BEFORE WATCHMEN: SILK SPECTRE #1 (OF 4)
What did the
Backup Written by Len Wein
Art by Amanda Conner
Backup Art by John Higgins
Cover by Amanda Conner
Variant Cover by Dave Johnson & Jim Lee
Size: 32 pages
Thematically, I think that a prequel to Watchmen can work. The backstories of some of the characters were heavily hinted at during the course of the original story, so doing prequel comics that feature SOME of the Watchmen characters makes sense. That being said, the prequel stories need to synch up 100% with the original story to work at all. It has to be all or nothing. Disgusting moral implications of this endeavor aside, the hinted backstories in the original Watchmen comic existed in order to build towards something greater later on. You didn’t get the whole backstory of Rorschach & Nite Owl’s team up adventures or the nitty gritty specifics of Silk Spectre’s childhood because what mattered in the end were the end effects of these plot points. There’s a chance in any story that over explaining anything can cause plot holes later or unexplained actions later on, which is most likely why Alan Moore decided to keep the explanation of the backstories simple.
At the time of the monthly releases, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre will be the only one of these minis I will buy. The reason is two-fold: it is both the only writer/artist team-up I am genuinely excited for, and features the only character whose extended backstory will have the most potential to synch up with the original story. Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner truly got the luckiest pick of the draw when they drew Silk Spectre, as not only is she probably the most interesting Watchmen character on a human level, but her backstory truly plays to their strengths. For Cooke, tackling a story that heavily ties into the original Sally Jupiter’s legacy is a no-brainer. As we’ve seen in New Frontier, Cooke is an expert at humanizing aspects of the Golden Age superheroes and making them relatable and enjoyable to modern audiences. As for Conner, there are not enough words to describe the talent that she brings to the table. Every piece of art she does tells a story without words, as her cartooning style is truly unparalleled. Conner’s art isn’t just pretty pictures (though it certainly is gorgeous), but means of conveying emotions with just facial expressions and body language in a way that we haven’t seen since Walt Simonsen did monthly comic work. Here, she perfectly conveyed both Sally Jupiter’s feelings of regret and motherly worry, as well as the bevy of Laurie’s awkward teenage emotions and rebellion. Additionally, Conner is the perfect comic creator to consult when a story has sex involved, as it’s an integral part of Sally Jupiter’s character. What most comic creators don’t get is that drawing a female character in a skimpy outfit is only a fraction of the battle of making said character sexy, and that a lot of ways that creators portray sexy in both actions and outfits actually make the character SIGNIFICANTLY less sexy. Conner gets it, though. Sally Jupiter is a character who completely gave in to the exploitation of herself, and is portrayed as such the few times we see the visual glimpses in this story. Her poses and outfit has almost a Bettie Page feel to them. As for Laurie, she’s the sexual equivalent of a small child wearing her mom’s giant heels. She’s sort of forced into the same Bettie Page-esque outfit that her mom wore, but as it was titillating on her mom, it just looks cute on her. This is the best example on why Conner gets sexuality better than most comic creators. She knows that at Laurie’s age, she’s not only not completely developed to fill out an outfit that accentuates curves but is also sort of confused as to WHY the outfit is supposed to be titillating. She’s still just a girl who on the cusp of a sexual awakening, and I would actually be thrilled to see that this is the main focus of the book. It would be in perfect hands if that is the case.
So yeah, Silk Spectre #1 fleshes out the most human and relatable Watchmen character out quite well. My original point still remains, though…for this to work, this backstory must synch 100% with the mother/daughter relationship established within the original story. We won’t truly know if the story will synch until it ends, but I think that this is off to a great start. One thing I do know, however, is that true to the original story’s overall feel, the relationship between Sally and Laurie is an incredibly cynical one. Laurie knew that she is living in her mother’s shadow, but continues to live in it anyway. Laurie knew that the life her mother lived led to a road of exploitation, but barreled down the similar road with a feeling of uselessness. Being that this is a prequel, it has to end where Watchmen began, and Watchmen began with a Laurie who was jaded and lost control of her life. While this issue showed promise of a liberated and happy Laurie, we know where she will end up. This can’t have a happy ending.
Art: 5 - Excellent