The BW Review : “Before Watchmen : Silk Spectre” #3

Posted: September 18, 2012 in comics
Tags: , , , , ,


While I’m understandably quite hesitant to say which of the various Before Watchmen series is the “best of the bunch” yet — for a couple reasons, one being that none of them are over and the other being that it’s frankly impossible to tell if some of them are even good or not at this point (although it’s fairly obvious that a couple just flat-out aren’t) — I do think it’s entirely fair to state that at this point Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke’s Silk Spectre has slowly, even imperceptibly, managed to establish itself as the most interesting of the bunch, which is rather saying something given that it suffers from one of the same narrative weaknesses so apparent in Cooke’s Minutemen series, namely : he gets what looks for all intents and purposes to be a coherent overall plot rolling in the second issue and then all but abandons it in the third.

If you’ll recall, last time around we were made privy to a scheme engineered by no less than Frank Sinatra himself to turn all the hippies in the Haight into rabid consumers thanks to a new strain of acid that the Chairman of the Board was going to distribute to all the “flower children” thanks to his stooges within the “flower power” scene, legendary LSD “cook” Owsley and offensively-lecherous-black-hippie-cult-leader-who’s-really-just-there-to-bang-all-the-white-chicks Gurustein. In this third installment, which starts with an extremely well-drawn-by-Conner acid trip that Laurie’s taking, we get to see just what effect said new strain of everybody’s (well, mine, at any rate — back in the day) hallucinogen has on the young Ms. Juspeczyk, and she has a brief confrontation with monsieurs Sinatra and Gurustein about it, but most of this issue is taken up with another new plot wrinkle altogether —

Apparently, after sitting last issue out, Sally J. decides she’s fed up with waiting and that it’s time to bring her daughter home. “Uncle” Hollis Mason’s “soft touch” approach isn’t yielding the desired result quickly enough, so our gal Sal decides it’s time to bring in the heavy hitters — in the form of The Comedian, who’s pretty much done a guest turn in every one of these books now. And while Conner draws Eddie Blake in an almost cartoonishly innocent fashion for reasons that, frankly, escape me, his characterization in her and Cooke’s hands in much more spot-on than it is even in his own series, never mind the others. The lengths he’s willing to go in order to insure his still-unbeknownst-to-her (of course) daughter’s return home are well and truly frighteningly amoral, and for those wondering just where the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons Comedian has been hiding in any of the BW books, the answer is — right here.


The last point worth a mention here (guess this write-up’s gonna be quicker than I thought) is that Conner and Cooke close out — well, almost close out — the book on a very curious note indeed : they show us the origin of The Comedian’s “smiley face” button, which yes, sounds like absolutely pointless fanwank of the highest order, and in the hands of J. Michael Straczynski certainly would be just that, but here, in the unlikely pages of Before Watchmen : Silk Spectre #3 (variant covers, as shown, by Conner and Mike and Laura Allred, respectively) of all places, it’s handled just about pitch-perfectly and maybe even threatens to be a little bit — dare I say it? — touching.

So, that’s where we’re at with three issues down and one to go here, which means that Silk Spectre will be the first of these mini-series to end. Conner and Cooke have a fair amount to tie up, and I’m fairly certain that a number of key points will be left dangling for the other series to pick up on, but at least it looks like we’re going to have a story that follows something like accepted linear plot progression here and not the kind of ducking-in-and-out-of-various-career-highlights-and-lowlights that we’re getting over in MinutemenNite Owl, and, most unforgivably given its rather auspicious (as far as any of these books go) start, Comedian. We’ve had some decently-handled character development mixed with an unexpected amount of high weirdness, all presented, I must say, with rather lush visuals from Ms. Conner, and so far this is the one BW title that has managed to surpass my (admittedly limited) expectations for it. Strange as it feels to even type these words, I find myself actually, and actively, looking forward to seeing how this one’s going to end.

Which, of course, means that they’re probably going to end up fucking the whole thing up. But I guess a guy can dream.

  1. Aaron Babcock says:

    I felt exactly the same after reading this one. I couldn’t believe it, but I found myself actively wondering about the next issue and looking forward to it a bit. First BW title to cause me to feel that way (although I admit the unexpected ending to Dr. Manhattan #1 kinda did the same, albeit I’m more apprehensive than excited for that one at this point).

    • trashfilmguru says:

      I thought Dr. Manhattan #1 was the best single issue of any of the BW books, I just have no confidence whatsoever in Straczynski’s ability to do anything apart from fuck it all up somehow. To me the most interesting thing about Silk Sprectre, apart from its willingness to embrace the flat-out bizarre and near-satirical in terms of its central plot conceit, is the fact that it’s actually marginally historically accurate, in that the CIA (not Frank Sinatra) did in fact distribute a drug (regular-old LSD) in mass quantities in order to de-politicize and de-radicalize the emerging youth movement, and this book’s insinuation that Owsley, Leary(though he’s not mentioned by name) and the like were working for the government is pretty much accurate. They weren’t trying to turn all the kids into rabid consumers (directly), but they were looking to get them all tripping for a few years so they’d shut up and allow the powers that be to carry on their war without much resistance. This plan was only partially successful, of course, as the kids still found time to both protest the war and do plenty of acid, but if you’re wondering how so much high-quality LSD made it out onto the streets to be given away fro free, there’s your answer. Conner and Cooke (and I’m going to give most of the credit to Conner here since Cooke is showing in “Minutemen” that he’s not exactly a fountain of inspiration in terms of plot creativity and I think all he deserves credit for in this series is probably filling in the word balloons — the modern Stan Lee!) seem to be deliberately using over-the-top satire to get an actual point of historical and political importance past DC’s sure-to-be-too-gutless-to-address-said-point-directly editors (who, as you can tell, I have a major axe to grind with). Rant over.
      Oh, and isn’t it a shame that the Comedian is characterized so much better here than he is in his own book?

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