Saturday, August 31, 2013

Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre

 Of all the BEFORE WATCHMEN books, this was the one that I was least looking forward to reading. I really wasn't interested in reading about The Minutemen, and The Silk Spectre was not a favorite character of mine. (Don't get me wrong, I liked her in WATCHMEN, but I didn't feel like she was a character that needed further exploration.)

 I'm happy to say that the creative team of Darwyn Cooke & Amanda Conner made a believer out of me.

 BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN/SILK SPECTRE starts off with Writer/Artist Darwyn Cooke's six-part MINUTEMEN story, THE MINUTE OF TRUTH, which is nothing short of brilliant. Cooke's story uses Hollis Mason's biography, UNDER THE HOOD, as a springboard, as Mason attempts to get the blessing of his former Minutemen teammates before the book's publication. Mason's memories of the team's true history make up the bulk of the story, and coalesce into a gripping mystery with an absolutely shattering climax. Cooke is firing on all cylinders here, making all of the characters involved into fully-realized, three dimensional people. The finale beautifully mirrors Nite-Owl and Rorschach's assault on Ozymandias's fortress at the end of the original WATCHMEN, and aside from ending a little too abruptly for my tastes, it was masterfully executed. I especially enjoyed the way Cooke used the Edward Blake/Comedian character, portraying him as a totally unrepentant sociopath, rather than a man who is at the mercy of forces beyond his control. This is really good stuff...It's no WATCHMEN, but it's strong enough that I think it will stand the test of time.

 Darwyn Cooke returns with the four-part SILK SPECTRE story, teaming up with Co-Writer/Artist Amanda Conner, and while it's not as good as MINUTEMEN, it's still a lot better than I expected it to be, mainly thanks to Amanda Conner's gorgeous art. I've always been a fan, but she really dialed her already beautiful art up to 11 here. I don't think there's anyone in comics, with the possible exception of Kevin Maguire, who can give their characters such a wide range of facial expressions. Conner contributes a wonderful little afterword at the end of the book that confirms my assumption that the art for SILK SPECTRE took her a long time to finish, and all of her hard work shows. The art was so beautiful that I hated to turn the page, let alone close the book. The story didn't work quite so well, unfortunately. While I really enjoyed seeing the complex relationship that Laurel Jane Jupiter has with her Mother Sally, the original Silk Spectre, the bulk of Laure's story finds her running away to live in San Francisco, where she becomes embroiled in a plot (Masterminded by a thinly disguised Frank Sinatra, of all people!!!) to lace LSD with a chemical that will make Hippies go out and spend more money. This plot is right out of a Scooby-Doo episode, and while it would fit in with a standard Super-Hero book taking place in the late '60's, it's a little (Or a LOT...) too far fetched for the world of WATCHMEN. But Conner's art was so damned good that I really didn't care. I want to see more SILK SPECTRE by Amanda Conner. Make it happen, DC.

 BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN/SILK SPECTRE features all of the original MINUTEMEN and SILK SPECTER covers, as well as all of the variants, an Afterword by Amanda Conner, sketches, pencil art, and character design pages.

 DC provided a review copy, but my crazy ass went out a purchased a hardcover anyway, because I'm nuts that way.