Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1

by deerinthexenonarclights

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1-0. So far so good, but so far still yet to go.

Zack Snyder’s Watchmen was the last time this special series was touched in a bad place and, in a lot of ways the last bit of news that prompted such primal controversy amongst comic fans; there weren’t many people pleased by the production taking place, to say the least. Though for a brief period during the casting the criticism dropped away, allowing hope to shine through for the first time; these weren’t big names but they were good ones and you know they kind of fit ( I daresay the same exact thing happened here when the writer/artist teams were announced for these books).

That newfound enthusiasm was, however, nowhere near enough to get people excited for the news that Malin Ackerman would be playing Silk Spectre, the stripperiffic spin that they put on her outfit certainly not helping matters. “She can’t act!” some said, “She’s just a pretty face” said others and much more – and much meaner things – besides; amongst these cries though came one that I instantly sided with and that call was this: “Well… It’s not like Silk Spectre was any different. She doesn’t so much have a story as she does sex, so what’s the big deal?”

That was my basic attitude towards the issue too and the film, Ackerman and all, didn’t do too much to change my mind; to me Silk Spectre, hell both Silk Spectre’s are some of the books least interesting characters, falling victim to that exact thing they were there to satirize, the attack hitting too close to the mark. They’re empty outfits, tits in a brasserie that occasionally bang one of our male leads and even more occasionally give consent for it. Though while this made me blasé about her as a character in the cinema version – an inherently abridged medium – it is exactly what got me excited for this book. So many people have banged out tweets and tumblr posts about how there is no point for this series and to them I point no further than SS and say “This… This is the big deal. This is why we’re here.”

So does it live up to those highest of expectations? Not at all, but that’s not to say that it’s all that bad either. The biggest problem with this book is that it fails to make either SS any more interesting than they used to be, to fails to make these heroes super; they’re average and expected characters in a world of amazing extremes. This issue, in direct contrast to last week’s Minutemen, focuses on filling out one straight story; that of the second Silk Spectre struggling against and then succumbing to her role like her mother famously did the Comedian.

We chart her cloistered life as a student of both sixties high school cliques and her mothers scary strength training before she stands up to both and tries to spreads her wings And fly elsewhere. It’s such a standard and oft told tale that there really is no need to dedicate an issue to it; simply say “She was once a teenager” and we can all of us imply the rest. We’ve been teens, we’ve seen Buffy and we’ve read Watchmen; tell us something new.

In lieu of that tell us the old story in an outstandingly strong way, make it the definitive example of the trope. Silk Spectre almost does that, almost. It pays homage to the original text in a number of terrific ways: the circle motif is cleverly utilized in Amanda Connor’s artwork – which breaks with the objectivism of the original with some fictional flashes of female imagination and feelings that are both funny and heartfelt -the chapter ends with an out of context title and the quote from which it was wrestled while the story swings on a number of existing props and plots in an inventive manner.

It just keeps coming back to the story and that sense that Silk Spectre’s simply isn’t a big enough deal to warrant this level of distribution. Maybe if this was an autobiographical comic it would find a small audience somewhere and steadily entertain them, but I struggle to see it standing in the context of a major comic event like Before Watchmen in exactly the same way that I struggled to see the character stand in the superhero teams that spawned the books. Cooke and Conner try valiantly but unlike Jumping’ Jupiter they simply can’t cross that highest hurdle, falling victim to the same apathy that shot down Ackerman’s attempt at the character. I still don’t care, i still don’t love the character; so to continue the sports metaphor:

1 love.

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