Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Silk 2, originally released March 18th, 2015.
That’s gonna be a…you know, a…fascinating transition.
Walter Bankston, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Drew: And just like that, Silk‘s story of a girl trying to make it in New York after spending several years in a bunker has entered the zeitgeist…as the logline of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Two narratives having similar premises and release dates is a common phenomenon in Hollywood, from A Bug’s Life and Antz to The Prestige and The Illusionist, and while the similarities are often superficial, the perceived sameness can rob both narratives of their sense of originality. Silk has the benefit of being released first (with its title character’s origin introduced back in Amazing Spider-Man 4), but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has managed to get more of its story out quicker. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve already watched every episode of Kimmy Schmidt (which may explain why I’m picking up on the similarities so strongly), so I’m decidedly biased in terms of who owns the narrative, but the overlap actually lends Silk 2 the familiar charm of a series that has been around much, much longer.
To the issue’s credit, the fish-out-of-water elements are only a very small part of the story, which actually pulls genre influences from detective stories, manga, even Proust. Still, a big part of the charm of this issue is just seeing Cindy spouting hopelessly outdated popculture references. Over the course of the issue, Cindy refers to herself as a Ninja Turtle, and paraphrases lines from both Seinfeld and The Simpsons.
Explicit references to sitcoms from my childhood? Shut up and take my money! [Ed. Note: after writing this, I was shocked to discover the episode of Futurama quoted here actually came out in 2010, but I’m leaving it in because I thought it was funny.] Seriously, though, pop culture references are decidedly more charming when they’re so self-consciously dated, and I love the fact that Cindy has no more modern reference points to draw from. It’s also one of my favorite gags from Kimmy Schmidt, but what can I say? I’m not sick of it yet.
But like I mentioned, those elements are only a small part of the actual issue. Cindy’s quest to track down her parents takes her on an all-too-familiar “you can’t go home again” tour of her old neighborhood, ending with discovering her favorite pizza place has closed. That’s also where Proust enters the picture, as peering in the window reminds Cindy of her last memory there: when she broke up with her boyfriend prior to entering the bunker.
It’s a bittersweet memory — rendered all the more bitter by Stacey Lee’s sweet-as-pie character designs — but is rudely interrupted when a Hydra-bot runs through memory lane. Cindy is able to beat the robot handily, but apparently that was the point: whoever sent it was just trying to collect a blood sample, which they managed to do just fine. We don’t yet have a clue who that could be (though the fact that they have access to the bot after S.H.I.E.L.D. confirms that it was an older model makes me a bit suspicious), but a big baddie working behind the scenes only works to further distinguish this series from Kimmy Schmidt.
Of course, so does Cindy’s quest to track down her family. I’m currently a bit more invested in the latter, which writer Robbie Thompson has built in to quite the mystery, but ultimately, I suspect that these two threads might be one-in-the-same. I’m hooked, either way. This might be a “come for the sitcom-y antics, stay for the compelling mystery” for me, but it really all hinges on the wealth of charm this series enjoys. Thompson has nailed Cindy’s quirky voice, and Lee’s art supports that lighter tone every step of the way. The clever layout and dynamic action scenes are just icing on the cake, though they’re important icing that I’m now regretting not leaving more space for. Spencer! I hope you can talk a little bit more about what makes Lee’s action sequences so good, though I guess I can’t blame you if you just want to gush about Simpsons references, too.
Spencer: It’s always a cromulent time to gush about Simpsons references, Drew! I actually love that Cindy peppers her conversations with these references; if she was locked in a bunker for ten years, she probably had little to do but watch TV, and all these shows are likely ones she would have been familiar with even before her exile. Still, they’re good choices if she’s trying to reintegrate back into society: I mean, TMNT still exists in multiple formats (including Retcon Punch’s current favorite version), The Simpsons is still pumping out new episodes, and even Seinfeld is rerun so many times a day that it might as well not even have been cancelled. They’re classics more than they’re dated, and I get the feeling that “classic” might be something Cindy’s actively pursuing, even when it comes to her wardrobe.
I absolutely want to gush about Stacey Lee’s art, so let’s start here — what a gorgeous outfit. I know nothing about fashion, but it’s clear that Lee has an eye for it. I actually see a lot of Darwyn Cooke in her work, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment — it’s classy without being old fashioned, which is a harder balance to achieve than one might imagine. But just because Lee’s art is stylish and classy doesn’t mean she can’t pull off an action scene like nobody’s business.
Lee imbues Silk with a real sense of weight and movement, especially in those first two panels — I can feel the power behind her punch, or even behind her landing on the robot in that first panel. I think the fourth panel here might just be my favorite in the entire issue, though — at one point Drew compares Lee’s work to manga, but this panel is so cinematic it might as well be anime. Not only does Lee perfectly create the effect of movement, but she effortlessly conveys just how fast Silk truly is.
Colorist Ian Herring is indispensable as well, bathing most of the book in cool hues that match Lee’s softer figures but flare up at just the right moments to punch up the action. Herring’s at his best, though, when he’s working to set a mood; this may be most apparent in the scene where Cindy runs across her old high school boyfriend, Hector.
There’s still a connection between these two, as strained as it may be, and when they’re together the background fades away, the detail and bustle of the city reduced to only a few points of light that manage to break through the fog. This background is reserved for only when Cindy and Hector are speaking to each other — as soon as Hector’s fiancee enters the picture, regular backgrounds appear, only to fade away one more time as Hector watches Cindy walk away — and is a powerful visual shorthand for the effect these two characters have on each other.
I also love the mood Herring strikes during Cindy’s search for answers about her parents.
I don’t know whether it was Thompson or Herring’s idea to set this scene at sundown, but it’s a powerful choice. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about the orange glow of sunset that evokes nostalgia, giving an already sad scene just a touch of bittersweetness. Cindy’s search is actually the part of the issue that resonated the most for me. I didn’t spend a decade in a bunker, but I still feel like I can relate to Cindy here. I turn 28 in 8 days, and this June will be 10 years since I graduated high school. Time is flying, and things are constantly changing. Every once in a while I see friends from high school and they’re often barely recognizable; half the stores on the street I used to work on have changed; it sometimes make me feel left behind, out of the loop, and irrelevant. I can only imagine how much worse that feeling must be for Cindy, and I admire her gumption in continuing to go out into a world she no longer fits into or understands in order to find her family, battle evil, and just live her life, whether society can relate to her or not.
So, much like Drew, I found Cindy’s personal life just a bit more interesting than whatever dark plans are being hatched against Silk, and I think Thompson realizes that too — while enemies get the drop on Cindy twice, she still dispatches the Hydra robot rather easily, and with quite an impressive display of ingenuity and power at that. The real challenge for Cindy in Silk 2 is the personal stuff, not the villains. That seems likely to change in future issues, but Thompson, Lee, and Herring have already proved themselves capable of handling anything they decide to throw at Silk. In the meantime, I look forward to the next issue, when I’ll once again get to spend time in the bittersweet beauty of Silk‘s world.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?