With all the resetting and relaunching going on in the wake of Marvel’s latest universe-altering mega story, it’s understandable that some titles, teams and characters need to recalibrate, refocus or just plain figure out where the heck they stand in the miasma of this new world order. We’ve had supporting characters shifting to other titles, heroes coming over from entirely different realities, and a whole lot of new beginnings and final endings, so it’s not surprising to find a few of these intrepid players looking a bit lost in the shuffle. In Silk’s case, she’s got a veritable gallery of female-led, Spider-friendly books to compete with, so I don’t find her position to be an enviable one at the moment, but I can easily forgive it.
What I have a harder time allowing to pass, at present, is storytelling that retreads familiar territory in ways that do nothing to further the plot or the characters involved, and unfortunately, I saw a lot of that in this issue of Silk.
If the theme to the previous issue revolved around the unluckiness of being a web-slinging superhero, then the theme to this issue seems to be repetition, bad decisions, and unnecessary references. Cindy for the most part drifts from one previously depicted scenario to another, without any real development on the majority of them, rehashing beats readers have already seen recently. Cindy’s concerned friends she can’t make time for try to get her to go out with them, yet again. Silk goes and beats up some Goblin Nation kids and makes bad quips, yet again. Silk tries to make inroads on gaining Black Cat’s trust, and fails yet again.
It’s not entirely bad, but getting more and more noticeable at this point, and I can’t help feeling that Robbie Thompson either isn’t sure where to go with the Black Cat/Goblin Nation plot, or is being told to string things along for a little while, for reasons he’s not being told about. It’s shown in small bites, usually to the tune of Silk beating up on a goon or two, then someone says something sinister, fades away, and Silk gets interrupted by Black Cat business. Only three issues in, it’s a frustrating cycle that needs to be remedied quickly.
The appearances of two characters I’ve been looking forward to are also not particularly well handled, with Peter Parker’s visit amounting to little more than unwisely helping further Cindy’s “cover” and ineffectually whining about not liking the danger in which she’s putting herself. With Peter’s new position in the Marvel world–a Stark-like CEO who now clearly has strong connections with S.H.I.E.L.D.–there is so much more he could, and arguably should, do to help her, even if he can’t be there physically. And while her brother Albert does make another brief appearance, he serves as little more than a worried spectator and motivation for Cindy to be greater at her superhero-ing. I don’t necessarily have a problem with men being fridged (depowered/memory wiped, in Albert’s case)–it’s happened to women disproportionately in comics–but if you’re going to do that, then damn it, give the hero something to do in response!
I don’t mean to start off on such a negative note. I’ve enjoyed this title ever since its premier last year, and have not apologized for championing it among the Spider-titles. It’s just that I’ve seen Robbie Thompson write this character and her adventures well, and this issue in particular seems to be missing the mark in some big ways.
With all of that said, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this issue, mainly when Thompson lets Cindy’s characterization shine. Her banter and continual mouth-running with Killer Shrike before and during their sewer exploration is amusing, and sets up one possible factor for Shrike’s betrayal of her at the end of this installment. Pop culture references (and Cindy’s lack of knowing them) continue to pepper the narrative, as well as Cindy’s self-deprecating, not-quite-sure-I-meant-that humor. Even her brief session with her therapist is enlightening, as we see her still stuck on her time in the bunker–perfectly believable for a character who lost so much time to that scenario.
We also get a possibly definitive idea of exactly where Cindy stands with regard to the Black Cat. Killer Shrike’s betrayal of her almost certainly wouldn’t have happened without Felicia’s approval, though I suppose it’s possible. Leaving Cindy to square off against a horde of Teenage Mutant Ren-Faire Goblins likely means that either Black Cat knows she’s a mole, or that Killer Shrike really couldn’t handle her jabber. Either way, hopefully this means we’ll see more of the infiltration plot that was introduced in the first issue, as well as how Cindy’s interactions with S.H.I.E.L.D. will influence it.
Tana Ford’s illustrations in this issue, while serviceably proficient in portraying the action, leave me feeling a little drained emotionally. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it means she’s worked a lot of feeling into the characters’ expressions and actions, but it’s also… well, draining. Her Cindy, Peter, and Albert have such wrought, deep worry, anger, or anxiety etched into their faces that it’s hard not to look away at times, while Killer Shrike’s smug glee near the end makes you seriously want to knock his block off. It’s exhausting, and can make readers long for the cleaner, simpler lines that have graced this series before.
I was also more than a little confused at how Silk was drawn during the sewer exploration spread. There is some serious disproportion going on in how Cindy looks in the middle illustration, and I’m not sure why it happens there and only there. I know sewers don’t smell good, but this kind of trippy, out-of-sorts depiction simply doesn’t seem like it should be there.
Overall, it makes for an installment that, while not at the level of a train wreck, still has fallen off the track somewhat and needs to get back on quickly. Readers will lose interest in Cindy if she’s doing the same thing over and over, and characterization alone will not save a flagging plot. There’s still plenty of potential here, for both writer and artist, but things need to turn around fast for this title not to flounder into mediocrity.