadow is printed on nice, thick boards to create the illusion that it is far more substantial than it is. It includes reprints of several interesting vintage comic strips which are included both to allow the reader less versed in comics to see where Spiegelman drew stylistic inspiration, and to pad out the books extremely small page count.