Writer: Jed MacKay, Artist: Travel Foreman, Color Artist: Brian Reber, Letterer: Ferran Delgado
Felicia Hardy has always been a mainstay in the Spider-Man universe and though many see her as a C-list Catwoman rip-off, she's really coming into her own in Jed MacKay and Travel Foreman's Black Cat. At various times in her history, Black Cat has played the reluctant hero, the vile villain, and even a love interest.
Here, MacKay places Hardy in a George Clooney Ocean's 11 turn. Charming, alluring, and more than a dash of dangerous, Hardy leaps into the thick of things.
MacKay doesn't spend much time establishing Hardy, instead allowing Black Cat's comic legacy to do the heavy lifting. It's a refreshing change of pace and forgoes many of the rehashed, formulaic foundations a #1 issue typically includes. What little backstory is given is mostly provided to ancillary characters: henchmen Boris Korpse and Bruno Grainger, sidekicks of sorts. Neither do anything to reinvent the wheel, but they are serviceable. Sonny Ocampo, a security detail director, could be a potential love/hate interest for Hardy, but he feels a bit telegraphed. Black Cat's central characters are rounded out by a possible rival, Odessa Drake, who strikes a very femme fatale pose in her limited appearance.
MacKay's writing and plotting starts off slow, at a simmer, establishing the scene (of the crime), the players, and the payoff. It isn't until the second half of the issue that things really move into full swing, with a car chase and fisticuffs aplenty. There's even a surprise player at the end that provides the series with a wealth of possibility.
Foreman's panels provide keen character moments. Hardy's face is especially expressive in subtle moments. The action, once it enters the story, is quick and dynamic. There are some clear nods to scenes from The Italian Job and a few other familiar visual beats to help the reader get comfortable.
The concern for a story like this, one so out of the purview of anything superhero or supervillain, is will there be enough meat on the bone? A story so grounded may have trouble soaring to the fantastic heights of books like The Avengers or X-Men. Black Cat offers a chance at a more personal story. Can MacKay craft enough intrigue in this crime-thriller to maintain a full series?
It's hard to tell at this point. Ed Brubaker has made a name for himself writing the best version of this narrative. MacKay has laid a good foundation for further exploits, and Marvel has a robust gallery of characters to pull into a heist story. Hopefully, the ingredients cook into something truly remarkable. It's a promising start; time will tell if this cat lands on her feet.