Wednesday, June 13, 2012
BEFORE WATCHMEN: SILK SPECTRE #1
Continuing the 35-part review of DC Comics' 35-part Before Watchmen event, this week the first issue of Silk Spectre is out. This week's 23-page lead story is by Darwyn Cooke (co-writer) and Amanda Conner (co-writer and artist). Conner also provided the standard cover art.
Cooke, as mentioned in last week's review, is best known for his writing and artwork on DC Comics' "Selina's Big Score", "The New Frontier", and "The Spirit" as well as adaptations for IDW Publishing of Donald Westlake's "Parker" graphic novels. Conner on the other hand is best known as a "good-girl artist" for her work for various companies on such titles as "Gatecrasher", "Vampirella", "Soulsearchers and Company", and "Power Girl".
While it is not known which portions of the plot, layouts, and dialogue can be attributed to Cooke and which to Conner, there is clearly a woman's touch on the story. The series' lead character is Laurie (Juspeczyk) Jupiter the second superhero known as the "Silk Spectre", who in turn is the daughter of the first Silk Spectre, Sally (Juspeczyk) Jupiter. The story "Mean Goodbye" focuses on Laurie's struggle with both living up to and living down her mother's reputation.
In 1966 Sally wants the teenage Laurie to take up the superheroine and celebrity mantles that she worked hard to develop, both with her own talents and with the management of her ex-husband. To that end Sally becomes more Marine drill sergeant than caring mother, pushing Laurie to her physical limits. But Sally also has a ribald nature, which affects Laurie tremendously whether Sally is present or not. Since Laurie was both raised without a father figure and to be tough as nails, she naturally rebels against Sally's strictures and runs away from home, only to encounter Fred, Shaggy, and Daphne.
From a superheroic point of view, it is unusual to see a teenage girl being brutally pushed by their parent into that lifestyle. Other elements of the story are not so unusual, from Laurie's "mean girls" classmates to the "Harper Valley PTA" community in which they live to the troubled jock on whom Laurie has a crush. So as in last week's Before Watchmen installment, there is little new thematic ground being broke, although the emotional turmoil of a teenage girl has not exactly been done to the death by the American comic book industry.
And while Conner's artistic style, like Cooke's last week, differs from the majority of 21st-Century superhero illustrations, unlike Cooke she seems to have made a conscious choice to echo the style and layouts of original Watchmen series artist David Gibbons. From the cover illustration to the first page snowglobe sequence throughout the book, there is a marked similarity to Gibbons over Conner's usual body of work. However she does manage to sneak in a few unique touches, like Laurie's pictographic emotions.
Furthermore, the Cooke-Conner team deliver dialogue that is just as good as last week's, the coloring (by Paul Mounts this week) is just as good, and the scene transitions are functional but not clever. The 2-page "Crimson Corsair" installment reveals a little bit of where the plot is going, but not enough to tell if there is any relation to the main narrative(s).
In summary, while Before Watchmen's sophomore issue continues to lack the originality and complexity of the original series, Amanda Conner (with Darwyn Cooke) has delivered more than the usual superhero comic. Here's hoping the next installment is as good or better than this week's!