It’s easy to remember that, of the current crop of Spider-Women that Marvel has on the market right now, Silk was the one they wanted to push and become a runaway hit. It’s also easy to recall that of the two of them, Spider-Gwen easily and naturally captured readers’ imaginations, whereas Silk suffered from a lackluster introduction, a Mary Sue-esque set of powers, and a “why did they do this?” unnecessary sexualization and attraction to Spider-Man (remember that whole Spider-Bride thing?). While Cindy has indeed come a long way since she got out from under Dan Slott’s pen, it’s installments such as this issue that make readers remember there’s still a ways to go in terms of making this editorially mandated character a natural fit in the Spider-Verse.
Whereas the previous issue left me excited to see the faceoff between Silk and Black Cat, the delivery here feels flat and poorly executed. It’s not that Robbie Thompson doesn’t do everything one would expect, plot-wise, at this point, but there really isn’t any kind of payoff to a conflict that was so beautifully set up. Yes, we get Cindy coming to blows with Felicia, who has been spying on Silk and who is upset that she’s been reporting on her to S.H.I.E.L.D., but there’s no real sense of conflict or betrayal between these two after they’ve opened up to one another. Instead it feels like Thompson is hitting the marks he has to, and moving on. It’s a far cry from the nuance he’s shown in previous issues, and it makes the conflict at hand merely readable instead of exciting.
Things are framed well enough at first. Cindy, lying in a dumpster, talking about how her life really is captured by this moment, is a promising start. We then get the flash back to events that lead up to this moment, as well as Cindy’s self-deprecating humor about how she has no common sense and makes decisions that lead to moments like the dumpster scene, which is still charming but nothing we haven’t read before. She meets with Black Cat, who eventually spirits her away with a conveniently stolen teleportation prototype from Parker Industries, straining my ability to suspend disbelief, but I’ll go along with it for now.
Black Cat then proceeds to beat Cindy in front of a few of her costumed cronies, showing everyone not to betray her, and it’s at this point that I’ve started to lose interest. For starters, there just seems to be no real emotion here. Felicia is fighting Cindy, and winning, but I’m not convinced that she’s mad. Aside from making a comment about being double-crossed, there was no real viciousness to suggest the rage she should have been feeling then. Oh, and also, where have all these guys she has on hand been previously? I don’t have to see more than a panel or two of the Shocker in a previous issue to know that he’s now working for Black Cat, but nope. I only see him now, when it’s convenient to have a crowd around. Lame.
That’s not to say everything is bad with this issue. While I think they need more exploration (like, a ton more), I think one of the more promising facets about Silk and her world is her supporting cast of characters. From a jollier J. Jonah Jameson, her co-workers Lola and Rafferty, to her S.H.I.E.L.D. handler Mockingbird, we get some amusing and emotionally valid tidbits from these characters that could ground Cindy and connect her more to the “civilian” side of the world if they’d be allowed more than the seemingly obligatory one- or two-pages of check-ins that we get in each issue. Jonah’s delight that he was right about Silk being a good guy (or girl. Whatever.) is a great example of this, as is Mockingbird’s concern for Cindy’s well-being throughout.
Tana Ford’s return to the artwork brings both positives and negatives to Cindy’s portrayal. I see a lot of non-detail given to Cindy’s hair being tucked over her ear, which may seem like a small thing, but it’s noticeable. Without some definition lines in that area, it looks like there’s simply a patch of skin on Cindy’s head that’s not growing hair, something I as a person with alopecia areata was quick to notice. Panels 1 and 4 on the third page were especially noticeable. Her action scenes are serviceable, though at times seem stilted, and she captures expressions and emotions that effectively convey what the characters are feeling. Portrait shots still seem to be Ford’s strongest suit, as there are several close-up or medium shots of Black Cat and Mockingbird (as well as others) that look wonderful.
Overall, it’s not particularly bad, but it’s certainly a step down from the previous issue, and ultimately lets down the setup that it had established with a by-the-numbers execution that feels like a checklist rather than a true payoff. It makes me wonder just what Marvel intends to do with this character, and why they keep developing her so unevenly. Hopefully we’ll see better from the reveal at the end of this issue, but I’m not holding my breath at this point.