Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1 of 4

Writers: Darwyn Cooke & Amanda Conner
Artist: Amanda Conner
Company: DC Comics

Let there not be talk of controversy or bad contracts or anything of the sort. Let us instead speak on comics and whether they are good or whether they aren't so good. I'll be completely honest out front and say that among all of the characters of Watchmen, Silk Spectre was never my favorite. I understand her and her story. It's needed and genuine. But I always felt that while there was some character depth to her, like there was with just about everyone, she still felt superficial and bland. So, while the creative talent on this drew me in like a heat seeking missile, and really, Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke could collaborate on a Mr. Ed comic and I'd gladly pay the money with a smile. Still, I wasn't sure what could be done that brought something else to the table.

The material here is top notch. A human story, one that bleeds life, and is rolled up in the cape of a aging superhero. Cooke and Conner's take on a teenage Laurie and her Mother is simple and deceptively quiet. Somehow he taps into the feelings of a teenage girl so easily and makes her emotions and actions seem real. Not once is there a moment that feels forced or done for the sake of being what needed to happen.

Silk Spectre's biggest draw however is the take on the relationship between Mother and Daughter and the strain that being a superhero puts on that. The difference between Sally Jupiter's appearance here and what we saw of her in Minutemen is interesting. There's a scene that appears here, one that is drummed to the beat of Lesley Gore's Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows (Google it to hear it, as it does add something to the theme), that is both horrifying and believable. It's that exclamation point on these two characters and the lengths that some people will go to mold a person's psyche.

I want to talk about Conner's artwork, but I can't help but mention the way that the vernacular and truisms of the era are put to good use. It really does add so much to the story that's being told and feels like a character all on its own.

As for Conner's artwork, this time out it seems as though she's trying something different with her style. There's certainly her typical vibrant feel in her lines, especially when we see behind the curtain of Laurie's fantasies (which are cute and awesome and joy inducing), but there's this lens of realism that has been put over it all. One that really drives home the point of the story. The 9 panel grid, which is definitely a Watchmen-ism, is touched on here and she makes it work really well. That's due to Conner's ability to translate emotion onto a character and tell so much with a few simple lines is rivaled only by the likes of Kevin Maguire. She sells the characters to the reader in under six seconds flat and makes you give a damn about them and the world that they inhabit.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre is a human story. One that answered the question of what could be brought to the table to make Laurie interesting. Cooke and Conner, their unique blend of heart and words and art, is a unique experience. Awesome.

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