Not too long ago, strong female characters were like unicorns. Everybody had a concept of them, but nobody could honestly say they had seen one. It feels like comics, movies, and TV shows have only recently figured out the successful formula for making good female characters. They don’t have to be overtly sexual like Catwoman. They don’t have to be overly tough like Michelle Rodriguez in every movie she’s ever been in. They just have to be interesting in their own unique way. That really shouldn’t be such an alien concept. And yet, successful female characters still feel like an anomaly.
Characters like Kamala Khan, Princess Elsa, and whatever character Scarlett Johannsen plays in a movie have finally set the bar for what a successful female character should be. In that context, the jury is still out on Cindy Moon. She was one of the best concepts to come out of Original Sin. So far, she hasn’t been revealed to be a clone so she still has the potential to be in the same league as Kamala Khan.
Since her story began, she’s been a supporting character for Spider-Man and Spider-Woman. At times, she’s been a lost soul trying to find her place in a world she missed out on. Then there are times when she exists to make Peter Parker’s life more awkward, as only a cute young woman can. She’s not exactly a feminist icon, nor is she a character ripped from one of Hugh Hefner’s fantasies. Now she has her own solo series to show that she can be more than cuter version of Joe Pesci. And the results in Silk #1 show that Cindy Moon is still a work-in-progress.
In terms of being a hero, Silk is still a toddler who can’t stop spilling her juice cup. She has a hard time holding her own in a battle against a C-list villain like Dragonclaw. She still needs an assist from Spider-Man to keep herself from falling too hard on her face. She’s not a damsel, but she’s no She-Hulk either. She essentially a late-round draft pick in a class that has already produced some incredible talent. She’s not Tom Brady, but she has earned herself a starter role.
What makes Silk’s story so compelling is that it’s very different from Peter Parker’s. She didn’t fail to save or uncle or witness the murder of her parents. She was a victim of deception and fear. She was sequestered for a good chunk of her life because someone convinced her that she was a target and she did what might have sounded like a good idea to a scared teenager. Now, years later, she’s trying to rebuild her life without fear. She’s like one of those paranoid families in the 1950s that built bomb shelters because they thought nuclear war was imminent. Now they have to adjust to a life where the biggest threat comes from shoe bombers and kids who aren’t vaccinated against the measles.
The adjustment for Silk is what gives this story its unique flavor. Cindy Moon doesn’t just discover her powers and struggle over how to use them. That’s actually the easiest part of being sequestered for the better part of a decade. The real challenge is trying to adapting her life to a world where N’sync is no longer together and Carson Daily is no longer a relevant celebrity.
It’s a challenge that Cindy struggles with both in and out of costume. At times, she falters in a painfully human way. It doesn’t involve clones or mutant spiders. It involves a young woman trying to find her place in an unfamiliar world. She still struggles in ways that a young Peter Parker often struggled. She has a hard time with her new job. She has to learn to resist the urge to roll her eyes every time J. Jonah Jameson twists the facts to denigrate Spider-Man. It’s familiar, but there are some key differences.
There are still parts of Cindy Moon’s developing history that haven’t been resolved. The most pressing issue involves her family. They disappeared shortly after she went into the bunker and she’s made it her mission to find them. It’s a mission where she makes only limited progress, but it’s made compelling through recollections of Silk’s family life. This helps give some emotional weight to Silk’s motivations and it’s the kind of weight that further sets her apart from Peter Parker. So long as she doesn’t get cloned, this counts for a lot.
It also helps that her home life was different from Peter Parker’s. Her family wouldn’t exactly be guest stars on Jerry Springer, but they do establish that Cindy Moon had a home life that’s worth protecting. The problem is that fighting C-list villains like Dragonclaw and getting limited advice from Peter Parker don’t help her make much progress. In terms of the overall development of her story, she doesn’t get beyond the exposition. However, it does mean that there won’t be much excitement for those not entertained by Silk fighting Dragonclaw.
The scope of Silk’s story might not be at an epic scale, but Silk #1 does successfully establish why Cindy Moon is worth caring about. She’s dealing with issues that are decidedly different than the ones Peter Parker has been dealing with since the Nixon Administration. She’s adjusting to a world that’s overwhelming even for those who haven’t been locked in a bunker for a decade. She’s also trying to save her family in a way Peter Parker never got a chance to. And she has to do this while establishing herself as an inexperienced superhero.
Cindy Moon is definitely one of those characters who could have her own legion of cos-players at some point. She hasn’t achieved that status just yet, but she’s on her way to earning it. If she can tolerate working for J. Jonah Jameson, then she’s capable of standing with the rest of Marvel’s growing pantheon of powerful female heroes.