DC’s Before Watchmen event continued this week with the release of the first issue of Silk Spectre.
This book features the creative team of Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke (also the creator of Minutemen) and tells a tale of two super-heroines. Sally Jupiter, the original Silk Spectre of the Minutemen, is seen here after the close of her career. Her daughter, Laurie, is the primary focus of the book, which shows her attempting to come to terms with her mother’s legacy and the choice she faces as to whether or not to embrace it, as well as her own heroic future.
In keeping with the tone of the original Watchmen story, Silk Spectre is a very personal book. The first issue is light on super-heroics, focusing much more on the relationship between mother and daughter and is almost cute at times. Despite that, the family is rife with conflict, as any family is.
Julie complains of being treated like glass when her mother is no less than assaulting her with the hard truths of the world. In many respects, she is little different than a boy of that era being trained by his father to fight. The difference is the spectre of her mother’s past as a costumed adventurer hanging over her. Anyone would feel additional pressure in such a situation, and Julie is no different.
For everything that makes her story unique, she is also archetypal. She is the youth facing the challenges the world will offer her. She is the child in search of freedom from the shackles of parental protectiveness.
That protectiveness on the part of Sally is one of the most touching parts of the book. Given what we know of her personal history, particularly where men are concerned, it is obvious that there is more to her desire to see Julie become a capable combatant than the hope that she will follow in her mother’s super-heroic footsteps.
The only part of the book that felt somewhat forced was its callback to the Sally Jupiter “Tijuana Bible.” Fans of the original Watchmen will remember that Sally Jupiter, in her old age, looked back fondly on the little mini-porno comic, much to Laurie’s disgust. In this issue, we see another copy of the book make an appearance and be used as fuel for the ’60s Mean Girls-type tormentors who fling ridicule and ice cream Laurie’s way.
While its appearance early in Laurie’s life does, I suppose, add some depth to the scene between mother and daughter in the original story, having it be a major factor in the decision made at the end of the book would seem to afford an importance that is at odds with Laurie’s portrayal in Watchmen.
Amanda Conner manages the voices of these characters like few others could. While it would be easy to attribute that to gender alone, or a transposition of some of her own experiences as daughter and mother onto the Jupiter family, it seems truer to say that Conner does character-development stories very well. Conner has shown a firm grasp of the dynamic in other works, such as the recent Ame-Comi Wonder Woman. That book spends a fair amount of time (for its length) on the relationship between Diana and her mother, and there are definite parallels between the Themysciran royal family and the Jupiters, two distinct stories with mothers of rare background and children with promising futures.
That future is questioned in Silk Spectre. Laurie asks as so many children of her era did, and their children ask today: who will I become? She is the inheritor of the legacy of the Greatest Generation. As daunting as that burden might seem it is as if the knowledge of their parents’ successes imbued the flower children with an almost superhuman belief in their own ability to forge a path in the world.
It is clear from the way the book leaves off that Laurie’s path will be an interesting one. While we may already know where it will end, she has a long way to go and a few flowers to put in her hair before she gets there.
On the whole, Silk Spectre is a promising addition to the Before Watchmen event. It adds some much-needed depth to a character who seemed more of a romantic foil than anything else in the original series and also provides a much needed feminist perspective on the world of Watchmen. It is tightly scripted, and the art is delightful. It is highly recommended for anyone who wants to explore this world and also for anyone who might be struggling with some of these issues in their own life.
Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He also hosts the weekly Infinite Crossover podcast in cooperation with Fanboys Inc. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and daytime supporter of all things technical. contact: firstname.lastname@example.org