This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on July 7, 2016.
When you talk about Marvel Comics, you often talk about franchises. You don’t just discuss the Avengers or X-Menbook, but the Avengers or X-Men line as a whole. It’s how the publisher has organized their IP in order to better manage and sell it. This year, Comics Bulletin Co-Managing Editor Chase Magnett has been diving down the rabbit hole of these franchises in review series. So far he has tackled classic teams like The Avengers and X-Men as well as Marvel’s push to make the Inhumans happen. Now he’s looking at a franchise based not on a team, but a single character: Spider-Man. Is the massive proliferation of Spider-books resulting in quality or just quantity? Let’s find out.
Silk # 9
Written by Robbie Thompson
Art by Stacey Lee
Colors by Ian Herring
Letters by Travis Lanham
Silk #9 is a study in working backwards. It is an issue that starts with a deficit of good will and creative choices, and then manages to recover in surprising ways. On the very first page, there is a notable lack of effort put into the kerning of the recap. The bottom few lines are riddled with massive spaces making it almost unreadable. As minor as this quibble may seem, it sets a poor tone for the story to come and reveals a lack of effort from someone involved in the book’s creation.
It does not help that the first three pages of the issue build from the least to most interesting plots, and all of them are entirely focused on exposition. Opening with a pair of reporters discussing rental management is always a poor choice when inter-dimensional mischief and high-tech heists are waiting in the wings. If the recap were not enough, these pages are loaded with characters recounting what has come before in great detail. The concept that every comic may be someone’s first is frightening here not because a new reader would be confused, but bored to tears.
When the A-plot finally arrives it is slowed even further by a PhotoShop-level drop down menu of an internal monologue from Silk. At this exciting kick off of the issue’s adventure, writer Robbie Thompson includes a waterfall of text that, in spite of some cute jokes, grinds the already interminable pacing to a halt. And so the first four pages of this comic are a slog, the sort of thing that would make many leave it on the stands if just looking at the intro. The quality found throughout the rest of the issue is almost miraculous in comparison.
From this point on dialogue is heavily emphasized over captions to great effect. Silk and Black Cat’s heist is nothing particularly special with no notable action and a series of events based on the needs of the plot. All of that is easily forgiven based on how these two characters interact though. Their conversation exposes surprising connections and levels of empathy. Watching these two bond, especially after months of tension and close calls, is a welcome relief and one that does not even require context to function.
The most effective element of this shared bonding comes from artist Stacey Lee’s compositions. She turns a flashback spread of Black Cat’s history into an exciting poster-worthy recap. Her use of space, with both characters trapped in an elevator shaft within a highly mechanized building, is excellent. A sense of claustrophobia is present throughout the issue in the many hallways and underground bunkers, and is never more present than in this conversation. They are cut off from the world by their shared traumas and find a welcome relief in sharing with one another. Lee’s creation of this visual metaphor in a literal trap is very well executed.
And so it makes sense that at the end of the issue when all of the characters are exposed to open air and a free appearance that the real trap is sprung. This is an ending that makes the story preceding, including some of the lackluster introduction, much more valuable. It is the sort of twist that doesn’t require you to re-read what came before, but makes you desire doing just that.
Silk #9 does not open well, but it finds a way to make the reading experience worthwhile to readers who take the time to read it all. The series continuing examination of trauma and recovery is dealt with very well in both its visuals and dialogue, and it does not miss a chance for an excellent cliffhanger. It’s not hard to see how the modern exploits of Silk could surpass those of her predecessor Spider-Man. If only the editorial team could be bothered to design a decent recap page.