Around issue #6 of any Silk title, I start to get nervous. Because thus far, none has survived past issue #7 due to Marvel’s boneheaded decision to relaunch its titles at the drop of a hat. At present, I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll see this volume eclipse its predecessor’s number of issues, and hopefully go far beyond it.
I have to give Robbie Thompson credit for this installment’s exploration of two emerging themes revolving around Cindy: her deep feelings of anger, as well as the question of her ability to handle the undercover work of infiltrating Black Cat’s criminal organization, which she’s been tasked by Mockingbird. Both are somewhat intertwined at this point, and her sense of uneasiness with them makes for an interesting look at a young woman who’s ostensibly trying to be a superhero, but who finds a disturbing sort of comfort with committing “bad” actions when pushed.
It’s an understandable build. Cindy has been dealing with the frustration of locating her missing family since the previous volume, and even the milestone of finding her brother has given rise to the situation of what Goblin Nation did to him. She finds common ground with Black Cat, and is surprisingly intrigued by her philosophy that good and bad aren’t so straightforward. Many of Cindy’s plans have gone awry, or at the very least been openly doubted by others. Aside from occasional, tiny flashes of anger, there hasn’t been much expression of it in a believable form.
Then, the non-David-Bowie Goblin King injected her with a Goblin serum, robbing her of her agency and directing her off towards Black Cat, treating her like a dangerous animal and making things a lot more personal. When Cindy and Black Cat return to the Goblin Nation, Cindy doesn’t even hesitate at Felicia’s command to throw him over the edge. This disturbs Cindy’s S.H.I.E.L.D. handler, Mockingbird, who tries to take her out of the situation–and gets a surprise of her own as Cindy loudly refuses, then more gently convinces Bobbi to give her one more chance.
This chain of events, though fairly interesting, is less so than Cindy’s silent introspection at them. From her confession to her therapist that she felt “good” throwing Phil Urich from a building to her desire to maintain her cover with Black Cat’s operation, it’s clear she’s starting to wonder just who she’s becoming–and that she’s apprehensive about the answer. It intrudes even on her “off” time while she’s out with her friends, leaving it no wonder that Mockingbird and Spider-Woman are both worried about her.
While I won’t say that things are perfect in this issue (seriously? Underground castles, complete with ramparts and sub-towers?), I continue to be pleased with the overall narrative direction in which the story is headed. In addition to Cindy’s current travails, we see her get to reconnect with her friends in several short but touching scenes, including one where J. Jonah Jameson brings her into his office and reaffirms his concern for her well-being. As little Jonah as we’re seeing in Amazing Spider-Man, I’m glad to see him being used over here, even if he is a bit on the softened-up side.
Tana Ford’s return brings me to some of the same criticisms I’ve had about her artwork in the past. There are improvements, to be sure–she does an excellent job of rendering Cindy and Bobbi’s faces and expressions during their scene together, and her action sequences are for the most part believable and dynamic–but there are still too many places in the story that I get pulled out of the experience by a disproportionate limb, or a body that is poorly foreshortened to make someone look like they’re a little person rather than trying to rise from a sitting position. I really hope Ford continues to work on those weaknesses, as she exhibits a lot of potential when she’s on point, and I’d really like to see her flourish on this title.
Overall, I’m pleased to report that Silk is gradually making its way back to being a title whose heroine we can get behind, if not always root for at times. That’s fine,though. Questions of identity and self-confidence have usually served this character well as she explores her role as a superhero, and while she could benefit from a more consistent art team to portray her, the narrative is finally exploring a lot of the themes it set up at the beginning of the series. I think as long as that stays tight, there should be plenty of story to give the art time to develop.