After setting a strong stage for a new direction and tone in the previous issue of Silk, the narrative takes a turn for the strange, as Cindy and her friends Lola and Rafferty venture forth into the Negative Zone. There, they encounter talking dragons, giant eggs, and spatially isolated tracts of land floating in the space of the Zone. It’s a bold move, but one that will have an undoubtedly jarring effect on readers of this title.
I’ve mentioned before how the storytelling in this series has its ups and downs, with some issues setting up strong, interesting premises, and others failing to capitalize on those developments. While I’m not quite ready to condemn this issue as one of the “downs,” I can’t avoid the sense of having to hold my breath and see how things turn out next issue, for better or worse. I think it goes without saying that this is certainly a less desirable place to be than at the promising outset of the current adventure as it was started in the last installment.
It’s not necessarily the trippy direction this story has taken that I mind–it’s been more or less set up, after all–but such a noticeable jump in setting and tone from the more grounded, street-level stories in which Cindy’s been involved to the free-floating, space-fantasy setting of another dimension raises a number of questions and concerns. Cindy’s story, ever since she broke free from the constraints of her intro just before Spider-Verse, has been about finding her family, and finding herself as a spider-powered hero while making up for lost time. While the former situation may still apply, taking this quest literally off planet and into another universe begs for this plot to be resolved efficiently, one way or another.
It’s not that there are only bad or jarring aspects to this issue, either. After the heartwarming and uplifting onset of Lola and Rafferty knowing–and supporting–Cindy’s status as Silk, it’s nice to see one of the hanging plot threads involving the location of Cindy’s parents start to get resolved. I also found myself giggling at the continuance of pop culture references that Cindy still doesn’t get, and hope that’s a running gag that continues for some time. There’s even a reveal at the end of the issue that, while very obviously set up, is nevertheless a memorable and significant one.
With all of that said, however, there’s still a lot in this installment that had me scratching my head. First of all, I think it’s significant that the setting of the Negative Zone is something I only know the cover of the issue (and Lola) says that’s where they are. How does Lola know this? Did she see something in the missing doctor’s notes? I don’t remember reading anything about this, so it seems abrupt and forced to me at this point.
How does gravity work in the Negative Zone? At one point, Cindy has to make web parachutes for her friends when they jump down into the Zone’s space, but later Lola and Rafferty seem to be carelessly jumping between the free-floating steps without any need for rope, harnesses, or anything to assure they don’t misjudge and fall into the endless void. There’s no explanation for this, and it pulls me out of the narrative in a big way.
And again, for the love of verisimilitude, what the heck is up with Cindy’s webbing and the spontaneous creation of clothing or costumes? Is she some kind of fabric transmuter? How else do you explain the sudden appearance of Lola and Raff’s new clothes? And that they virtually match, with customized sigils? Does Cindy not realize this is a potentially very lucrative and marketable ability? She could totally have a career as a fashion designer or costume maker. (Seriously though. What is up with this? It *needs* to be explained somehow.)
I was rather pleased with Tana Ford’s artwork in this issue. She definitely draws pretty dragons, and her depictions of the Negative Zone fit with my scattered recollections of it as a place that is kind of free-floating, and which bends and often ignores the general rules governing time and space as we know them. Her faces are also a lot more consistent now, and I will say that I loved the popped-eyed surprise on Cindy’s face on the final splash page of the issue, as she finds out who the Red Knight is. Enjoyable all around, and supportive enough of the unusual premise of this issue.
I tend to think of Cindy as a kind of version of Peter Parker when he was still finding his way as a costumed hero, and while he certainly has made a visit to the Negative Zone a time or two over the years, they were not only few and far between, but it was also very clear that these excursions were brief breaks from the regular world of Spider-Man. Seeing Cindy here, this early in her career, and on a quest so intertwined with her personal quest, gives me pause. Again, I’m holding my breath, but I hope the creative team can either ramp up their narrative game here or wrap things up and return to the “real” world quickly.
Better artwork from Tana Ford helps support the strange new tone of this new story arc, which will undoubtedly surprise Silk readers. A number of narrative and plot inconsistencies don't help the trippy premise, leaving a question of where things will go, and how palatable readers will find them.