Every week, Chad Nevett and I will be reviewing an issue of Before Watchmen through a discussion of each issue. We continue with Silk Spectre #1 by Darwyn Cooke (co-writer), Amanda Conner (co-writer and artist) and Paul Mounts (colors).
Chad Nevett: I think we can safely say that Silk Spectre #1 delivers a little more of what we were hoping out of the Before Watchmen comics than Minutemen #1 did last week. The characters are still introduced, but in a much smoother, subtler way. We aren’t simply told straight away who Laurie and her mom are; those details trickle out over the course of the issue, partly because that’s good storytelling and, partly, because there seems to be an assumption that someone reading this comic has read Watchmen and doesn’t require a heavyhanded introduction. This issue has a strong plot that’s driven by the characters. The first part of the comic is driver by Sally until Laurie fights back and, eventually, takes things over entirely.
One thing that I really liked what that Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke are using the nine-panel grid. And, more than that, using it well. While Conner’s art doesn’t look much like Dave Gibbons’s, she’s definitely making an effort to work within the framework he provided in Watchmen and go beyond it a bit.
The use of the little cartoon fantasy panels is something radically different from how Watchmen was presented visually, but it works quite well in the context of Laurie’s story and with Conner’s art.
It seems like this issue struck a great balance between using established plot and character points, visuals, and storytelling elements from Watchmen, and playing into the strengths of Conner and Cooke. One foot in Watchmen, one foot outside of it… Which is what we’d want, I guess?
Brian Cronin: Yep, this was a marked improvement on Minutemen #1. Hell, even if I had no clue about what Watchmen was, I’d want to read more about the Jupiter family. The relationship between Laurie and Sally is fascinating and Cooke and Conner portray it so well that I’m legitimately interested in seeing more, despite what we already know about their relationship from Watchmen. So yes, I’d say Cooke and Conner did their job very well here. as you noted, the fact that there was no info dump was appreciated, although to be fair, it is a lot easier to subtly introduce characters when there are only two main characters to be introduced and they are mother and daughter.
Conner is the real star of the issue, as her off kilter approach to the nine-panel grid was fascinating. Her experimentation with the grid was a blast, especially the cartoony asides that you mentioned (here’s a sample of the asides).
I was impressed with how a lot of the story was structured. I really enjoyed how they used a flashback to reveal the resolution to the altercation at the soda shoppe. I thought some of the usage of media was a little bit TOO on point (“Baby please come home” playing as Laurie is walking out on her mother? For serious?), but in general subtly was the keyword of the issue (like having a panel constructed so that a framed photo of the Minutemen is cropped so that just the Comedian is spotlighted).
I don’t know what impressed me most about Conner in this issue – her storytelling, her facial expressions or her depiction of action (the fluidity to her characters is striking). This was a good comic.
And the pirate back-up by Len Wein and John Higgins continues to impress!
CN: I enjoyed this week’s “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair” more than the first chapter. Then again, I’m a sucker for that “Okay, everyone, let’s get the evil captain now! …Uh… Guys…?” gag. And John Higgins’s art is fantastic. I’m very glad to be seeing it every week.
The media stuff didn’t bother me, but I have a terrible habit of glossing over songs in comics. Something about it just makes my eyes move on…
Something that bugged me a little — and I’m sure it will come up again and again — is that I’m not sure if these characters felt the same. Sally was a little over-the-top — moreso than she was in Watchmen. She was SO singular-minded and unwilling to hear anything else that it felt a bit too simplistic. Too aimed at justifying Laurie’s actions in our eyes. Sally was always the stage mom who pushed Laurie, but I guess Moore walked a finer line than I think Cooke and Conner did here. Just a little too much.
BC: I would imagine Cooke and Conner’s thought process was that this was earlier on, when Sally was still dealing with the fact that Laurie will, inevitably, have to leave her at some point. Once she comes to terms with that (which she did by the story in Watchmen), she will be less over-the-top. Conner and Cooke are catching Laurie and Sally at a point where Laurie is very much still an everyday part of Sally’s life and she can’t bear the thought of that not being the case (to the point where she cries and plays topical songs to show her feelings).
Also, how could anyone hate a comic book that has a simulated porn facial in it?!
CN: I still can’t believe that panel. You think that other girl is a bitch and then she does THAT? Not a lot shocks me in a comic, but that made me pause a moment, because I thought maybe I was reading it wrong — you know, mind going to the worst possible thing immediately. But, no, it was that sort of insult. She’s lucky all she got was one punch in the face… jeez.
A moment like that really played to Conner’s art, which is quite cartoony. It’s easy to forget the world we’re dealing with when we’re looking at art like that and I think that made that moment a bit more shocking. I mean, if this was a Darick Robertson-drawn comic, it wouldn’t be quite so unexpected. (No offence to Mr. Robertson, of course.)
BC: Yeah, like we both noted, the way that Conner moved from serious to silly gave the book a great sort of unexpected feel. Also, like I mentioned before, I love that Laurie’s response to that affront was not revealed until later in the issue, so they could sort of tease you with “Would Laurie actually take something like that? She wouldn’t, would she? Would she? Oh, okay, she didn’t. Awesome.”
It’s funny, since the book was so good, we really don’t need to say too much about it, as it was just a flat out normal good comic book. Good to see!