BEFORE WATCHMEN: SILK SPECTRE

 

BEFORE WATCHMEN: SILK SPECTRE
Writers: Darwyn Cooke & Amanda Conner
Artist: Amanda Conner
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Optimous Douche

I was harsh on last week’s BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN because the original WATCHMEN was much more than a comic to me. Not only was it was my introduction to super hero based comics (being the first book I ever picked up off the spinner rack), but more importantly it was my introduction to the fallibility of adults. My parents and the super friends I watched in cartoons were the paradigms of perfection, protectors sans personal struggles or demons, or at least so it seemed to a young cherub-faced Optimous.

So when BEFORE WATCHMEN was announced, I had a very specific idea in mind on what these stories would deliver. I wanted to see the crusty emotional scabs brought to light in WATCHMEN ripped clean. I wanted to see the wicked slices to the psyche that incited the megalomania of Dr. Manhattan, the self-loathing of Night Owl, the schizophrenia of Rorschach, the delusions of grandeur in Ozymandias, and last but not least the mommy and daddy issues of Silk Spectre. No, I did not like MINUTEMAN because I simply don’t care about the golden age ancillaries in the original book, with of course the exceptions of Sally Jupiter and the Comedian who were essential plot drivers. And even then I only want to see those characters in relation to how they affect their Silver Age “children.” Well, wishes do come true, because SILK SPECTRE is exactly what I wanted.  It is the inch wide, seven mile deep exploration of just how tortured Laurie Jupiter was by the short comings of a woman who never should have been a Mother.

SILK SPECTRE is personal for me, and I imagine with the clarity and honest truth that was inside these pages it’s personal for Cooke as well. If you’ve never had the splendor of a Crazy Cougar in your family count your blessings. I have not been so lucky. Neither was Laurie Jupiter, the SILK SPECTRE. The Crazy Cougar which eventually evolves into the Senile Saber-tooth are women that place all of their value in their physical appearance and vaginal fortitude. Their career path is one of grabbing as much attention as possible before the crow’s feet start around the eyes and that troublesome belly pooch turns into a full-on flat tire. Since we all decay over time, it’s safe to say that 99% of these women also live in a perpetual state of delusion, thinking spanks and make-up will serve as distractions to the deluge of nubile young 21 year olds entering the bar each year. Sally Jupiter, the original gal-pal of the Minutemen is one such crazy cougar. Now, if the world were fair these women would be sterilized. More often than not though, their chosen “profession” has the unfortunate side effect of reproduction. If they have a boy, cool, generally their daddy issues tend to lean towards glorifying a son. If you’re a daughter of one of these wastes of a soul, your life is now going to be spent in a state of perpetual embarrassment and on the receiving side of loathing simply because you remind them of what they no longer are.

We got wafts of this cancerous relationship in the original WATCHMEN, but since Laurie was cresting past her prime as well during the original book, we only saw snippets of just how embittered Sally Jupiter was towards her only daughter. SILK SPECTRE is the full realization, as Laurie is about to turn eighteen and take on the world we truly see just what a horrid and petty woman Sally Jupiter was. Sure, one can blame Sally’s shortcomings on the Comedian’s rabid libido and lack of sexual harassment training standards of the time, but ultimately life is about choices. You choose to be good or bad, no matter what life throws at you and Sally simply chose wrong.

Laurie is a good kid in the closing school days of 1966. Her academics and athletic prowess set her above all other girls in her class. Aside from exploring Sally’s home troubles, Cooke also brilliantly plays with the rampant racism of the time, by pitting her against all of the blonde WASPS at her private school. As we all know Sally Jupiter changed her name from Juspeczyk to hide her Polish background. Well you can change the name, but in a time before copious amounts of plastic surgery ethnic features still remained. These blonde pretties play wonderful secondary antagonists as Laurie tries to return the passes of the hunky Greg on the school athletic field. Laurie’s charms eventually win out and Cooke uses this new found love as the impetus to drive the rest of the book forward.

Back on the home front, Sally continues to live vicariously through Laurie, even offering to help take Greg off Laurie’s hands since she’s too busy with super hero training (creepy). In the ultra-creepy category and the final straw that breaks Laurie’s back, Sally stages a fake rape in their home to “test” Laurie’s skills.

Eventually Laurie and Greg decide to do what most people in the 60’s did, leave behind convention and the expectations of parents to find freedom on the road. It’s a glorious set-up for the shit storm we know Laurie’s life is about to become. Just enough optimism to lift the heart without ever transcending into Hallmark levels of schmaltz and romanticism.

Rounding out the issue, Conner is a genius with the art. Every angle, every close-up, all perfectly lend to that balance of optimism and betrayal within the book. In moments of sheer imagination, Conner takes us inside Laurie’s head with cereal cartoon renditions of Laurie’s thoughts. A devil on wheels when Sally hits on Greg or a trip above the moon when Greg kisses one of Laurie’s training bruises.

If the rest of the BEFORE WATCHMEN offerings are as good as this issue, even the naysayers or Alan Mooreinites will not be able to ignore this series. If they do, they are only hurting themselves.

 

 

 


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23 Comments to “BEFORE WATCHMEN: SILK SPECTRE”

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  1. Pink Apocalypse says:

    “…my introduction to superheroes…”

    “…the superheroes I read before…”

    Wut?

  2. Optimous Douche says:

    Ya OK I get it.

  3. jaydee says:

    man, if I liked the book you didn’t like, I can’t wait to love the book you DID like!

  4. Jimmy Palmiotti says:

    Just a note, Amanda co-wrote the book with Darwyn, just to get the credits right.

  5. I’ll remain skeptical that these can at least be enjoyable expanded tales of these characters. I loved Watchmen and did feel that they should have left the material alone, but I guess since they are offering up prequel tales that it is not as bad as re-visiting the characters after the closing of the original final issue.

  6. optimous_douche says:

    TY Jimmy. Attribution is not my strong suit :-)

  7. jaydee says:

    I’m always curious about things like that, like who wrote what in a single issue? Of course it’s a plus that the book reads so smoothly that the two writers matched style so well.

    And Optimous, I just read it, it’s MILES more interesting to me as a read than Minutemen 1 was. And Amanda Conner’s art is perfect here. Love it.

    Fave panel: Young Laurie and Sally sitting on the couch holding each other, while a spotlight in the shape of the broken snowglobe illuminates the empty spot where a father figure should be sitting. So well done. I don’t say this lightly, because Darwyn is such a favorite of mine, but Conner’s facial expressions and body language MAKE this book.

  8. jaydee says:

    @PiercingMetal Ken: remain skeptical no longer, sir. Pick up this issue, you won’t be disappointed. Promise.

  9. JD (Host) says:

    ps. I just updated the writers.

  10. optimous_douche says:

    See, I told you I wasn’t crazy with my Minutemen review. Who cares about the minutemen, when THIS can be accomplished with characters we know.

    You just needed to get the Darwyn art stars out of your eyes.

  11. kcviking says:

    Fake rape? I just interpeted it as a home invasion.

    Regardless, it was a terrific issue and a pleasant suprise, since I wasn’t going to pick this up when I first heard about it( more interested in Rorschach & Doc Manhattan).

    Why isn’t Amanda Conner doing a monthly book anymore?! I’d forgotten how much I enjoy her work and how amazing she is with facial expressions!!

    damn you douche…my wallet curses you!! :)

  12. optimous_douche says:

    I must have just been in a rapey mood after reading HARBINGER.

    Glad I could help :-)

  13. jaydee says:

    I’m with you on Amanda, she should be doing a monthly for as long as she wants.
    I just picked up her recently released Art Book, it’s beautiful.

    The coloring on this book really worked well with her lines too..
    all around a strong book.

  14. Shawn Hill says:

    It’s the continuously breaking snow globes in the art that got to me: Laurie better stay away from china shops, she is one accident-prone gal!

  15. JD (Host) says:

    yeah, I love the clever repetition of visuals…
    I’m curious to see how the rest of the books are going to be!

  16. kcviking says:

    Jayee- I was looking at that book a few weeks ago and you’re correct…it’s beautiful. I can’t justify the cost right now but it is on the radar. In a perfect world she would be illustrating a book written by Gail Simone. That might make the “fanboy” universe implode,though.

    you’ll notice I didn’t forget the D was silent.lol

  17. Brad Barnes says:

    A 9 panel grid can sap the life out of any comic book page, unless it is written by Alan Moore (WATCHMEN) or illustrated by Amanda Conner (SILK SPECTRE BEFORE WATCHMEN). Not only paying clever homage to the original WATCHMEN, Conner quickly burrows into the awkward, tender psyche of young Laurie who; let’s face it; winds up in bed with an unexploded nuclear bomb named Dr. Manhattan. As writers, Darwyn Cooke and Conner go together like Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson on “Crazy”, each bringing out the best in each other and creating comic nirvana with insouciant ease. This is one of the best projects Conner has ever been involved with and I can’t wait for the next 3 issues, even though I know that Laurie is going to wind up even more depressed than she is, here. Bravo!

  18. jaydee says:

    @kcviking have you read her Power Girl stuff? I never really cared about PG or her boob-window all that much, but I do like Conner enough that I think I’ll go check out the collections..I don’t think it lasted long though

    @brad I wouldn’t have ever thought to put Cooke and Conner in comic-bed together, but I do have to say, they rocked this first issue, even more so than Cooke did the Minutemen issue, I wonder exactly what Conner’s input was..Silk Spectre felt more alive and with more personality, but again, that might have more to do with the fact that a spunky teenage girl is already more interesting reading than an older fellas autobiography.
    ps.that’s a pretty great mini review! If you ever want to drop us a review for other books, email me at info@poptardsgo.com.

  19. kcviking says:

    jayee- I did read the Power Girl issues. I wasn’t a huge fan of the character but I had seen Amanda Conners work and wanted to see more. I think the best part of those comics is the relationship between P.G. and (possible spoiler) Terra. I think you’ll like the book and I’ll be curious what you think.

    Brad Barnes- Nice work sir.

  20. Pink Apocalypse says:

    I just read Silk. It was, like, the perfect comic.

    I love it with the power of a thousand perfectly-released white doves.

  21. jaydee says:

    INDEEEEED, you are correct in loving it!!

    now wait…is that hyperbole? i’m still getting a handle on stuff like that.
    ;)

  22. Pink Apocalypse says:

    I loved it. I can’t wait for the next issue.

    My ‘doves’ phrase is something I reserve for special occasions, involving extraordinarily positive things.

  23. JD (Host) says:

    I’M KIDDING!!! I GET HYPERBOLE!

    ;D

    We discuss it further on today’s show, wherein yet again Matt “it’s good I just don’t think it should exist” and the rest of us gush over it. that boy’s keepin’ it RRRREALLL
    haha

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