A portfolio booklet released by Marvel Comics in October 2001, to commemorate the victims and celebrate the heroes of the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001. All work on the project, from art to writing to coloring to printing to distribution, was donated, and all proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Twin Towers Fund.

The book features artwork by a host of top comics creators, including Alex Ross, George Perez, Joe Quesada, Todd McFarlane, Joe Kubert, Sam Kieth, Alan Davis, Frank Miller, Mike Deodato, Jr., Frank Quitely, Carlos Pacheco, Dan Jurgens, John Romita, Sr., Tim Bradstreet, J. Scott Campbell, Jim Lee, Walter Simonson, David Mack, Dave Gibbons, Neal Adams, Humberto Ramos, ChrisCross, Steve Rude, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Joe Madureira, Bill Sienkiewicz, Salvador Larroca, Jae Lee, Paul Pope, Dale Keown, Adam Kubert, Stuart Immonen, Mike Allred, and many more, with text and essays provided by Stan Lee, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, Kevin Smith, Jim Shooter, Fabian Nicieza, Paul Dini, Jim Krueger, and Gail Simone.

For something that was put together this quickly, the quality of the art is nearly universally superior. Much of it is intensely personal. Some of it is shockingly beautiful.

While this is a Marvel book, superheroes are few and far between. In fact, in most cases, the use of comic book characters only cheapens the art presented -- the only exceptions being Sam Kieth's subdued art of the Hulk kneeling and examining a lone firefighter's helmet, Mike Deodato's vision of Captain America weeping over a smoking New York City skyline, and Dale Keown's quietly enraged Hulk, standing amidst the wreckage and gripping a flagpole in one massive fist (the caption is the shortest one in the book: "Strongest one there is." No arguments from me, Dale).

Most of the focus is, rightly, on the real people who were involved in the events of 9/11. And most of the best artwork lies in these pictures: from Alex Ross' lushly painted cover of a fireman carrying a victim from the smoking wreckage; Karre Andrews' impressionist painting of rescuers at work; Tim Bradstreet's photo-based artwork of face-masked cops and firemen at rest; Jim Lee's depiction of firemen at the heart of the inferno; Greg and Tim Hildebrandt's you-are-there study of a businessman carrying an injured woman from a collapsing building; Joe Quesada and Todd McFarlane's collaboration on a weary and heartsick firefighter; Graham Nolan's art of a lone cop charging back into the fire and smoke; Phil Hester's light-and-darkness abstraction of the Towers; Bill Sienkiewicz' inspiring painting of the Twin Towers converted into beacons of light shining through a city of smoke; Michael Avon Oeming's bittersweet sketch of a fireman closing a fallen compadre's eyes; and perhaps the most shocking and emotional piece of art in the book, Igor Kordey's raw artwork of frightened airline passengers grimly advancing down the aisle toward terrorists armed with knives and box cutters.

It only costs $4. Buy it. I bitch about Marvel a lot, but they did a damn fine job on this one.

The Dust of Giants

We are all here
The heroes of past battles
lain to rest
The forgotten lovers
rusted and broken hearted

We come when called
to save a nation ,right a wrong
or fill a void left behind
by those that walked these halls of glory before us

Our wounds are not salved by the balms of our icons
only time diminishes the pain of battles lost
and hides the scars of love unanswered

The thanks heaped upon us
Fleeting, Forgotten
when the next call to arms
when the next aching heart
sounds the horn of need

Our cries heeded by only those
who would be our enemy
or need our love

We come running
raising up from the
Dust of Giants

There's no way to talk about this television show without spoilers; it's that kind of show. If you have any interest in watching from the beginning, you'd be better off skipping this.

- - -

Heroes is NBC's Lost. That's all you need to know, really.

Tim Kring, a man whose geek cred includes work on such blockbuster sci-fi series as Crossing Jordan and Chicago Hope, has created a world in Heroes that's absolutely unique assuming you've never read a comic book or watched TV before in your life.

It works like this: a seemingly random group of people all over the world have started discovering that they have super powers. One can fly, one can manipulate time, one enters into fugue states and paints pictures of the future. Their paths keep crossing, usually involving everybody's favorite little Japanese superhero, the conveniently (and not at all originally) -named Hiro Nakamura. Also like the X-Men, most of the heroes live in less than ideal circumstances, dealing with being misunderstood adolescents, or having abusive husbands or dying parents, and most of the Heroes' abilities emerge during periods of stress.

How familiar does all of this sound to you? If you look closely, there're three distinct ripoffs alluded to in the previous paragraph. It's not that Kring steals, every writer steals, it's how brazenly he does it, and to be fair I probably wouldn't care if he weren't ripping off my goddamned subculture. What we've got here is the bastard lovechild of the Marvel Comics universe, NBC's other (and better) superhero property, The 4400, and bits and pieces of Neal Stephenson. Oh, and GATTACA because, unlike the Marvel world where mutants were just different, the heroes in Heroes were, apparently, made. Kring also claims to have had a five season arc plotted out in his head before he wrote a word, which is nice in theory but sounds eerily close the story of how J. Michael Straczynski plotted out the five season arc of Babylon 5 - it came to him one day in the shower.

The show is reductive and typical and just a little bit quirky, and the really vexing thing is, like most things that are reductive and typical and just a little bit quirky on network television, it's doing astonishingly well - premiering in NBC's fall 2006 lineup, Heroes quickly became the network's hit drama, out-performing such well-intentioned and well-written programs as Friday Night Lights by millions of viewers.

Heroes is written and shot like an honest-to-god drama, a drama where, every once in awhile, somebody learns how to fly. Imagine you're watching a rerun of, say, Law & Order - a homeless man, trying to off himself, jumps off the roof of a building but instead of splatting against the sidewalk, goes bouncing down the alley like a rubber ball. If it wasn't done in the established and familiar feel of the Law & Order franchise it might be interesting, but the confluence feels wrong, somehow.

The thing about science fiction is, the more stylized it looks, the more immersive it is and the more realistic it feels. If Heroes were shot the way that, say, Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica is shot, I'd have an easier time making it through an episode without laughing my ass off.

The real reason I think the show is so hard to watch is that, and I'm not positive of this but, it feels like Kring takes himself so damn seriously. He shouldn't.

While season 1 of NBC's Heroes created such a huge hype last year, season 2 has not been as successful the second time around.

Peter Petrelli, arguably the star of the first season has now mysteriously made his way across the ocean to Ireland in some shipping yard without his memory. What a great way to make a powerful character not so powerful anymore. Now he must go on some adventure to Montreal taking him in a completely different area from where we left off at the end of season 1. This is not necessarily a bad move on the writers, but so far I fail to see where his part of the storyline is going.

The addition of some new characters has given the show a slightly different feeling. We have the twins; trying to cross the Mexican American border to see geneticist, Dr. Suresh; with one with the ability to kill all in her proximity when her eyes turn black and the other with the ability to heal these deceased by taking his sisters hand. While i can't really see a purpose for their abilities in the show, they are transporting the other powerful character from the first season (but now powerless), Sylar, back into America.

West, the boy Claire has fallen for, is probably the most annoying and over confident character in the show. He stalks Claire all on the hunch that she's hiding something just because she knew the answer to a question in class and did not raise her hand. Then through a series of events, discovers Claire's secret, confesses his own, and makes a deal with her to go out with her. They have also only known each other for probably a grand total of 1-2 weeks relative to the show, but by now West thinks they shouldn't hide anything from each other and gets upset when Claire doesn't want to talk to him about something personal in her life.

Even though there are some bad parts about season 2, I still very much enjoy the story of Hiro Nakamura in ancient Japan following his favorite hero from a childhood story, the great Takezo Kensei!

There is still some hope for season 2, even though it got off to a rough start, the shows writers have started trying to connect the characters together much faster potentially making a better story line down the road. However, this morning I read on www.superherohype.com that the writers will be going on strike and the show will be preparing for an early finale that should be aired December 3rd if the strike holds out. I have my fingers crossed for you, Heroes, however, you may lose another huge fan base if you end the show early, much like last year when the show went on hiatus.

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