I know I’ve been harsh about the Before Watchmen series DC launched last week—I was judgmental of it even before the first issue hit the stands, criticizing DC’s lack of artistic integrity by cashing in on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ incredible book. I still feel Before Watchmen is cheap, nothing more than another poorly thought out idea by DC, but after reading the first issue of the Silk Spectre series I feel that even though the whole enterprise is contrived that there are some excellent creators working on it. Written by Darwyn Cooke (who also did the BW Minutemen book) and Amanda Conner (who also provides the artwork), this portion of the Before Watchmen series is much more enjoyable than the Minutemen storyline that started seven days ago.
So far the two issues of Before Watchmen I’ve read seem like high budget fan fiction but Conner’s contribution to the series has something the Minutemen issue doesn’t: a feminine perspective. This is important, especially since the protagonist in this series is a young woman being pushed by her mother (the original Silk Spectre: Sally Jupiter) to follow in her crime fighting footsteps. Conner and Cooke’s writing for this issue is far less jumbled than the previous BW title and having a woman write about women’s issues is breath of fresh air in the world of comic books, which is normally dominated by men. However, one of my biggest complaints about the Silk Spectre book, and primarily this issue, is the conflict between Laurie and her mother was well defined in Moore’s Watchmen; everything else seems like an afterthought designed to bring in some cheaply earned cash. The one saving grace is this is a miniseries, allowing for a larger, more well-defined story, and this issue concludes with Laurie embarking on a youthful adventure, away from her mother’s influence. Unlike the Minutemen issue I’m actually a bit curious where this story will go.
When I looked up Conner’s bibliography I saw she worked on a variety of Archie comics in the late 1980s and there are moments in this book where that shines through (see the picture above for an example). Where this might be a negative to some comic book fans I see this as a positive, working outside the aesthetics usually expected from a DC book, especially one geared towards mature audiences. Conner’s decision to include this kind of artwork demonstrates she’s thinking beyond the parameters designated for books of this kind, elevating the Silk Spectre series above what I expected. Hopefully the next few issues continue on like this; it might make me change my tune about Before Watchmen. No, it probably won’t but at least I’ll keep my eyes open for future titles by Conner.