Silk, v. 0: The Life and Times of Cindy Moon
Collects: Silk #1-7 (2015)
Released: October 2015 (Marvel)
Format: 160 pages / color / $19.99 / ISBN: 9780785197041
What is this?: Cindy Moon, recently freed from ten years in a bunker, tries to find her missing family while maintaining the semblance of a personal life (mostly for appearance’s sake, it appears).
The culprits: Writer Robbie Thompson and penciller Stacey Lee
I like Silk, v. 0: The Life and Times of Cindy Moon, but I admit I have a hard time putting my finger on exactly why. It’s only when I compare Silk (alter ego: Cindy Moon) to Spider-Gwen that everything I like is illuminated, and I realize it’s a lot of little elements that add up to an enjoyable book.
Unlike Gwen Stacy in Spider-Gwen, readers get a good idea of who Cindy Moon is and what she does when she’s not a hero. Cindy is confused and angry after spending a decade in isolation. She was bitten by the same radioactive spider as Peter Parker, but she was convinced by Ezekiel Sims, the Amazing Spider-Retcon, to hide herself away to avoid attracting the attention of Morlun, one of the jerks the assembled Spiders-Heroes eventually defeated in Spider-Verse. Ezekiel is gone, killed by Morlun. Cindy resents the sacrifice Ezekiel convinced her to make, and as much as she wishes she could punish him, she needs the information that only he seemed to know: where he hid her family.
So despite her cultural knowledge being a decade out of date, Cindy interns at the Fact Channel so she can use its resources to search for her parents. When she isn’t fighting crime or looking for her parents and brother, she spends time with a couple of friends, Rafferty and Lola. She gets guidance from Spider-Man. She finds an archenemy, the Black Cat, and a frequent sparring partner, Dragonclaw, whom she manages to engage as a human being. She even goes on a date with Johnny Storm.
All this makes Silk a well-rounded book, and I suppose that’s what I like about it.
“Well-rounded” sounds like a low bar to hurdle, but it’s not. Likeable protagonists who fight opponents who are both engaging and powerful are difficult to find, but writer Robbie Thompson manages that. (Looking back, I’ve reviewed six straight books that weren’t able to meet that standard.) Given her past, the Black Cat isn’t a black-and-white villain, and she tries to dissuade Silk from opposing her before launching a vendetta against the hero. The Black Cat has become a crimelord, which gives her the resources to be a real challenge to Silk even when Silk has allies. But while the Black Cat schemes, Thompson works in another villain, one who has connections to the Black Cat and to the mystery of Silk’s family. It neatly combines the story threads, and the battle with him is a pleasing way to end the first storyline.
Going back to comparisons with Spider-Gwen: Silk’s costume is immeasurably better. The colors are subdued without being drab, spider-related without being a copy of Spider-Man’s. The subtle spider legs above and below the web pattern on her chest is a great touch. I don’t care for the “S” in the middle of the webs; it looks carelessly written, and it isn’t big enough to be featured in the middle of the costume, but fortunately the “S” rarely shows up in the art. I like the mask that covers the bottom part of her face, which allows artist Stacey Lee to communicate a great deal of emotion through Silk’s eyes.
The mask was already a part of Silk’s costume, so an artist who can draw expressive eyes is a must. Lee, who drew five of the seven issues in Life and Times, is that artist. I’m not usually impressed by manga-influenced artists in superhero books, but Lee is excellent with conversational scenes, and her action work is clear and dynamic. Her Cindy in flashbacks is the picture of wide-eyed innocence and adolescent angst; in the modern day, Cindy retains some of that, but she has gained an angry edge and occasional maturity both in and out of costume.
Besides giving Cindy a couple of friends her own age, Thompson uses J. Jonah Jameson as not only comic relief but as a solid character in his own right. The former mayor works as a talking head at the Fact Channel and still has a hatred for Spider-Man, which somehow doesn’t extend to Silk. (Since Jameson’s hatred has always been irrational, that’s OK.) But in addition to be an angry man who gives Cindy the nickname of “Analog,” he shows he’s a decent human being; when he learns Cindy’s predicament, he offers to help, showing himself to be the stand-up guy he is often said to be as but rarely gets a chance to be.
Silk isn’t a perfect book. No book is, of course, but Thompson never explains the book’s most important question: Why does Cindy dress as Silk and fight crime? Peter Parker has the lesson taught by Uncle Ben, Spider-Gwen has the respect for law and justice that her detective father taught her … but why is Cindy doing this? The flashbacks don’t give any idea that she has a thirst for justice, and being a superhero doesn’t help her find her family.
Thompson is vague about Silk’s previous appearances and powers. Thompson not reminding the reader what she’s done since Peter let her out of the bunker is fine, although I feel like I’m missing some piece of continuity that will make sense of my complaints. As for her powers, she can create her own webs, she has a spider-sense — Silk sense — and can spin clothes out her silk. She has the standard spider-strength and agility, so I guess we’re supposed to guess she has all Spider-Man’s powers with a few more added in. Additionally, she somehow knows Lola is attracted to Rafferty, although that could be because she’s observant instead of being able to detect pheromones.
Some of my complaints are niggling. Cindy’s lack of cultural knowledge is grating and sometimes nonsensical — how does she research at the Fact Channel if she doesn’t know what Google is? The Fantastic Four’s appearance seems gratuitous, and spending an entire issue on it is a waste of time. Her anger when Peter tries to get her help seems out of proportion to the sin. Thompson also doesn’t delineate what Peter and Cindy’s relationship is. He wisely deprecates the creepiest part of Cindy’s origin: that because she and Peter Parker were bitten by the same radioactive spider, each has an almost uncontrollable sexual attraction toward the other. It’s amusing for a few pages, maybe — maybe — but it’s problematic in a larger sense. Peter Parker and Spider-Man are present in Life and Times, but the implication is that their relationship is more mentor / newcomer than sexual or romantic. On the other hand, one or two scenes leave the idea that the two of them could be (or are) more than just similarly themed superheroes.
The book ends with the end of the world in #7, which isn’t a surprise for readers who know Silk and the rest of the Marvel line was interrupted by the Secret Wars crossover that ended the Marvel Universe (briefly). In #7, Silk runs through the city on its final day, trying to reach a destination, but she keeps getting delayed by people who need to be saved. The art from Tana Ford has trouble selling the urgency and action, but despite that, I couldn't guess whether Silk would reach her destination until the last couple of pages. Cindy gets a major win as the world ends; I’m going to be very upset if she’s not allowed to keep that victory when the regular Marvel Universe returns.
I enjoyed Life and Times. I’m looking forward to the next volume, Sinister, which comes out in May. The groundwork laid down in Life and Times will likely make clear which of my complaints are unimportant and what I’m supposed to be paying attention to. On the other hand, Sinister will take place in an all-new, slightly different Marvel Universe, so who knows what the ground rules are?
Rating: (3.5 of 5)