Review: Silk #1: Mea Culpa, Asking For a Friend

Silk 1 cover

Surprise! I bet after all the piss and vinegar I laid at the feet of Amazing Spider-Man #14, especially as it related to its portrayal of Silk, the last thing you thought you would see on Chasing Amazing are my reflections about Silk #1 – a series I was pretty adamant against buying/reviewing.

Well, things change and I’m a hypocrite. Are you happy now? Seriously, does this make you happy, because I feel all sorts of weird putting this write-up together at the moment.

OK, now that I’m done looking at the mirror and repeating a mantra as if I’m Stuart Smalley, let me just clarify my dramatic 180 on Cindy Moon, aka, Silk, by saying a number of you reached out to me last week after this issue debuted to let me know it wasn’t all that bad. It piqued my curiosity, so I thought I’d check out if my problems with Silk were really with the character herself, or with Dan Slott’s interpretation of the character. Given the positive buzz the issue was getting, I was starting to think it would be the latter of those two scenarios.

Silk 1 01

And that would be 100 percent correct. Silk #1 is not going to win any awards, but writer Robbie Thompson and artist Stacey Lee have put forward a strong debut for the character – enough so that I’m willing to give these series a handful of issues to see where it goes (with that said, expect to see me continue to write about the series until I decide to do otherwise).

Comparing Thompson/Lee’s Silk with the iteration that was first introduced by Slott in ASM #4 is like comparing two totally different characters. The shifts in tone and characterization are really that stark. Gone is the overly confident, seemingly flawless heroine that was upstaging Peter Parker (and saving his butt – when she wasn’t grabbing it) at every turn in favor of a character I honestly expected Silk to be when her concept was first pitched last year: a young woman who is struggling with the fact that she was in isolation for 10 years and has now been unleashed on a world she doesn’t truly understand.

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Such an approach makes Silk far more relateable, not just to Marvel’s coveted female fanbase, but to all readers. I sometimes wonder if Slott and the Spider-office just dreamt up Silk as some kind of perfect female Spider-Man analogue – someone who was stronger, faster, braver, more competent, etc. The only flaw the character seemed to have, was her ability to irritate everyone around her – not exactly a strong selling point to women or men who are trying to identify with the superheroes in their comics (hey this character is awesome in every way but she annoys the hell out of everyone – it’s gold!).

Marvel has long been the publisher that is known for stories about characters who are outcasts and different from the norm – and yet inherently human and sympathetic. How else do you have heroes like Thing, the X-Men, the Hulk, and of course, Spider-Man? Even Marvel’s two current premier female-led books, Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, feature wonderful characters who are both engaging and flawed. Captain Marvel has cosmic power and yet she can’t seem to keep her personal life in order. Ms. Marvel – like Peter 50 years earlier – is a teenager who has had frightening powers thrust upon her that she now must learn to use responsibly.

That’s why it’s really difficult to understand why we just didn’t get the Thompson/Lee version of Silk from the beginning. Maybe if Marvel had offered fans a softer introduction a la what they did with Spider-Gwen (giving her a solo spotlight in Edge of Spider-Verse before delivering a back-up story in Spider-Verse Team-Up) that fleshed the character out a bit, there would have been far less pushback from a considerable segment of the fanbase regarding the launch of Silk.

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Because how many fans out there intentionally didn’t give this book a chance? I know Marvel has already announced that Silk is getting a second printing – but it seems like only books that Marvel has zero confidence in (or featured characters owned by Fox Studios) fail to get second printings for No. 1 issues these days. What’s unfortunate, I think even people who were turned off by Silk in the pages of ASM would find some redeeming qualities for the character in this first issue.

Silk’s biggest flaw in terms of first issues is I’m still not entirely sure what unique exciting thing this book is bringing to the table. The hook at this point seems to be centered around Cindy trying to find her lost parents – an admirable attempt to add some depth to the character but nothing I would declare to be original or fresh, especially when the comic hits us with that final image of Silk starring at the big board with newspaper clippings of her parents (a visual I feel like I’ve seen in dozens of other comics, movies, TV shows). I think the ultimate success of this series rests in Thompson and Lee landing on that unique angle. If you want a clear example of what I’m talking about, consider how Superior Foes of Spider-Man took a bizarre concept (a book about Spider-Man’s D-list rogues) and made it work by making it a frenetically-paced caper that was also scatological with its humor and was extraordinarily art-driven.

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Lee’s artwork certainly gives Silk a bouncy and vibrant look and feel, but the narrative, save for a few “I’m asking for a friend” lines from Cindy, doesn’t move beyond the standard elevator pitch of “Silk is a comic about a female version of Spider-Man who isn’t Jessica Drew.” That’s not a knock on Thompson as I firmly believe he is the first creator to even get me to consider caring about Silk, but I’m still approaching this book with hesitance stemming from the fact that Marvel has yet to give me a reason to be excited about this book.

The good news is, I’m actually approaching this book, something I otherwise refused to do less than a week ago. Hopefully Thompson and Lee are up to the task and can tell a compelling story before everything in the Marvel U goes to pot in a few months for Secret Wars, because I anticipate in Silk fails to reverberate in that time, the concept will get ditched by the time SW comes to a close.

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