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…And the Superhuman Review – Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3

Every week, Chad Nevett and I will be reviewing an issue of Before Watchmen through a discussion of each issue. We continue with Silk Spectre #3, by writer Darwyn Cooke and artists Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts.

Enjoy!

Chad Nevett: I can’t seem to think of a good way to start this week’s discussion. Let’s go with something basic: I really liked this issue. Because…

Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts do their best visual work of the series so far. And I’m not talking about the drug trip scene, which is fine. The aftermath with Laurine the next day is stunning visually. Lush line work, rich colours, and the perfect pace/layout to communicate exactly what’s going on with her. Words aren’t needed until we shift from the bedroom to the hospital room and, then, they overwhelm us and the art remains so damn good. Great visual allusions and an evolution of the cutaway ‘fantasy’ panels with the painting homages. Stunning work overall.

That’s where I’ll begin…

Brian Cronin: Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts really did do wonders with this issue, right from the cover (this series is one of the few that uses the covers as part of the story, much like the way that Dave Gibbons did with Watchmen). What particularly amazes me if the way that Conner uses all these different styles and approaches but not just as gimmicks, but rather as actual important methods of telling the story. I especially loved the touch of her training kicking in while she was hallucinating.

But yeah, the level of detail was striking on Conner’s part. The backgrounds were so involved. I also liked what I think was a Doctor Manhattan nod with the blue panel stating that you could possibly see “all facets of reality and time at once.”

This issue was helped greatly by the lack of emphasis on the outlandish plot line. I know you and I sort of gave Darwyn Cooke and Conner credit for merely attempting such an “out there” plot (Frank Sinatra using drugs to make hippies obsessed with consumerism) but we also both thought that the plot was more stupid than anything else. By stressing the human elements more in the issue (the overdoses and the like), Cooke and Conner gave us a much better issue. As you noted, Conner handled the characterization so well at times that there was no need for dialogue.

I liked the notion of Silk Spectre realizing that the “nice” Hollis was useless to her in this situation and that Eddie was her man. I especially liked that characterization noting that Cooke is writing Hollis in Minutemen, as well. So far, Cooke has highlighted the uselessness of the Minutemen and that seems to be a theme he continues here. The Minutemen might be nice, but you need a real bastard to get the job done.

Two questions for you about the Comedian. One – do you buy the doting dad angle? Or do you think Eddie is just so fucked up that he thinks he CAN be a doting dad at all? Second – did you like the “origin” of the smiley face button?

CN: I think that Blake was tricking himself into thinking he was playing that role. That he was being the protective dad who does what’s good for his daughter and, by doing it in secret, he’s an even better dad, because she’ll never know that what he did for her. It’s fantasy and his eagerness to play into it works with your interpretation that he’s just a screwed up guy who wants love/acceptance. He can almost convince himself that, because he did this, his daughter would love him — he cares, dammit!

I didn’t mind the ‘origin’ of the button. I like that it was more of an Easter egg moment than the big plot point it might have been in the hands of another three-initialed writer…

The downplaying of the goofy plot was definitely a smart thing. It seems that that plot is mostly pushed aside for now given that the fourth issue looks like it will have to deal with Laurie reuniting with her mom/going home. While it was a goofy plot, do you think it was resolved too quickly? That it didn’t actually DO enough? Or will it make one final appearance next issue?

BC: Looking back, I think the Comedian is the character that has most benefited from the Before Watchmen treatment. You have the three disparate takes on him (plus whatever Wein does with him in the next issue of Ozymandias) by Cooke, Cooke/Conner and Azzarello and yet their different approaches all seem to serve to give us a cohesive picture of the man. I think the best way to describe the Comedian is the old adage, “We’re all the hero of our own story.” That is what he seems like to me – this psychopath that still finds a way to view his own actions as, if not necessarily heroic, as “the right thing to do.”

And yes, I agree with you on the button scene. It could have been hokey but Cooke/Conner pulled it off.

I thought that the plot was so goofy I hope we never see it again. Honestly, with what has been achieved with that plot, I really don’t see how it just being a standard drug story would not have achieved the same purpose. Some drug dealers introduce some new kind of drug, it gets people sick, her boyfriend ODs, she gets revenge. That is basically what happened, right? So did we really need the over-the-top embellishments?

CN: We don’t need it, but we may get it… Also, the Comedian is the hero of every story. Obviously.

Speaking of the Comedian, as much as I praised Conner’s art in this issue, I wasn’t a fan of her depiction of him. More than any character, he seemed overly cartoony. That seems like a deliberate choice to draw him in a more ‘animated,’ simplified manner because he’s in costume. You could see him fitting into the world that Conner built here better if he weren’t wearing the mask and suit. He’s clearly meant to stand apart… but, it’s not an interpretation of the character that I’m too fond of. It just didn’t look right to me.

Odd question, but was the guy talking to Laurie during her trip meant to be someone specific? You’ve got the eye for details like that, Brian.

BC: Yeah, that’s a good point. I, too, was struck by how cartoony he looked. I thought it was okay since everyone else looked pretty cartoony, but it did take a BIT of the edge off of him to draw him with the rounded edges like Conner drew him.

I was wondering that myself about the guy. He looked so distinct that I would have to think it was intentional, but I don’t believe it was anyone specific.

By the way, how fucking awesomely does Conner draw cats? She is the master of drawing cats, it seems.

14 Comments

If nothing else, BW should show the comics world that Amanda Conner is fuckin’ awesome. Not that we didn’t know that already, of course…

I have got to reread Watchmen because there are things that I’m totally forgetting about it that are playing into these books/reviews, and if I’m going to spend the time reading your columns, I should know what all you’re talking about.

In other words, I totally forgot that the Comedian knew that he was Laurie’s dad. Or maybe it’s a case of forgetting when he would know. Anyway.

How did Higgins do this ish? I must know the awesomeness of pirate comics!!!

gah, the whole watchmen concept sucks balls.
semi realistic superheroes in a semi realistic world….ugh.

Hey mckracken, thanks for sharing your opinion! Good to know it’s well thought-out and well articulated!

The guy in the trippin’ sequence? Looooooooks like Ken Kesey to me. But what do I know?

…and there IS a copy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in her bedroom, so…. (there are SO many easter eggs in this book that people will eventually discover).

Thanks, Paul!

youre welcome matthew.

My guess for the guy talking is Timothy Leary.

Well…um..I thought I had a pretty good idea who it was, but…um… I guess I was…wrong….
Okay, go with Leary…

Looking at pictures of both men, it looks more like Kesey — including the mole/mark on his left cheek.

Glad a comparison was done, since trusting in the word of someone who WORKED ON THE BOOK carries so much weight around here…. sigh…

Yes guys. Kesey. Again, look at the books in her bedroom. You’ll find out so much about what’s going on in her head and under the surface.

I think we don’t trust your word, Paul, because you have a porn-soundin’ name. “Paul Mounts”? Get outta here!

j/k

Just based on these pages, you did an awesome job, Paul, and that’s no surprise with the work of yours I’ve seen over the years.

Ty Templeton listed me as one of the Top 10 Comic Artist Porn names. Dick Sprang still always takes number one!

…and thanks for the kind words!

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