Dammit if Dan DiDio's master plan isn't working. Diving into a project as controversial as Before Watchmen with exceptional talent in his arsenal was a design to make it nearly impossible to resist on creators-rights grounds that idealists might want to champion. How can anyone expect us NOT to read a Darwyn Cooke/Amanda Conner collaboration? They are two of the best in the business.
Screw cupcakes. Before Watchmen is the definition of a guilty pleasure. At least the Cooke corner is, anyway. He's making Minutemen compelling all on his own, and with the help of the incomparable Conner, he's managing to do the same for Silk Spectre.
It helps that Cooke is exploring the few aspects of Watchmen that could stand having a little more information. The Minutemen have the most room for exploration, but Laurie Juspeczyk often seemed to come across as shrill and embittered, and a mess of conflicts. She resented her mother for forcing that crimefighting lifestyle onto her childhood, and yet kinda got off on it when she was actually doing it. That conflict are on display in Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #2, but without that crust of cynical spite. It's a strange mix of wide-eyed youthful exuberance and ruthless aggression that makes for a great hook.
Last issue, we saw teenage Laurie run away from her mother with her new boyfriend and hop into a hippie van on the way to San Francisco, heading into the midst of the Haight-Ashbury culture of the 1960s. She's in love with her newfound freedom, but cares enough to send her Uncle Hollis a letter so she can assure him (and her mother, by proxy) that she's not sleeping in a ditch somewhere. While enjoying her optimistic peace and love lifestyle, she also takes it upon herself to become the Silk Spectre she was always training to be when she overhears plans for a murder. This even manages to give us an explanation (or an excuse) for her absolutely ridiculous costume in the original series – the first iteration of her outfit is just a '60s mod dress, and if that's the initial style she's basing all future designs on, of course we end up with a black swimsuit with a sheer yellow top draped over it by the 1980s. Then, after her first successful crimefighting outing, she comes back home and immediately jumps the bones of her boyfriend. You can see where that twisted cycle began – it's not until next time out that she realizes to her dismay that she is actually making her mother proud, and by then, it's too late to stop.
I'm not really sold on the antagonism here – Frank Sinatra colluding with evil funkadelic crimelords to foist mind-control drugs on the free love culture in order to foment consumerism – but Cooke and Conner are so good individually and so good together that I'm willing to follow them wherever they lead me. They've got the benefit of every doubt.
And I really hope they eventually do something together that's NOT a Watchmen spinoff. I'd like to take the guilt out of this pleasure.