One of two Before Watchmen books released this week, Silk Spectre has been among the strongest of the BW series and is the first to reach its conclusion. Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner have done a brilliant job of filling in Laurie’s background, making her perhaps the most down-to-earth of all Watchmen‘s characters. Thanks to Conner’s pencils, the series is as much a teen drama as it is a superhero story. It feels like an issue of Archie Comics, but with superheroes. And drugs. Does Silk Spectre end as well as it began? Here’s DC‘s pull quote fromt the book:
“I don’t know who this broad thinks she is, but I want her deader than my last wife.”
There’s a lot of great material in Silk Spectre #4: Laurie’s pain at Greg’s leaving, Hollis’s attitude towards the youth movement, and Sally’s obsessive need to control her daughter. The teen angst is nicely bookended by what may or may not be a” Mean Girls” reference. Unfortunately, the story’s burdened by the need to wrap up Laurie’s adventures in Frisco, have her rejoin he mother, and appear at the Crimebusters meeting to encounter Dr. Manhattan for the first time. Prequels often run into this problem, and Silk Spectre might have been better off had it been more open-ended. The need to perfectly align the end of one store with the beginning of another leads to some less satisfying character work.
Conner’s art is generally consistent with the rest of the series, which is to say it’s gorgeous. She nails the faces and hair, and the way she draws Hollis Mason in this issue is the best of anyone I’ve seen, including Dave Gibbons. She gets to have fun this issue, bringing back all the little cartoons depicting Laurie’s feelings, and referencing various famous images along the way. The Crimebusters meeting also gives her a chance to drawn the whole Watchmen crew. My favorite is her depiction of Ozymandias, who looks suspiciously innocent. Paul Mounts’ colors are once again beautiful and set the scenes perfectly. They’re not as exciting as before, but then again, this issue doesn’t involve an acid trip, the colorist’s dream come true.
While the need to tie back in to the original Watchmen story results in an imperfect ending, Silk Spectre #4 is an extremely laudable finale, and, as a whole, SS may be the best BW book to focus on an individual character. I imagine it will read even better when it’s collected, although that will likely be in an incredibly expensive and cumbersome Before Watchmen Omnibus.