Black Cat : The Queen Cat Strikes (vol. 2, #4) – Jed MacKay

4 out of 5

Time to get back to things.

Jed MacKay did a pretty great job of segueing his excellent Black Cat series into crossover issues with Marvel’s “King in Black” storyline, but now it’s time to slide back into our previous plotline: of Cat and crew enacting impossible thefts to build up the tools for the ultimate heist of breaking in to the Thieves Guild’s vaults. Thankfully, Jed realizes that the transition out of crossover nonsense should be just that: a transition. And so he gives us ‘The Queen Cat Strikes,’ essentially a recap issue, but one that smartly uses a different point of view from Felicia Hardy’s to add an interesting emotional hook to, and provide a reason for, reviewing what’s come before. The crux of things is that Lily Hollister has been trying to hero about in a white cat suit, known as the titular Queen Cat, but – very much due to the way she came to the role, which involves a whole bunch of comic book nonsense – is suffering from something of an identity crisis in trying to do so, held back from what she believes her potential to be due to this villainous doppelganger prancing about in a black cat suit – i.e. Felicia. So she observes Black Cat’s recent activities from afar – thereby providing our recap – and then sets up a trap to confront her.

The verbal sparring that results between the two is quite brilliant, foregrounding MacKay’s skill with dialogue, and characterization: Lily comes across as a real person, and Felicia’s method of both encouraging and discouraging her within the same sentence is a smart capture of her personality, and also a tricky effect that’s far and away from the usual comic book one-liners.

Nina Vakueva’s thick, page-filling art style is quite beautiful, capturing the emotions of the book well, and given an appreciatively soft touch of color by Brian Reber. Ferran Delgado’s lettering impresses: the handwritten diary of Lily’s that’s used for narration adds to her character (and is legible, which isn’t often the case with “handwriting” fonts!), and when someone else writes in that same diary, the font is similar but not the same; it’s a fun effect, and could also be seen to be narrationally motivated, if it was purposeful.

Queen Cat is a smart choice for her visual parallel, but her rather ridiculously complex background does mar the issue a bit: even though MacKay makes the book stand on its own, the few asterisked explanations and some one-page exposition to try to catch us up on Lily’s origin remind us that we’re playing in this soap-opera sandbox of spandexed characters.

That aside, I definitely appreciated this recap, and the intelligent way it was approached, and I can’t wait to get back to regular Black Cat antics.