Black Cat’s first ongoing series got off to a good start. Jed MacKay and Travel Foreman showed a strong understanding of who Felicia Hardy is and the potential in giving her a series. Keeping the focus on her background as a thief made Black Cat #1 immediately a unique series within Marvel’s publishing line. Now that the series is continuing it will be MacKay and Foreman to develop the world around Black Cat. That was admittedly where Black Cat #1 struggled a bit. A few supporting cast members were well established while others ended up falling flat as characters. What will Black Cat #2 have in store for us? Let’s find that out now.
Writer: Jed MacKay (Holiest of Holes Part 1); Clay McLeod Chapman (Back-Up Story)
Artist: Travel Foreman (Holiest of Holes Part 1); Alberto Alburquerque (Back-Up Story)
Colorist: Brian Reber (Holiest of Holes Part 1 and Back-Up Story)
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: The Black Fox (who I admittedly originally thought was Felicia’s father but was actually one of his running buddies back in the day. Apologies for in previous confusion.) goes over the job he has for Black Cat’s crew. Boris and Bruno aren’t sure about Black Fox’s credibility since Spider-Man defeated him multiple times while they were able to beat him (happened in Amazing Spider-Man #196).
Black Cat mentions “tangling” with Spider-Man in the past. Bruno and Boris go down a rabbit hole about that so Black Cat has to get them back on track. She tells them that to accomplish Black Fox’s job they will need a “Merlin.”
Two days later Black Cat’s crew get suited up for their mission to break into Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum in Black Fox’s van. They’ve brought a guy named Xander with them since he has experience battling Doctor Strange, though he lost the Star-Stone that gave him his magic powers.
When they are outside the Sanctum Sanctorum Bruno tells Black Cat that they don’t trust Black Fox. Black Cat says that Black Fox is one of them.
Years ago we see Felicia Hardy in a holding facility getting into fights with the attendants. The cops arrive and tell Felicia her father posted bail for her, much to Felicia’s surprise. Felicia then sees that it was Black Fox and plays along with it.
One they are at Black Fox’s car Black Fox reveals he knows Felicia’s father. He reveals that the reason he bailed Felicia out is to keep her out of prison by bringing her under his wing.
Back in the present, Xander uses the small connection he has to magic to break in through the front door of the Sanctum Sanctorum.
Over at a police station Sonny Ocampo is finally released from his arrests. He meets up with a friend and complains that he won’t be able to get a job as an ex-con after losing his recent security job.
Odessa Drake suddenly pulls up to the sidewalk and orders Sonny to get in her car as she has an offer for him.
Inside the Sanctum Sanctorum Black Cat and her crew come across some guard snakes. Black Cat is able to flirt with the snakes to let them all pass safely.
Inside Odessa’s limo she offers Sonny membership into the Thieves Guild. Sonny asks why she is giving him that offer. Odessa says that she wants Sonny to go after Felicia Hardy.
Back at the Sanctum Sanctorum Black Cat and her crew do their best to counter all of Doctor Strange’s security traps. They are barely able to survive all the defenses in place.
They eventually reach the trophy room in the Sanctum Sanctorum they were looking for. Black Cat is able to find what they were hired to steal: the original deed to the Island of Manhattan.
At that same time Xander finds where the Star-Stone is held and immediately puts it on. He immediately transforms himself into his Xander the Merciless form. End of issue.
The Good: Black Cat #2 is a strong continuation of what Jed MacKay and Travel Foreman started in the first issue. They don’t waste any time in getting Black Cat right into the next job. The attention to detail in the job and how it maximized Black Cat and her crews skills was a joy to watch.
With these first two issues MacKay has done a great job establishing the style for this series. This isn’t a normal superhero title where the protagonist is waiting for a villain to act. Instead we are seeing Black Cat being active in getting things done and working on how to effectively accomplish the jobs she is given. There is no sense that she or her crew are wasting time. Instead everything has a purpose. Even when not everything works out as planned, like Xander the Merciless regaining the Star-Stone, it does not interrupt the pacing of this issue.
The pacing is the true strength of Black Cat #2. At no point does it feel as though MacKay is wasting time with senseless exposition. Because the truth is there was not a shortage of dialogue or inner monologue heavy scenes. MacKay wrote plenty for characters to say or think. The important part was that none of it overshadowed what was going on in every panel. Black Cat and her crew were still doing things to get the job Black Fox gave them. That made it so everything that was said or spoken provide context for what was going on.
This pacing allowed us to see how Black Cat was able lead her crew through Sanctum Sanctorum without ever losing her cool. She kept her crew in control and focused on moving forward no matter how dangerous things got for them. That shows that along with her master-class thief skills she is also a natural leader. She shows those leadership skills early in Black Cat #2 when she got Bruno not to concern himself with Black Fox’s true intentions. It was a quick but effective way to develop Black Cat in her solo series.
We also see how Black Cat is able to string all the skills and experience she has obtained over the years throughout the job in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Through the job Black Cat employees different aspects of her character. That is shown best with how she got the guardian snakes to let her crew go by simply flirting with them. Then Black Cat is able to employee her agility and fighting abilities to get through the other security measures in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Now with Xander the Merciless showing up in full force MacKay opens the opportunity for Black Cat in classic superhero action.
Along with the strong character work for Black Cat, the other strength of this issue was how MacKay is using the crew that is acting as this series’ supporting cast. MacKay makes good use of Bruno and Boris as guys who will provide some comedy. We see that with how they joked about their history with Spider-Man. Black Cat chiming in made this particular back-and-forth even better.
At the same time MacKay makes it clear Bruno and Boris bring a lot to the table with their individual specialties. They never get in the way. Instead they actually add to the job as back-up that Black Cat needs to get the job in the Sanctum Sanctorum done.
While Bruno and Boris are the core members of Black Cat’s crew it is good to see that MacKay is willing to add one-off characters depending on the job at hand. We see that with how Black Cat employees Xander since he has experience dealing with Doctor Strange. It is a good way to establish how this series can feature guest appearance from minor characters throughout the Marvel Universe that have special skills. It opens even more opportunities to create more of an Ocean’s Eleven feel to every different job Black Cat’s crew go on.
MacKay also did a good job in using Xander as a supporting member while giving him his own storyline of retrieving the Star-Stone. It was good sub-plot to have running in the background as Black Cat’s crew reached the trophy room. Keeping this sub-plot secondary for the majority of this issue allowed the moment when the character gained the Star-Stone and became Xander the Merciless a big moment. It immediately elevated a low-tier villain to be a big threat that Black Cat will now need to overcome.
Through all of this MacKay was also able to get over the relationship between Felicia and Black Fox. Black Fox being Felicia’s mentor coming back to hire her for a job provides a lot of possibilities for the future. Especially since we don’t know what Black Fox’s intentions are. Black Cat staying on guard shows that we shouldn’t fully trust Black Fox. At the same time, it is clear Black Fox is someone we must respect through how he acts in both the past and present day scenes. Where exactly goes with Black Fox in this storyline is an intriguing sub-plot to have running.
Travel Foreman’s artwork helps further make Black Cat #2 a stand out. Foreman’s artwork works well with the heist movie tone of this series. It helps that Foreman’s art style does not follow the typical style found in most Marvel comics. His style is distinct and gives a new energy to this series as he shows off the various skills that Black Cat and her crew have while they make their way through the Sanctum Sanctorum.
The Bad: As fun as Black Cat #2 was there was one big problem that kept the issue back. That problem centered around the direction of Sonny Ocampo. The character is still a random bland guy whose only notable characteristic is that he overreacts to every little thing involving Black Cat. He does not escape how annoying he comes across since he just finds more ways to present himself as a lame character.
Tying Sonny’s character to Odessa Drake and the Thieves Guild only works to make bring them down. Odessa likely has plenty of members in the Thieves Guild who could work to take down Black Cat so their leader could get her revenge. It would’ve added an extra level of threat if there were one or more characters in the Thieves Guild that Odessa showed trust in accomplishing her revenge plan on Black Cat.
But by just bringing Sonny into the fold it makes the Thieves Guild appear weak. Especially since Sonny is still just a random guy who has only had a brief interaction with Black Cat. There hasn’t been anything meaningful done to make him appear to come close to being a problem for Black Cat and her crew. He is just a nuisance that will simply end up crashing into another river like he did in the first issue. If he is to be a character that MacKay intends us to get behind there is a lot of character work to be done.
Overall: With another strong issue in Black Cat #2 Jed MacKay and Travel Foreman are quickly establishing this series as one of Marvel’s best. This issue moved at a brisk pace and never wasted time. The story with Black Cat and her crew stealing something from Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum was a lot of fun. Combining the strong pacing and fun story together made the ending of Black Cat #2 even more effective hook to find out what happens next.
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