SPOILER ALERT!  This post may include SPOILERS.  Consider yourself warned.

Another day another post!  This post deals with Silk Spectre #1 (of four total), another title that is part of DC’s Before Watchmen event.  Co-written by Darwyn Cooke (who you may recall wrote Minutemen #1) and Amanda Conner, with art by Conner, Silk Spectre #1 turns the clock back to 1966 where it focuses on the two Silk Spectres: the first, a middle-aged Sally Jupiter, and the second, her angst ridden teenage daughter, Laurie “Jupiter” Juspeczyk.  This issue intends to explore some of Laurie’s formative years to offer a deeper understanding of her relationship with her mother in Watchmen.  But I would say that it was easily the weakest of the three books that I read.

Something that no one wants to see: the Silk Spectre’s angsty teenage years.

The cover to Silk Spectre #1 has a lot and nothing going on all at once.  She stands largely in the center, fist clenched, looking…angsty? bored? detached?  Her fading body reveals figures from her past: her mother as the first Silk Spectre looms at the top, looking carefree and sensual.  Below her, Edward Blake, the Comedian…I think…looking lecherously ambivalent.  Then Nite Owl numero uno whose head is fading away for some unknown reason.  Her mother (again?) and her step-father, Larry Schexnayder, who looks bored, at their wedding.  Lastly, a fading version of herself as a young girl looking youthful and optimistic.  At the bottom is the snow globe from Watchmen #9.  What it is doing on the cover is beyond me.  Perhaps if it had been falling to the ground, moments away from crashing but frozen in time on the cover–an allusion to the “slow time” mentioned in issue #9–I might have understood.  But there it sits…conspicuously close to her crotch.

The art is modern–effective, but nothing to write home about.  The composition is not bad but certainly not good either.  Where this cover does shine is in the colors.  Paul Mounts (one of my favorite colorists!) provides a subtle nuance that the drawings lack.  The background has a quiet canvas texture while the costume looks fragile, as though it is made of parchment paper.  A touch that I love is that the yellow from the costume gradually changes into the skin of her young self, perhaps symbolizing the change from youthful optimism to teenage angst.  All that analysis aside, all I really pulled away from this cover at first glance–and let’s be real; first glance is all that matters for an item sold on a newspaper rack–was angst.

I will admit, this one was going to be a hard sell for me.  Silk Spectre is my least favorite character from Watchmen.  I have always found her to be needy, shallow, and less multi-dimensional than the other characters in the book.  Plus, I don’t really want to read about teenage girls who hate their mothers.  The story begins when Laurie is five, just after Schexnayder leaves and the snow globe has smashed (aside: wouldn’t it have been cool to see it careening on the cover and open the book to see it smash? C’mon editors!).  Laurie declares that she hates Schexnayder to which Sally rebuffs, “Oh sweetie, you’re too young to hate.  Wait until you’re older and the world gives you a good reason.  Trust me, it won’t let you down.”

Fast-forward to 1966, where a teenage boy, Greg, shows interest in Laurie.  Despite her daydreams about a relationship she tells him that she can’t go out with him.  We find out that she is alienated from her classmates because her mother believes that when she’s not at school she should be studying.  And when she’s not studying she should be training.  And when she’s not training she should be at school…you get the picture.

After thwarting a home invader (who turns out to be her mother in disguise.  Why? To train her, of course…yeah, I know.  That $%*# is messed up!) Laurie has it out with her mother and sneaks off to do teenage stuff with Greg.  After some late night parent bashing (and smooching) they retire to a cliché teeny-bopper diner where Laurie gets picked on by the most popular girl in school.  The girl says that everyone knows that her mother was the Silk Spectre and says some choice things about her mom, going so far as to call her a tramp.  Laurie punches the girl out and runs home, where Sally has been sitting, worrying, and drinking.  After another fight, Laurie runs away.  Feeling alienated from her peers because of her mother, she tells her “You make me ashamed.”  Finally, she meets back up with Greg.  The two of them hitch a ride with a hippie van heading to San Fransisco.

Well, that was a lot.  I will say this much for Silk Spectre #1, it may be one of the only comic books–ever–to feature multiple mother/daughter fights (both verbal and physical!).  I could see what Cooke and Conner were going for in this book.  They wanted to show why Laurie and Sally don’t get along so well in Watchmen.  But was this the best way?  Sure, her mother is manipulative and crazy in this issue, but teenage girls are not known for their objectivity.  All I am saying is that if they want to show what created such tension between the two of them they are going to have to try harder.  Hopefully not all four issues will revolve around her running away in 1966 and will instead contain a number of vignettes, throughout their lives before Watchmen (see what I did there?!), that portray several events that caused them to be distant.  A scene that I thought worked well was directly after the home invader training exercise.  They go from literally beating the crap out of one another to yelling at each other, and then, just as quickly as it began, the anger melts away and we see them acting like normal people; a little motherly concern and well intentioned daughterly indignation.  After all, in Watchmen they still interact with one another, they just don’t seem to like each other all that much.

The art throughout is serviceable.  It isn’t bad, it isn’t great.  It’s biggest flaw is that it isn’t consistent.  In some panels Conner conveys subtle emotion very well, while in others the characters look plastic.  Sometimes panels have dynamic energy, and sometimes they seem wooden.  And sometimes they are just poorly drawn (it is infrequent, but still, in a book that is part of a flagship event, I expect more).  I really liked Laurie’s little daydreams throughout the book.  Each one was done in a different style and each captured what it intended to very well.  I was also impressed with Conner’s commitment to detail.  From the castle in the snow globe to the photograph of the Minutemen to the original Silk Spectre costume, everything from Watchmen is just so.

As I suspected from the cover, Mount’s colors throughout were good.  Subtly textural and realistic.  The daydreams pop because of their cartoonish nature and bright, blocky coloring.  I was particularly a fan of the hippie van at the end.  It looked like it was straight out of Yellow Submarine!

Silk Spectre #1 was certainly not bad, but it wasn’t great either.  That is the third time I’ve typed that phrase (or a similar one) in this post and frankly that disappoints me.  In an event as ambitious and important as Before Watchmen I don’t want serviceable.  Or even good.  I want great.  And Silk Spectre #1 just didn’t deliver “great”.  The story was largely predictable, the art was consistently inconsistent, and when I finished it I was not blown away.  Even though I went into Silk Spectre #1 expecting not to be blown away, I hoped all along that I’d be proven wrong.  Here’s to hoping for issue #2.

While each book contains a two page chapter of The Curse of the Crimson Corsair I want to wait to review that story in its entirety.