Who's it by?
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1 is written Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner and illustrated by Conner. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair back-up is written by Len Wein and drawn by original series colourist John Higgins.
What's the story so far?
Laurie Juspeczyk is a key player in the original Watchmen series. The daughter of first Silk Spectre and Minutemen member Sally Jupiter, Laurie unwillingly took up her pushy mother's mantle but was forced to abandon it when costumed adventuring was outlawed before the start of Alan Moore's story.
Laurie became the lover of the superpowered Doctor Manhattan. After his disappearance, she takes shelter with Dan Dreiberg - the second Nite Owl - rediscovering a passion for crime fighting and entering into a relationship with him. Laurie was instrumental in convincing Doctor Manhattan to return to Earth from his home in exile on Mars in time for the story's climax.
Silk Spectre focuses on Laurie's early years and her relationship with her mother. Something of a faded sex symbol, Sally has retired from superheroics but is keen to train her daughter to be her successor.
The issue begins with a very young Laurie witnessing the departure of her stepfather from their lives, jumping to her later adolescence in 1966, where she attempts to balance her mother's insistent training with a burgeoning romance with schoolmate Greg.
What's the verdict?
Silk Spectre is a mixed offering that, while competently written and drawn, seems to be treading water rather than covering new ground.
The plot has a familiar and well-trodden feel. This is partly due to the cosy, 1960s high school storyline complete with bullying classmate and the handsome jock serving as a love interest. Equally, this particular troubled mother-daughter relationship was fairly well covered in the original series, leaving this issue as a stretched out version of what we already knew about the two generations of Silk Spectre.
The real star of the issue is Sally Jupiter. Although heavy-handed at times, she is generally and touchingly portrayed as a mother who wants what is best for her daughter but equally excels at getting it wrong. From her questionable advice to a child Laurie to her poorly suppressed anger at being bested in a fight, Cooke and Conner's Sally is a character that evokes sympathy and contempt.
Transcending a script that is somewhat basic, it is Conner's art that brings life to Laurie's story. Her style is as clean and simple as ever without compromising on character and an impressive level of detail. Her grasp of the period is effortless and unobtrusive. The cartoony asides open a vital window into the future Silk Spectre's mind, and mother and daughter's body language as they separately inspect themselves in the mirror tells the reader as much about the pair as their dialogue.
The three-by-three panel layout ties the comic effectively into the classic Watchmen style (although this can be lost when reading the issue digitally).
The comic jars in places. The choice to layer some scenes with meaningful radio and television music ties into the action, but is executed awkwardly, cluttering the panels with broken phrases and excess speech balloons that muddy rather than enhance the action. Two brief flashbacks in later pages confuse and interfere with the story's flow unnecessarily.
Silk Spectre is a solid comic that nevertheless fails to justify itself as a Watchmen prequel. Conner's great art does much to redeem a well-trodden teen plot, but this fails to add anything substantial to what we already knew of Sally and Laurie's troubled relationship. Fortunately, the closing pages promise a following chapter that may yet bring novelty to this miniseries.
> Buy the digital version of Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1
> Read our review of 'Before Watchmen: Minutemen' #1
> Read our Before Watchmen interview with Dan DiDio
Watch a trailer for Before Watchmen below: