Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre

Written by Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke
Art by Amanda Conner

Before I begin to discuss this comic, I feel it's important to first acknowledge some of the controversy that has surrounded the Before Watchmen project.  I did not support the notion of DC Comics making prequels to the Watchmen series, not so much because I view that book as a 'holy text' of modern comics, as I feel that DC did and continues to knowingly cheat original creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons out of their rightful ownership of the property.  To that end, I felt that making a bunch of prequel comics, against the express wishes of the original creators, to be shady business.  That is why I did not buy these comics when they came out, and have no intention of buying any of the trades that are currently being released.

That said, I love me some comics, and there are some very impressive writers and artists involved in the Before Watchmen project (and some I don't care for).  So, how to satisfy my curiosity about, say a four-issue mini-series written and drawn by Amanda Conner, while still sticking to my morals, such as they are?  I could take the book out from the library, but instead, I found a complete set of this comic in a used bookstore, and figured that my purchasing it does not count as a monetary vote in favour of the project.

Anyway, regardless of whether you think this is a comics universe that needs revisiting (and I think it isn't) or not, this is one hell of a good comic.  Conner's art is fantastic, and with Cooke's help, she writes a very good story.  The young Laurel Jane, who will grow up to be the second Silk Spectre, is chafing under her mother's parenting skills.  She's in her last year of high school, and wants nothing more than to make friends, land a boyfriend, and enjoy herself.  Instead, her mother has her studying constantly, and training to be a fighter.  In one scene, her mother dresses up as an intruder and tries to attack her in her own home.

Laurie runs away to San Francisco with the boy she likes, and they find themselves in the middle of the growing hippie and drug culture of the 60s.  They also manage to find themselves some trouble, as the Chairman (i.e., Frank Sinatra) is not happy with the anti-consumerism that has become so popular among young people, and with the help of a guy called Gurustein, begins pumping a particular brand of LSD into the market which leaves its users full of the urge to shop and consume.

Laurie deals with heartbreak, beautiful kung fu henchwomen, and the irritating thought that her mother might have manage to prepare her for the world.  Laurie and her boyfriend's character arcs are handled very well, and Conner excels at depicting the hallucinogenic time period.

One thing that surprised me about this series was the extent to which Conner took it into the 'mature readers' world.  I questioned the likelihood that a female high school student in 1966 would make a joke that revolved around male ejaculate being on a girl's face, and was also a little surprised by the amount of nudity in the book, simply because I'd expected DC to try to be able to market this to as wide an audience as possible.  Given the crassness of this book's genesis, I would have thought that marketing would have had a stronger say in the actual content of the book.

In the end, this is a very solid comic.  I didn't bother reading the Crimson Corsair back-up pages, as that strip appeared in a number of different titles, but I was otherwise impressed with this book.  Too bad I wouldn't buy a sequel...

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