Friday, June 5, 2015

BLACK CAT (2010)

Writer: Jen Van Meter | Artists: Javier Pulido & Javier Rodriguez
Color Art: Matt Hollingsworth w/Javier Rodriguez | Letters: VC's Joe Carmagna
Assistant Editor: Tom Brennan | Editor: Stephen Wacker | Executive Editor: Tom Brevoort
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine
Covers by Amanda Conner & Christina Strain

Also known as AMAZING SPIDER-MAN PRESENTS: BLACK CAT, this limited series was published during the "Brand New Day" era of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, as a sort of "side story" taking place during the events of the storyline called "The Gauntlet", in which Kraven the Hunter's family banded together to set challenge after challenge against Spider-Man in order to soften him up for their own final attack.

The story follows Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, as Vasili Sidarov, a servant of the Kravinov family, kidnaps Felicia's mother and uses her to blackmail the Cat into stealing several items for him, which once belonged to the Kravinovs. But the Cat works with her gear suppliers, sisters named Kyoto and Tami, and her tech guru Poet, to turn the tables on Vasili, rescue her mother, and escape from the Kravinovs.

The artwork on this series is a bit of a let-down for me, personally. Don't mistake my opinion, however -- I think Javiers Pulido and Rodriguez are both excellent cartoonists. Their styles would fit an ongoing Spider-Man series wonderfully, especially alongside other similarly styled artists such as Marcos Martin, Paolo Rivera, and Chris Samnee. They draw a terrific web-slinger, and the general action and storytelling in this series are great. I can't state that enough before moving on: I like these artists quite a bit.

But they're mismatched on the Black Cat, a character who looks best when rendered with a certain amount of lovingly delineated T&A, which these two just don't deliver. The covers by Amanda Conner, however, are just perfect. Her Black Cat is heroic and dynamic, but also sexy and glamorous. It's excellent cheesecake, just right for the character. I think I would've enjoyed this series a lot more if Conner or Terry Dodson or someone else of their style had provided the interior artwork. But instead we get the Javiers, who, while highly competent and very talented, just don't deliver the sex quotient the Black Cat deserves -- nay, demands.

Jen Van Meter's story doesn't ring quite true either, unfortunately. I like her handle on the Black Cat's character -- carefree risk-taker who never seems to take anything very seriously even as she worries beneath the surface. And Van Meter tries to play up a sort of "globe-trotting adventuress" side to the character, but overall it falls sort of flat. Most of the action takes place in New York, with only a couple briefly covered excursions away. And the idea that the Black Cat has suppliers for her equipment and a tech guy she's constantly in Bluetooth contact with just doesn't feel right. As I recall, she used to get her gear from the Tinkerer, which works much better for me than these two spunky Japanese girls.

There's also a sub-plot about the Cat's mother not trusting her and the Cat attempting to win her over. I haven't read every Black Cat appearance ever published, but I don't recall this antagonistic relationship between them before. I thought the Cat's mom was just... her mom. Their relationship always seemed fine to me. Also off is the idea that the Cat is, as stated on the series' recap pages (but never directly addressed in-story), a "wealthy socialite". When did this happen? The Felicia Hardy I remember was a career criminal and/or adventurer, but never especially rich. And if she is a wealthy socialite, then why does she work for the mayor's office (a tidbit also dropped on the recap pages)?

Lastly, after his scheme falls apart, Vasili pleads with the Kravinovs for his life by trying to bargain with the Black Cat's real name. Thing is, I'm pretty sure that's public knowledge, considering that she's been arrested and unmasked in the past. Van Meter doesn't seem to have done much homework with regards to the Cat's long history.

But the continuity with the then-current stories is fine, at least. It's been a few years since I read the "Gauntlet" and "Grim Hunt" storylines from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, but this mini-series seems to thread nicely through those issues, and provides a reason for the Black Cat's disappearance from Spider-Man's life -- something I seem to recall wasn't really addressed during the latter part of the "Brand New Day" era. She was there, getting it on with Spidey for a while, then she vanished.

Tellingly, the one thing I really liked about this story was the brief reference in issue 1 to the Cat's co-creator, artist Keith Pollard. We see a mention of the Pollard Hotel, and in a cute touch from Javier Pulido, the hotel's marquee sign is a vertical version of Pollard's distinctive signature. I thought this was a nice acknowledgment of the guy who visualized the Black Cat for the first time.

Overall though, this is a largely forgettable mini-series. It wants to be a crime drama, a heist story, and a globe-trotting adventure, but it doesn't do any of those particularly well. Some decent cheesecake art might have made it more worthwhile, but the mismatched artists can't save the sub-par plot and disregard to continuity -- and on top of that, the artwork (which, again, would be great on the right character) is even more of a letdown behind those wonderful Amanda Conner covers.

As a fan of the Black Cat, I hold out hope that someday I'll see her headline a mini-series where both story and art are up to snuff, but that just hasn't happened yet.


  1. Felicia was a socialite from a wealthy family in the '90s SPIDER-MAN cartoon. Don't think she was ever portrayed that way in the comics. This reminds me of Bendis thinking that Carnage is an energy vampire, an idea he could've only gotten by watching the SPIDER-MAN cartoon as research.

    1. Good point. I forgot about the cartoon's portrayal of Felicia, and I wouldn't be surprised if Van Meter (or whoever wrote the recap page) had that in her head. I think I'm unused to the nineties Marvel shows influencing the comics; at least not to the extent the various Bruce Timm DC shows have done. But we're at a point where people who grew up on those cartoons are now writing the comics, so it makes sense you might see more of it now.