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Dyfrig Jones: Beyond Tears: The post-post-9/11 world of Marvel Comics

Writing in 2006, Henry Jenkins argued that comic books had surpassed many of our finest thinkers when articulating a critical response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. (Jenkins, 2006: 71). Yet Jenkins' essay lies almost exactly half way between the attacks themselves and the present day. As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 comes ever closer, critics such as Melnick (2009: 20) have begun to speak of a post-post-9/11 critical perspective.

This paper will examine the evolution of post-9/11 discourse within the narratives of Marvel Comics. The characters of the Marvel Universe have historically had a strong association with new York city, which was predicated upon a sophisticated understanding of the characters of individual neighbourhoods – Spider-man's Queens, Daredevil's Hell's Kitchen, Dr Strange's Greenwich Village. It is therefore natural that the attacks upon the World Trade Center led to an immediate and visceral response from the Marvel editorial team, which verged upon the mawkish and jingoistic. However, as Jenkins argues, this immediate emphasis on the attacks themselves would soon evolve into a wider examination of America's place in the post-9/11 world.

However, Jenkins' survey covers only comics published during the period 2001-2004. In addition, his essay seeks to provide the reader with a general overview of comics' response to 9/11, rather than concentrating solely on superhero comics. This paper will seek to expand upon the work published by Jenkins by looking specifically at Marvel Comics' publications extending from 2001 to the present day.

This paper will argue that the critical response to 9/11 and the War on Terror which Jenkins identified has dominated the mainstream of Marvel Comics publications from 2006 to the present day. The paper's analysis will concentrate on a number of major “crossover” narratives which draw together all of the characters which feature in Marvel Comics' main continuity into a single multi-layered narrative. Particular attention will be paid to the Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign and Siege crossover events, and the thematic link between each event. The paper will argue that the dominant theme of all 4 crossover events is a critique of government power during a metaphorical War on Terror. The narratives will each be examined in the context of recent 9/11 scholarship.