Before Watchmen Review: Silk Spectre #4
It's a bit delayed, but Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #4 has finally arrived, and it leaves us wishing for another Darwyn Cooke/Amanda Conner collaboration as soon as possible, preferably on without all the Watchmen baggage. That's something I've said repeatedly as I've followed this series, which I love despite all the hullaballoo surrounding it.
When last we left Laurie Juspeczyk, her life in the San Francisco counterculture movement had just exploded because The Comedian forced the love of her life to abandon her with a fake goodbye note and join the military. In this issue, we see flashbacks to her mother's long history of poisoning her against men and poisoning men against her. We see that her Uncle Hollis Mason has taken the more upstanding approach to trying to bring her back home to mother by being a cop about it. And that prompts the Chairman, the oddball Frank Sinatra villain who has engineered a drug that makes kids spend more somehow, to start killing everybody in his organization to avoid the heat – doing the superheroes' job for them. Nice way to wrap up a story element that was always a bit iffy by turning it on itself Ouroboros style, keeping it relatively separate from what's so damn engrossing – Laurie's emotional journey.
The dynamic between Laurie's crash and burn rebellion and Sally's perennially misguided motherhood is fascinating. The depths of how tightly woven their psyches are with their mistakes and inability to co-exist, the unbearable push and pull between how they feel and how they act – be it Laurie taking up her mother's mantle in spite of trying to escape her control, or Sally being unable to express her honest concern for her daughter without being a self-righteous snot about it – reach their peak in heart-rending ways. There's a point here where Laurie is pushed to the brink, and she even gets a flare-up of her father's bloodlust that really drives home that core of anger that she'll carry with her on into the pages of Watchmen proper – the entry point to which being where this miniseries ends.
Speaking of, there's a great moment in this issue where The Chairman's Shake Sisters break into Laurie's hippie friends' crash pad that echoes the sad fate of Hollis Mason in the real book, except with the roles reversed. The flashbacks of Nite Owl glory in that scene are much like the actual moments of Uncle Hollis ass-kickery here, and it's nice to see the good guy win for once, even if it's just an older man beating up "a couple crazy broads." It's a nice flip of the script.
It's the same refrain I've had with each issue – Conner's art is breathtakingly wonderful and Cooke's story is highly compelling despite the ludicrous criminal plot. Say what you will (and I have) about the need for the whole prequel project, but this Silk Spectre series gets into your heart and screws around with your emo-stuffs. Just like good comics should.