5 out of 5
There are so many tropes and in-universe winkings here that, surely, Black Cat should be predictable an obnoxious. A New Jersey knock; a conversation of heist methods using all funny code names (e.g. ‘the wagering vicar’); a honeypot distraction with Felicia Hardy; a reference to Squirrel Girl… You get it, and you’ve gotten it from the start – Black Cat is an Ocean’s 11 riff; a quick-cut series of thefts with last minute twists and diversions and quirk a’plenty, and, like, it’s “cool” and “witty.”
Except remove those quotes, because just like Steve Soderbergh’s perfect filmic take on the format, all of Jed MacKay’s Black Cat works because of how much attention it pays to each part: the characters, the dialogue, the premise – it has to be logical, within context – and the style is an affect of all of that, serving the setup instead of necessarily defining it.
In this two-issue attack on Tony Stark, so that Felicia can get her hands on a technological “key” to the Thieves Guild’s vault, Jed and artist C.F. Villa have a hell of a time (and the reader, as a result) working all of those tropes in a somehow unique fashion – Felicia doesn’t distract Tony with a low-cut top, but rather by challenging his machismo and calling him out on his failures… while wearing a red-hair wig – and then, while we’re just having a kick seeing how Black Cat’s team pulls this newest heist off, luxuriating in funny and intelligent dialogue, and page-bursting, awesome action, MacKay kicks things in to overdrive by slamming us back into the grittiness of the overarching story – Felicia’s war with Odessa – and justifying these issues of events beyond the simple fun of pulling one over on Iron Man.
For most writers kicking off fringe titles with fresh takes, the magic wears off after a couple of issues. If they’re lucky, they can stretch it to a six-issue arc. Jed has made that “fresh take” the de facto style and language of his title, by wedding it fully to characters, and an actual narrative. So twelve issues in and it’s still a blast, and also giving us the story beats to make the wait for followup issues a killer.