Friday, September 5, 2014


I really hadn't intended on going through the entire Palmiotti/Gray back catalog, but I keep finding random one-shots and mini-series by them, and I mostly like their stuff -- so here's another one from their vault:

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray | Illustrated by Joe Linsner
Colorist: Jason Keith | Letterer: Jeff Eckleberry
Assistant Editor: Daniel Ketchum | Associate Editor: Warren Simons
Editor: Axel Alonso | Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley

I like a story that doesn't take itself seriously once in a while. But I don't like a story that doesn't take its characters seriously, and unfortunately, that's exactly what CLAWS is.

I was still reading new Marvels when CLAWS was published in 2006, and I even considered picking it up. At the time I had read very little, if anything, by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and I had never even heard of Joe Linsner -- but the idea of Wolverine and the Black Cat teaming up seemed to have some "odd couple" type potential. The only thing that kept me from giving the series a try was the hideous costume Linsner had put the Black Cat in. That ugly mask, those stupid ears -- what an awful design!

So, that one relatively minor, superficial aspect kept me away from this series. Having finally read it now on Marvel Unlimited, I can safely say that I was right to skip it. It's quite terrible.

The story follows Wolverine and the Black Cat as they're abducted separately and taken to an island, where Kraven the hunter has several mercenaries pursue them for sport. But Black Cat knows Kraven is dead, and eventually unmasks him as a robot. Wolverine realizes the whole set-up reeks of the X-Men's foe Arcade, and with this knowledge, he and the Cat eventually turn the tables on their enemy.

The series seems to think it's taking place in the real Marvel Universe, but clearly it isn't. Besides the Black Cat's horrendously ugly costume, other clues that this is some weird parallel universe lie in the fact that Cyclops is completely out of character when he appears in one brief scene, playing a juvenile practical joke on Wolverine -- plus the fact that Spider-Man shows up in the first issue lusting after the Black Cat -- something he's rarely, if ever, been shown to do (usually she chases after him).

The characters' voices are off as well, and as with much of the other Palmiotti/Gray work I've covered here, the scripting is often stiff, and the lack of contractions throughout makes the dialogue look unnatural. But unlike other work by these writers, the characters aren't endearing enough to make me look past the scriptwriting imperfections. Palmiotti and Gray try to sell a flirtation between the title characters, but it just doesn't work. Black Cat might be Wolverine's type, but Wolverine is certainly not hers.

But it's not all awful. There are a few things I liked here. One is Linsner's artwork. I guess he's known for his creator-owned character, Dawn, and for being a cheesecake artist. Unfortunately, the ugly-beyond-all-belief costume he's put the Black Cat into renders any cheesecake here practically nonexistent. And when you can de-sexify the Black Cat, that's quite an accomplishment. But Linsner's Wolverine is really cool looking. He looks almost like he stepped out of a cartoon, with extremely animated facial expressions and an overall nifty design. This has to be one of the best unmasked Wolverines I've ever seen.

Also enjoyable is that Arcade is seen here working with and dating Spider-Man's fifth-tier villainess, the White Rabbit. She's often been presented as crazy, which makes her a great fit, both professionally and romantically, with the X-Men's most homicidal foe. Their interactions seem, to me at least, to ring truer than anything else in the story.

There's also one line I found legitimately funny, where Black Cat briefly believes Wolverine has been killed, and thinks to herself that the X-Men will "...want to have one of those goofy funerals where everyone shows up in costume." I got a decent chuckle from that line, considering just how many superhero funerals have been presented in just that way over the years.

Strangely, though, while I found that bit of self-awareness funny, I was pulled straight out of the story later on, when Arcade tells Wolverine he shouldn't have taken any of this scheme seriously, since he's never managed to kill a single costumed hero. That sort of self-referential humor undermines the entire concept of a villain's existence. As John Byrne has said before, just because the Fantastic Four have defeated Dr. Doom dozens of times, doesn't mean they should yawn and sleepwalk through his latest scheme. A villain only truly becomes a joke when the characters begin to acknowledge that he is one.

So, while it fails on nearly every level, CLAWS has a little going for it. Not enough that I would ever suggest someone seek it out and read it, but enough that I would say, if it was available at no charge or as part of a program like Marvel Unlimited, it could be worth a quick skim, if only for the artwork.

But my god, that Black Cat costume is just unbearably fugly.


  1. Actually I rather like her costume on the first cover.
    It's more cat like to me.
    And actually fits the name black cat, it's better then that thing she called a costume introduced in ASM 371.

    1. Heh heh heh... I was a hormonal teenager (13 years old, to be exact) when Mark Bagley debuted that costume in "Invasion of the Spider-Slayers", and it left an indelible impression on me to the point that it's still my favorite Black Cat costume even if nothing about it says "cat".

      Nobody drew it as well as Bagley, though.

    2. I can imagine how that costume would have an impact on a 13 year old ;p

      Still nothing ever about Black Cat's costumes were ever very cat like, untill this one.

      Maybe its because of Catwoman ? She and Black Cat are mostly cut from the same cloth and have the same gimmick. (Cat burglar and love interest for the main hero. )
      And Catwoman's costumes were always more feline, then Black Cat's

      Thankfully, their personalities are quite different.

      But I like Felicia's costume here, even though I could have done with out the green cat eyes

    3. I think Black Cat's name was justified by the fact that she caused bad luck for her opponents. But eventually that "power" went away and there was really no reason for her to be called that anymore except that it was always her name.