Jen Van Meter is back from ASM #700 with another pointless Black Cat backstory! Oh, the enthusiasm!
Our story commences when the Black Cat walks into a costume dinner party with a slightly chunky Spider-Man. But she’s not going for the wine. Apparently, the party is being held for Miles Martin, an illegal art collector who recently got engaged with the former wife of a rival business. The Cat suspects Martin of burning two painting that were stolen from museums. Somehow, the Black Cat feels “just the teeniest bit responsible.”
Inside the party, Spidey is giddy to continue their mission, but Cat explains that he’s the client and she wants to do things her way. As Spidey’s carried away by an oblivious partyer, Cat fully divulges that her “client” had pressured to do the mission because he knew she had stolen one of the pieces that they believed to be in Martin’s private collection. Little does he know that the number of paintings she pilfered for him is actually around six or seven.
Felicia Hardy sneaks into Martin’s secret room and finds a large vault door. Cat’s client suspects that Martin is the one destroying the paintings and her assignment is to stop him from destroying anything else. As she picks the vault, Cat clarifies that she chose this night to execute her task because the security sensors are overwhelmed with 300 guests.
With the vault unlocked, Cat enters the art room with a flashlight. A voice asks, “Wouldn’t that be easier with the lights on?” as the room in flooded with brightness. The voice belongs to a girl in a cat-like suit much like Felicia’s. She introduces herself as Mina Martin, the daughter of Felicia’s suspect, who’s excited to see that the Cat showed up since a website on Interpol mentioned a special investigator.
Felicia is obviously in no mood for games and quickly tries to get rid of the kid. Mina reveals that she’s been entering and leaving the art room through the ventilation system. Felicia is disgusted that Mina destroyed two paintings to catch her attention, which dampens the girl’s enthusiasm. Sitting on the floor, Mina says, “I only wanted to see what he…what he loves more than me. Or mom. She was his first wife. He didn’t even come to her funeral.”
After listening to the girl’s story, Felicia takes pictures for her client, still angry at Mina. When they hear a noise, the two dash away as many men in suits enter, talking about wringing Mina’s neck. As they inspect the room, Mina invites Cat into the air duct and they climb to the roof through a hole the girl cut.
Outside, Felicia is impressed and asks why Mina doesn’t turn her father in. “I tried. The policemen thought I was lying. Said divorce is hard on a kid and sent me home,” she replies. When the duo hear that the men have spotted them, Cat directs Mina to a secure location and they part.
Back in the party, Felecia joins “Spider-Man” and they dance as she assures she’ll explain things in the ar. Soon, Cat’s client is disappointed that she allowed Mina to escape after hearing the story. She tells him to simply appreciate the fact that she took some pictures of the art collection and he can arrest Martin. Once he’s left, Felicia helps Mina out of the trunk and asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Felicia Hardy, after her overexposure in the 80’s, has never really appealed to me. She’s nothing more than a Catwoman rip-off. While most Marvel characters are based off of DC counterparts, many of them are better than the originals, but not the Black Cat in my opinion. She isn’t interesting enough to hold up her own book, but Van Meter, with her cutesy backstories, has obviously been trying to disprove this. She fails here.
The plot of this story is particularly clichéd. How many times has a superhero met their kid counterpart? Does anybody remember the Spectacular Spider-Kid from ASM #263? How about Incredi-Boy from the Incredibles? Not only that, but Cat’s reaction to Mina is typical: she is annoyed and somewhat angered. It’s just not a very original plotline and that somewhat bothers me.
Additionally, you must question why this story even exists. What is a stupid Black Cat tale doing in a book celebrating Peter Parker? It’s pretty senseless on editorial’s part. It’s already a stretch that I’m buying a point-one issue featuring some creators I don’t recognize for the main story, but now space is being filled with a cutesy, clichéd story about a B-list character I don’t like. Ugh.
The only satisfying element story-wise of this issue is the twist element added with limited space. Van Meter only has eight pages to explain that Cat thinks Martin has been burning the paintings, but it’s revealed that his daughter has really been doing it out of anger over her father’s reengagement. Every panel is wisely used to establish the plot and then it’s switched around. I’ve always appreciated tight plotting.
Quickly the star element of this issue is Emma Rios’ art. Rios works well with Van Meter’s tight script well with some elaborate layouts. Rios adds emotion and heart to the script with some great body language and facial expressions. I was impressed with Page 3, Panel 4, where you can tell how startled Cat is that the light just turned up by the way her hair is positioned. Page 6, Panel 3 is terrific in layout, showing Mina climbing up the ventilation system with the Cat contemplating following from an interesting angle.
This is a cutesy Black Cat story that has no business in a book about Peter Parker. One web for Rios' wonderful art and half-a-web for the tightly-plotted twist.