While I’ll admit to having had my reservations about Silk spinning off into her own regular series after her lackluster portrayal in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee’s inaugural issue of Cindy Moon as her own superhero showed that she does indeed have the potential to be a worthy addition to the Spider-Mantle that began with Peter Parker. By focusing on characterization and developing the elements of her life from a decade ago, they give readers a well-rounded, relatable protagonist who has her share of personal struggles and motivations as well as the challenges that arise from fighting evil in a costume. It’s a major step up from a character who was introduced as an over-powered, over-sexed plaything for Spidey.
Thompson continues exploring Cindy’s life in this issue with a well-paced, surprisingly poignant story involving a fight with an old, mecha-tentacled Hydra drone, Cindy’s hunt for her family’s whereabouts, and a chance encounter with Hector, her old boyfriend and first love. The in media res nature of the bot fight made for an amusing look at Cindy’s tendencies for both self-rallying and self-awareness, and it’s impossible not to be at least slightly charmed as she realizes she just might have bit off more than she can chew. This kind of dialog, along with other moments, like her thoughts about always having wanted to punch a robot, do a lot to humanize her, even in the midst of a sewer brawl with an automaton with tentacles.
Where in the last issue one of the more vivid of Cindy’s memories we’re shown is her teenaged conflict with her mother, this installment hits readers with another emotional setup in Cindy’s final talk with her high school boyfriend, Hector Cervantes, as she tells him of her need to go away, “to Oxford.” It’s not revealed whether this was a genuine, sudden development or just an excuse for Cindy to go away to Ezekiel’s bunker, but the context strongly suggests the latter. Unlike the fight with her mother, which still lingers unresolved, we’re dealt a surprising slap as Cindy unexpectedly and awkwardly encounters Hector in the present day, with his fiancée, right after she finishes her fight with the Hydra bot. While I believe a more intense reaction on Cindy’s part afterward would have been appropriate, it’s still a compelling reminder that this is a woman whose life has been suspended, and that she has a ways to go in order to piece it all back together.
Narratively, it results in a Spider-worthy theme that’s going around in these kinds of books: the need to balance personal life with the superheroics. It’s a keystone of your typical Spider-character, and it’s also telling that despite this kind of focus happening in other Spider-titles (concurrently, even), it doesn’t really seem to wear thin. These characters may have a similar overall narrative arc, but their lives are different enough–and just as important, their writers are sufficiently awesome–that they end up making for different individual experiences. In this day and age of comics as a medium that is diversifying with readers’ and creators’ desire to hopefully see themselves in their heroes, this spectrum of excellent narrative possibilities makes for a promising and exciting time to be a comics reader, as well as a Spider-fan who happens to be female.
While I’m pleased with the overall direction of the storytelling, I do have a few nitpicks with the writing in this issue. While I can understand the need to segue to a flashback and do the obligatory exposition, I did feel slightly pulled out of the story by it. Perhaps I’m spoiled by my memory of the awesome 1-page exposition of Spider-Gwen’s origin in Edge of Spider-Verse #2, but I couldn’t help feeling the need for all the rehashing to either be condensed or eliminated, since things had already been retread in the previous issue. I’m also finding it a little tiresome that Silk’s “mysterious” puppet masters (Ezekiel and Tamara, anyone?) keep appearing in shadowy indistinctiveness on the final few pages of the issue. I get it, I get it–these people are manipulating her and know things about her. Can we either develop these people or get them out of sight? Dealing with either of these issues would give more space to progressing Cindy’s present narrative, which is what I’m most interested in.
Stacey Lee’s artwork and Ian Herring’s colors continue to make this book a fun title to look at. Lee’s ability to capture character expression and dynamism in just a few lines, without making her panels overcrowded or complicated, is nothing short of inspiring. It’s fun without being kiddie, and cute without being corny, making for an attractive visual storytelling style that works very well with Thompson’s plotting and script. And for every artistic high point that Lee sets up, Herring comes along with a moody, vibrant palette and knocks it out of the park.
An excellent example is Cindy’s encounter with Hector. Such a potentially emotional moment could have come off flat or insignificant this early into the narrative, but the artwork really sold the moment. In the space of three pages, we see, among many other things, Cindy’s wide-eyed shock of recognition at his voice, Hector’s subdued devastation at finally seeing his old girlfriend, and her awkward exit as she meets his fiancée (the cracked facade next to her was a brilliant touch). Herring’s use of shading and dark colors to portray the depth of how little these two now know about one another really plays to the importance of the moment, and is just one example of how the artwork supporting the story can make a huge difference.
Silk continues to show herself a Spider-heroine worth following as she continues to adjust to life after 10 years of solitary confinement. It’s fun and illuminating to witness her personal travails and challenges, and it will be intriguing to see how she deals with and resolves them. For a character whose initial appearances quickly turned me off, I find myself finally getting to a place where I’m actually starting to care about Cindy, and I think that’s saying quite a lot for her creative team.