5 out of 5
Although I’m getting off the ol’ Black Cat ride partway through this arc, it’s not because of this arc – which the rating hopefully suggests is, at two issues in, really awesome – rather just due to of my stupid reading / collecting habits.
The Infinite Destinies set of annuals were up and down in quality, but I do like how MacKay used them for the groundwork for these Black Cat books, and without the usual Marvel / DC rigmarole of re-summarizing everything that preceded for new-reader accessibility… which can also render having bought and read those previous issues feel pointless; that is – those ups and downs are worth experiencing in all of their own uppy and downiness, and then you feel like you’ve earned your way into this arc, which has the Cat tasked with bringing the various stone-imbued together. At the same time, MacKay frames this stuff perfectly: the first issue is an elongated heist regarding the first stoner, and through that, the writer can insert enough context that it still is new-reader friendly, but without it being flashbacks or exposition dumps. Also, Jed has proven to be an ace BC writer in that he’s able to justify her thievery: it doesn’t feel like a cheat that she can outmaneuver, say, Nick Fury. Similarly, the second issue presents how Felicia is able to rather “openly” manipulate her targets into working with her – to the extent that she needs, anyway. This is that perfect blend of character work, plotting, and heist-y fun that really made the first few arcs of BC sing, and it’s great to see it return here, many issues in, and in the midst of another relatively big event. I’d also lump even more extra credit onto MacKay from breaking from an easy formula: I can almost assure that many writers, when approaching an arc that involves stealing a particular number of items, would dedicate each issue to each of those items. But Jed takes his time with the opening issue, and then packs two thefts into the second; it’s really organic feeling, and makes this feel far and away from the usually rather predictable flow of made-for-trade story arcs.
The art team here is also in full swing, with Brian Reber leaning in to really solid, punching colors that play up C.F. Villa’s large, panel-filling figures. Villa’s best skill (to my eyes) is in the acting, and they use that to the utmost, swapping in reactions and emoting as much as possible to fill in for some action beats that might not otherwise be their strong suit. Instead of this making anything feel slow or boring, it brings us right in to Felicia’s head, which is a fun place to be, and keeps the page flow bouncy throughout.