Silk 4

silk 4

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Silk 4, originally released May 13th, 2015.

“My body can stretch all around this building. It’s natural state is a giant puddle of, well, me. It takes everything I have to hold myself together. So, yes. I’ve had anxiety.”

Reed Richards, Silk 4

Patrick: For obvious reasons, most superhero narratives that deal with mental illness stay pretty close PTSD or anger management problems. While debilitating issues in real life, in the realm of fiction, that all sounds very sexy — these afflictions either steam from or drive a character to action. Usually both. And it doesn’t much matter how negatively a writer tries to paint Bruce Wayne’s grief- and guilt-ridden revenge episodes, the reader always wants to see Batman kicking ass. Punisher may not be able to sleep without a gun under his pillow, but we sorta like that. Silk 4 toys with the idea that mental illness isn’t always so obvious and often isn’t so action-packed.

Silk’s been recruited by the Fantastic Four! Or, at least, the Richards have taken her in and offered her some guidance in her new life as a superhero. This takes many forms, but writer Robbie Thompson is careful to make our introduction to this process the most easily recognizable: superhero training. Like countless issues of X-Men that open with Danger Room scenarios, this story begins in a simulation. Unlike those X-fake-outs, the phoniness of this encounter is broadcast from just about every angle. For starters, Cindy asks if “this is the last one,” implying that she knows that something is going to happen. She and Reed banter about the “test” she’s about to go through. If that’s not enough, colorist Ian Herring adopts a more washed-out color palette for this scene, reminiscent of the palette he employs for Cindy’s flashback sequences. Then, in case there were any lingering questions, the second page splash makes the fantasy plainly evident.

Galactus has the whole Silk in his hands

“Awesome” indeed, Cindy. She’s not scared when she finds herself in the palm of Galactus. When we see Reed strapped into a VR headset on the next page, it comes as no surprise. It’s like Thompson is making a pact of transparency with the reader. We can present things that aren’t real, but we’re always going to know that they’re not real.

Which is what makes Reed’s diagnosis of Cindy’s anxiety feel all the more genuine. Reed doesn’t get into specifics — he’s not a shrink after all — but it is clear throughout the issue that Cindy has a hard time being comfortable in her own skin, needing to distract herself with activity. I think my favorite scene in the issue, and one that hits close to home for me, is when Cindy’s putting in some extra hours at the TV station. Her voiceover lets us know that Cindy’s changing the subject with some classic deflection: “Anxiety? […] That’s not my problem. She’s my problem.” That’s what brings her into the station to dig up archived footage of Black Cat. J. Jonah Jameson’s read of what she’s doing there might not have 100% of the details right, but he does recognize that she’s avoiding something. It’s a beautiful scene, illuminative of Cindy’s character by her inability to respond to JJ’s comments.

J Jonah Jameson knows what's wrong with cindy moon silk

That slumped-over posture in the final panel says more than words ever could. This is also an example of Annapaola Martello employing the same basic image several panels in a row. We see it here, we see it after she slugged Peter for not being discreet about her past, we even see it in a flashback to an awkward childhood trauma. All of those moments are meant to show Cindy’s growing discomfort in a situation.

There’s one more phenomenal example of this device later, but I wanted to throw the breaks on and address Cindy’s parents walking in on a freshly webbed room. There’s a lot of sexuality built into this character’s DNA, from the organic webs, to her original hand-spun costume, to the pheromone explosion that occurs whenever she’s in the room with Peter. I’m not sure I have the timeline totally figured out for when Cindy was bitten by that radioactive spider, but the drawings of young Cindy make her look like she’s a young teenager. Cindy essentially has the X-Men experience, where emerging superpowers are a metaphor for puberty.

Perhaps that’s why Cindy has some sexual/romantic hang-ups that she can’t really get over. I absolutely adore Cindy and Johnny storm’s date.

Silk and Torch on a date

Of course, they go out, fight a bunch of crime and have a great time. When it’s just the two of them having to be human beings at each other, the anxiety overrules their desire to have a good time. But when there’s work to be done, or bad guys to best, Johnny can provide Cindy with some genuine comfort.

I don’t totally know if that’s healthy, but goddamn, is that a coping mechanism I understand. Don’t quite know how to stay in touch with my friends when I move across the country? I’ll start a comic blog with them! Don’t know how to hang out with my current friends? Do improv! I absolutely couch as many social interactions as I can in “work.”

Spencer, do you find this dimension of Cindy Moon as relatable and charming as her outdated popculture references? And why don’t we see more family dinners at the Baxter Building? IT’S SLOBBERING TIME.

Spencer: I can’t imagine Johnny and Ben eat together too often. It would just be one constant food fight if they did.

Anyway Patrick, I definitely find Cindy as relatable as always, and one aspect of her personality that resonates with me this month is how she doesn’t even really seem to understand exactly what anxiety is.

anxious people can't dance

Admittedly, Cindy is trying to convince herself that she doesn’t have anxiety problems, but she also seems to think that anxiety would leave her socially crippled 24/7. She can’t have anxiety because she’s “normal,” right? But that’s not how anxiety — or any variety of mental illness — works. Cindy’s viewpoint here isn’t the most enlightened, but it is understandable, partially because she’s been locked in a bunker for ten years and partially because she desperately wants to control her life, and anxiety is something she can’t control, so of course she’s going to deny it.

Now I wouldn’t go as far as to call Silk a control freak, but yeah, I definitely feel like a loss of control in her life is one of the causes of her anxiety. Think about it for a second: Cindy spent ten years living alone in an isolated bunker. I’m not going to act like that’s an easy life, but it’s one where she controlled every aspect of her day. I imagine that Cindy became very self-reliant and self-sufficient while in that bunker, and the idea of asking others for help now that she’s outside has to be hard. But she needs that help, because interacting with people and the outside world again after a decade away is unmanageable alone. It’s no wonder she’s turning to her work as a distraction — as I mentioned when discussing issue two, Cindy’s good at her work, be it at the Fact Channel or fighting crime as Silk, and her competency gives her the kind of control she desires, the kind she’s not going to find in her personal life right now.

I definitely think Cindy would be best off seeing the therapist Reed recommended, or at least sticking around with the Four for a while for company, but I can understand why she’s hesitant to turn to them for help. The two page flashback of Cindy discovering her powers — and quickly becoming overwhelmed by them — seems a bit out of place in this issue at first, but it’s included because it shows who Cindy’s real support system is. Her mom and dad protect her and help her through anything — she even reveals her powers to them immediately, and I should note that this is something Peter Parker still hasn’t managed to do, even as an adult. The fact that Cindy’s lost the people who mean the most to her, and who fill this vital role in her life when she needs their help the most, is pretty devastating, and probably contributing to Cindy’s anxiety in its own way.

Thankfully, that doesn’t stop her from accepting that date with Johnny Storm, even if she may have done it just to spite Peter. Cindy no doubt would benefit from more serious counseling, but for the moment, Johnny is exactly what she needs. Johnny absolutely does not understand what he’s doing, but combining his advice with actual crime fighting is the perfect way to get through to Cindy — no doubt she’s most receptive to new ideas when she’s working. After all, that’s where she feels most comfortable right now.

Filling in for our regular artist Stacey Lee is Annapaola Martello, who is making her debut both on Silk and for Marvel Comics in general this week. Martello’s style is quite different from Lee’s lush, somewhat retro take, but Martello’s wiry, energetic figures suit Silk‘s youthful feel just fine in their own right. I just wish her work were a bit more consistent — much of the time her faces are remarkably expressive, but when caught at the wrong angle they can look misshapen. Her take on the Thing seems to vary every time he appears. And while there’s some truly stellar body language on display here (such as Cindy slumping over her desk while JJJ talks to her in the second passage Patrick posted), there’s also a few absolutely cringeworthy poses to go along with it.

is she doing the time warp?

Normally I’d be quick to dismiss this as unnecessary sexualization of Black Cat, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here at all — despite Felicia shoving her boobs out, this isn’t a sexual pose, just an awkward, unflattering one.

It’s moments like that which keep me from fully engaging with the artwork, but I do think Martello has potential, and I’m curious to see how her style will continue to evolve in the future. Likewise, I can’t wait to see how Silk evolves now that she seems to have accepted and recognized her anxiety. I mean, that’s the first step towards getting help, right? Silk still has a long journey ahead of her, but she’s certainly on the right path.

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?

6 comments on “Silk 4

  1. I don’t get it.

    I’m new to comics, so that might have something to do with it. But I’ve been reading stuff leading up to Secret Wars. I just read Silk 1 – 6, and have held off on 7 because I’m following a reading order.
    I also read Time Runs Out.

    … How is Reed Richards here? With the Fantastic Four? Is he not on the run with the Illuminati? It doesn’t seem like much time has passed between this and the end of Silk#6 which shows that it’s right at the incursion storyline…. so what is with this clean shaven Fantastic 4 Reed Richards?

    Do comics just really suck at continuity?

    • I can really only answer your last question: kinda, yes.

      It’s hard to place the Reed Richards of Hickman’s run on Avengers / New Avengers / Secret Wars with any appearance that he makes in anything else (including James Robinson’s Fantasic Four series, and (to a lesser extent) Matt Fraction’s Fantastic Four and FF series from that same period. Time Runs Out and the lead-in to Secret Wars mark the end of one reality, which is what the 2015 Silk takes place in, so I think it’s okay to assume that this just takes sometime between Spider-Verse and Time Runs Out.

      But yeah, you kinda just have to allow for there being some events that don’t totally line up. I always like to think of it as not reading “Marvel Comics” as a singular story, but just a lot of individual stories that borrow characters, concepts and events from each other.

    • Time Runs Out was after an eight month time skip in the Avengers comics. While Avengers was 8 months ahead, the rest of the comics slowly caught up. However, while these comics did explain some of that eight months (including explaining major status quo changes for Captain America etc), the needs to be their own stories first meant they never really caught up. An exact timeline is always impossible in comics, but I would say that the first two months of Time Runs Out’s time skip is explained by other comics, and then everything misses the next six months (which are full of the Illuminati on the run etc) and then you have Time Runs Out and Last Days. So this issue of Silk takes place just before Reed Richards goes on the run, even though it was released later. And on why it doesn’t feel like any time has taken place? Assume nothing interesting happened. Silk had relatively quiet, uneventful period where the only major event was Time Runs Out, which she was uninvolved with.

      Continuity at comics is never a perfectly intricately clock, but generally works 95% of the time, as long as look a decade back. But the nature of long story arcs means that stories often begin after still uncompleted story arcs, and similar things that mean release date doesn’t perfectly explain when something is set. And sometimes, you’ve got to fit things together in the only way it can, even if it means leaving 6 months of Silk’s life unexplained

    • I see! Thank you both for your responses.

      That’ll take some getting used to 😮
      Don’t know in any other medium where you can account for some sort of 6 month time skip at an indeterminate point in the story that is never outright addressed.

      Not that it’s a bad thing. But it sure is new to me.

      • When you release at least a dozen new issues of week, all down by a variety of writers all doing mostly independent stories AND have up to 75 years of history, it is kind of required. But it does take some time to get used to

        The best way I find to approach superhero continuity is to treat it kind of like myths. The story will never line up perfectly, and as the myth evolves, certain things will feel outdated etc.

        So just as you can never have a perfect knowledge of the continuity specifics of Thor and Loki in Norse myth, you will never know the exact continuity specifics of Thor and Loki in Marvel comics.

      • It definitely does take some getting used to. Matt’s right that there’s really no other medium like this. I mean, even something like the MCU, with it’s half a dozen TV shows and like 13 movies doesn’t come anywhere near the continuity knot that comics have to wrestle with on a month-to-month basis.

        I remember being kinda bummed about it when i first got into comics (like 5 years ago), but I pretty quickly learned that the best stories are those that let the continuity adhere to them instead of the other way ’round. I hope you stick it out and figure out how it best works for you – it’s a rad ride.What else are you reading?

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