Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Jim Mooney
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editor: Tom DeFalco
Orderly: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Black Cat escapes from Mitchell State Hospital in upstate New York and returns to her life as a cat burglar. But she feels unfulfilled and pines for Spider-Man. She sends him a sky-written message, and he meets her at the site of their first encounter. There, the Cat tells Spidey that she will go straight for him, and as a show of good faith she gives him a priceless painting she stole from mob boss Phil Bradshaw, along with an invitation to meet again at a party thrown by Bradshaw the next night.

Spider-Man returns the painting to NYPD Captain Jean DeWolff and gets wind from her that the party may be raided by the police. The web-slinger meets the Black Cat at the party in a Jawa costume and a fight breaks out. Spider-Man and the Cat defeat Bradshaw's goons, and Bradshaw himself is arrested by DeWolff and her men. Afterward, the Cat reiterates her desire to go straight, and she and Spider-Man share a rooftop kiss.

The Sub-Plots: Peter feels overwhelmed by his teaching assistant duties on top of his graduate studies and his life as Spider-Man.

Continuity Notes: On the same night as the Black Cat's escape from Mitchell State Hospital, Greg Salinger is brought in following his defeat as Foolkiller last issue.

Before escaping, the Black Cat recaps her history with Spider-Man, including their first meeting in issues 194-195 and their more recent encounter in 204-205. She takes this opportunity to explain away the fact that when last we saw her, she was supposedly irrationally obsessed with Spider-Man.
Legend has it that Marv Wolfman originally intended the story to end much differently, possibly with the Cat murdered by an insane Jonah Jameson, but he departed the title before he could see it through. Fill-in writer David Michelinie was stuck with Wolfman's blurb on the final page of issue 194, promising a shock ending, so he came up with the insanity angle for Cat as a last-ditch effort.

Spider-Man notes near the story's opening that the highlight of his day was the Falcon buying him lunch in MARVEL TEAM-UP #114.

Bill Mantlo creation Captain Jean DeWolff, Spider-Man's midtown police contact, puts in an appearance this issue, and is seen driving her 1920s roadster, which is one of those "just ever so quirky" seventies things that makes me want to gag myself every time I see it.
Uncle Rog Speaks: "It was great working with [John Romita, Jr.]. He was already good, and he got better and better with every issue. Some of the early inking –- while technically all right -– didn’t really do his pencils justice. Towards the end of our run, when guys like Dan Green and Klaus Janson started inking the book, things really started to shine.

"...Our differences were mainly cultural. J.R. is the hip young guy from the city, and I’m the shlub from the Midwest. Now that I think of it, he’s Spider-Man and I’m Peter Parker. Together, it all worked out pretty well."

John Romita, Jr. Speaks: "I don't know about 'hip.' If he feels that way, that's fine. I think that was just Roger's way of being funny. We were both relatively young and inexperienced in the business, but with enough experience to get by." -- MODERN MASTERS VOLUME 18: JOHN ROMITA JR., TwoMorrows Publishing, 2008

The Spider's Web: This month's letters offer thoughts on issue #222, a Bill Mantlo/Bob Hall fill-in featuring Speed Demon. We also have suggestions for Spider-Man to address the issue of teen suicide, to pursue a public relations campaign to better his reputation, and to meet Nova, the human rocket.

Also On Sale This Month: Cloak and Dagger debut in PETER PARKER #64, and Spider-Man joins forces with Thor in MARVEL TEAM-UP #115.

My Thoughts: I'm a fan of the Black Cat, so I enjoy most any story where she's written well -- which is to say, as a femme fatale adversary for Spider-Man. Thankfully, Stern is wise enough to realize she was not properly presented in her last appearance, and uses this opportunity to rectify that by playing off her insanity as a ruse because "'s so much easier to bide your time and escape from a hospital... than from a prison!" The revelation that the Cat really does have an interest in Spider-Man -- though not in the batty way we were originally told -- and wants to go straight for him, is a nifty twist and leaves a reader genuinely wondering just where Stern will go with this story.
John Romita, Jr. is not an artist I've ever associated with sexy girls. Glamorous and beautiful girls yes, at least at this stage of his career -- but not sexy. However we're a couple decades away from the Black Cat becoming the queen of Marvel cheesecake, so she doesn't necessarily need to be depicted as overly sexy here anyway. And Romita does play up her beauty and glamour, especially in a scene where she sits alone in a penthouse apartment pining over Spider-Man while wearing an evening gown, so while he may not draw the definitive Black Cat, he certainly does a more than serviceable job with the character. His skill at drawing lovely women is showcased in another scene this issue as well, when Peter attempts to hit on a young lady at the laundromat before realizing his unshaven, unkempt appearance is doing him no favors.
So while this may not be the cream of Stern's crop, it's certainly a sight better than a comparable issue of SPECTACULAR if only because of Romita's artwork. The Cat is slinky and seductive and Spider-Man is in character as always. There is only the barest hint of a sub-plot, which would knock a lesser story down a few pegs, but since Stern and Romita are such masters of the Spider-Man style, this is barely a point against the issue.

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