Black Cat vol. 2 TPB: On the Run – Jed MacKay

3 out of 5

Still a ton of fun – still an easy repeated read – and a solid continuation of the Black Cat / Black Fox vs. the thieves guild buildup from volume 1, but artist shakeups undermine the visual consistency, and issue 9 and 10s guest-star excess makes for a cluttered conclusion to the volume.

Mike Dowling and Travel Foreman return for the first two books collected here, the former handling a wonderfully entertaining date with Batroc, in which writer Jed MacKay again displays a skilled hand at balancing legitimate, grounded emotions (Felicia’s questioning of her dating prospects) and more comical hero / villain barbs, and the latter a tense showdown with Odessa, setting the stage for a forthcoming war. Foreman’s art in his issue is very clunky and simplified in spots, perhaps suggesting the need for the break given by the artists who take over the following issues, but his sense of pacing and flow is still intact.

Issue 8’s Beetle teamup is the weak spot of the book. The tale cuts between a heist with Beetle in tow, and a lunch between Felicia and her mother; both sides of the story are well written, and actually cleverly (i.e. not annoyingly) paralleled, but the art, as split between Dike Ruan and Annie Wu, isn’t the best fit for the actiony bits – the theft – which I believe is handled by Dike. MacKay’s writing for his action is very beat-by-beat, and requires a slick transition between punches and kicks and banter – Dike’s painted look is a bit too heavy for this, and when several characters are going at once, it just doesn’t flow.

9 and 10 have the Cat teaming up with Wolverine, as arted by Kris Anka. There’s a lot to laugh out loud at in these two issues, but they’re very much all-hands-in in terms of cameos, and it overcrowds the story (in which Cat tries to steal from Wolverine, then convinces the man to help her steal something instead) to the point of it never really hitting its stride. Anka’s art works for the most part – the comic pauses / expressions in the dialogue are great – but the compressed storytelling requires some juggling in the panels that feels a little off.

Overall, I still absolutely enjoyed my time with Black Cat, and look forward to where the storyline is going, but the first set of issues certainly set a very high bar, which this second set doesn’t achieve.