Authors: Darwyn Cooke & Amanda Conner (writers), Amanda Conner (artist), Paul Mounts (colourist)
Pages: 22-24 (+2 pages of backup story)
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre tells exactly the story you would expect from a prequel: an origin story. In the case of Laurie, the second Silk Spectre, a suitable ending of her story is obviously the Crimebusters meeting in 1966 (Watchmen #2, p. 9, and Watchmen #4, p. 17), and indeed this is the final scene in Silk Spectre #4. But where to begin, when the protagonist has been trained from earliest childhood to become a superhero? Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner have invented an episode in Laurie’s life that fulfils that purpose of an origin story: she runs away from home, goes out crime-fighting at night on her own, and defeats her first villain (a drug dealer).
This narrative outline is the most successful of all the Before Watchmen books, because it is the most self-enclosed story while still serving as a prequel to Watchmen. Minutemen and Ozymandias suffer from being too intricately interwoven with the original story, whereas the story of Rorschach seems too detached from the events in Watchmen to appear meaningful (at least so far). However, the connection between Silk Spectre and Watchmen isn’t one of simple succession either. On the one hand, there are a lot of allusions, both visual and verbal, to events in the past (i.e. before Silk Spectre) involving Sally Jupiter and the Minutemen. On the other hand, there is a lot of foreshadowing, my favourite instance being in issue #3 where one character says to Laurie, “I want you to live like the world’s gonna end… I dunno. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in six months. Maybe in nineteen years.” – 19 years from 1966, that’s 1985, when the world almost comes to an end in Watchmen.
That being said, the connection to Watchmen isn’t entirely unproblematic: for example, I find it hard to believe that the whole story of Silk Spectre takes place in only a few months. And yet it must be so, because it starts on an unspecified day in 1966, and in May 1966, Laurie is already on patrol with Dr. Manhattan (Watchmen #4, p. 18).
Visually, Silk Spectre comes closer to the rigid nine panel grid of Watchmen than the other Before Watchmen books, but apart from that, the styles of Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts are a far cry from those of the original artists, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins. Both the art and the writing have a certain lightness to them, which creates an atmosphere far more cheerful than that of Watchmen. But wasn’t precisely that grim and gloomy tone one of the greatest achievements of the original series?
Rating: ● ● ● ○ ○