Bookmarks Issue: 

A-ShadowNoTowersArtists and writers deal with tragedy in different ways. In the Shadow of No Towers, graphic novelist Spiegelman, a resident of Manhattan who witnessed the collapse of the Twin Towers, shares his grief, anger, and sense of displacement with the events and aftermath of 9/11—and the Bush administration’s response. Ten tabloid-size comics, essays, and surprisingly prescient vintage comic strips capture the spirit of a bygone era and the world’s troubles today. They offer harrowing insight into the lasting power of the Twin Towers—and homage to our cathartic remembrance of them. "The towers have come to loom far larger than life," Spiegelman writes, "... but they seem to get smaller every day."
Pantheon. 42 pages. $19.95. ISBN: 0375423079

Boston Globe 4.5 of 5 Stars
"In melding humor and anger, Spiegelman ... wields merciless magic. … original, provocative, and populist art." Carlo Wolff

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"He shifts terrible events into the sometimes outrageous register of comics so we can face the worst without losing our heads, much as fairy tale grotesques let children practice mastering emotions. … Spiegelman interweaves pain, sadness, dread, laughter and outrage in this book as perhaps only his medium permits." Kenneth Baker

Milwaukee Jrnl-Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"At times, Spiegelman’s passion outruns his point … but In the Shadow of No Towers is not intended as a factual recounting of the attacks, or a logical argument about their cause or cure. It’s just the heartfelt reaction of an artist grappling with a horror that can’t be described in words." Chris Foran

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"It is a testament to Art Spiegelman’s uncompromising vision that In the Shadow of No Towers ... makes no effort to contain or domesticate the surreal awfulness of that day. But while the volume seems meant as a kind of bookend to his two Maus books … it lacks those earlier books’ hard-won intimacy, their layered complexity and metaphorical weight." Michiko Kakutani

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"It is an odd, thin but robust hybrid of a book. … Spiegelman clearly sees Sept. 11 as his Holocaust (or the nearest thing his generation will have to personal experience with anything remotely correlative), and In the Shadow of No Towers makes explicit parallels between the events without diminishing the incomparable evil of the death camps." David Hajdu

San Diego Union-Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"Spiegelman is a gifted satirist, but when he begins to rant, he abandons the vulnerability of his own story. … Even the most fervent Bush-basher may be skeptical when the emotional resonance established earlier is abandoned for common rage. And conservative readers? They’ll probably want to rip the book in half." Seth Taylor

Critical Summary

In the Shadow of No Towers is provocative—not surprising given that Spiegelman’s last graphic novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus (1992), addressed the Holocaust. Spiegelman designed the famous black-on-black post-9/11 cover of the New Yorker; his latest endeavor also invokes the chaos and terror of 9/11. It’s a dark, despairing look at humanity: "Maybe I really WANT the world to end," he writes. Despite its powerful images and prose, not all parts add up to a cohesive whole. Spiegelman’s nostalgic inclusion of old comic strips struck some critics as inspired; others felt they fragmented the book. And, if you don’t quite hate Bush, you might be gravely offended. Whether In the Shadow of No Towers comes across as impassioned or as an unpolished rant, there’s no question that Spiegelman has created a unique comment on an unforgettable event.

Spiegleman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus was featuring in our list of the best graphic novels in our Sept/Oct 2004 issue.