Sunday will mark the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and, amidst all of the television specials looking back on that day and its legacy, there’s also “The Big Lie,” Rick Veitch’s comic devoted to exploring the inconsistencies surrounding the destruction of the World Trade Center. Not so much a story as an unintentionally comedic laying out of an argument for the ‘Truther’ belief of a conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks, the humor doesn’t come from the ideas it presents (although some will no doubt find them laughable), but from the way it’s all presented. It comes off more as farce than anything else.
Sandra Stratton is a physicist who travels back in time to save her husband Carl from perishing in the attacks, only she arrives an hour before the attacks instead of several days as planned. Armed with an iPad full of data, she tries to convince him and his business associates that they must evacuate the towers. Their skepticism at her arrival and the information she brings is more than understandable, but what ensues is farcical with a back-and-forth debate over the evidence that she presents. What starts as them questioning that such an attack could even happen becomes a drawn myriad of arguments that put the blame for the attacks at the feet of numerous government agencies and individuals.
After a while, it seems like a gag. Sandra presents some evidence, the men argue why it isn’t possible, she presents more information, they accept part of it while raising further questions, causing her to present more evidence, and the whole cycle repeats itself until they finally grow frustrated with the whole affair and throw her out. Obviously meant to present as convincing an argument as possible by giving voice to counterarguments, the contrast of Sandra’s emotional hysterics and the men’s cold logic turns it all into a farce, a comedy skit. It’s very reminiscent of a Jack Chick comic in the way that it tries to be so serious on its subject and winds up producing laughs as a result. Various running jokes, including one about the iPad, don’t help in that regard.
Veitch’s art doesn’t work against this perception, with Sandra always yelling and fiery in her delivery, while the men sit back with cool, collected looks, stroking their chins and wearing awkward smiles. Veitch gives the comic more visual flair by depicting the events that Sandra discusses, sometimes effectively in the case of showing jets or another action-based events and not in the case of floating heads of public figures.
The veracity of Veitch’s arguments isn’t my concern; that they’re presented in a comedic fashion, however unintentionally, does both add and detract to this comic. If it were a dry argumentative piece, it would be boring, but the farcical nature of the book undermines all of the arguments made. It’s a catch-22 that makes “The Big Lie” unsuccessful at its goal. The ideas raised here deserve more consideration than many will give them because they seem ludicrous on the surface and the presentation here doesn’t give them much weight.