The Black Cat has recently decided to become the Queen of New York’s underworld, or at least the super-powered part of it. From her base of operations at the Slide-Away Casino, she runs a criminal empire, and plots to reacquire the objects d’art she used to own before her secret identity was exposed.
Last issue, we saw that a blonde woman is busy acquiring those very things at auction. Your reviewer thought that this woman was the Black Cat in disguise, but it seems not; it’s a former rival of Felicia Hardy’s, who’s trying to prove something by picking up all of Hardy’s former loot. (Thanks to Daniel, who wrote in to clear this up, even before this issue dropped.)
In the private gallery in her home, Regina Venderkamp shows off a lost Renoir that the Black Cat used to own. “Can you believe that Felicia Hardy kept this hidden away? Selfish witch. A masterpiece like this should be enjoyed by everyone.” She goes on to explain that she’s loaned it (or is loaning it?) to a museum, so that everyone can enjoy it.
The lights go out briefly, and when they return, the painting is gone, with the word MINE scrawled on the wall where it used to be.
Shortly thereafter, once the guests have departed, Regina gathers her security forces and searches the premises, only to discover that all of Felicia's former possessions - or as Regina describes them, “my treasures” - are gone. But the Black Cat is still there. “I couldn’t leave,” she explains, “not until dear Regina learns… no one takes anything from the Black Cat”. The security guards draw down, but they haven’t a hope against the Cat, who combines world-class martial arts with the power to inflict ‘bad luck’ against her enemies. That power waxes the more ruthless the Cat behaves, and towards Regina, she thinks, she’s inclined to be very ruthless indeed.
Just what the backstory between these two is, we don’t know. Perhaps there’s nothing more to know than the fact that they were two bored, wealthy socialites with nothing better to do than indulge in a rivalry: Anna Karenina writ small. In any case, Regina attempts to flee once her security guards fall, but the Cat hits her with a knockout dart. Hours later, the hapless woman wakes in the Cat’s lair, lashed to a chair, surrounded by all of the Cat’s reclaimed swag. Satisfied, the Cat explains to Regina that she’s almost reclaimed everything she once had. Only one item remains.
Cut to Aunt May’s apartment, where May and Jay are admiring their latest acquisition, an abstract statuette (in a nice touch, we saw this piece on display at the beginning of the first story, when Peter and Anna Maria were here for dinner). It isn’t stated, but we can infer they picked this up at the auction in last month’s issue. As the happy pair settle in for an evening at home, we readers can see the Black Cat glaring at them through their apartment window.
Last time we see that the Black Cat isn’t afraid to dish out pain to the supervillains whom she now rules over as Queen of Crime. This issue we see she isn’t afraid to dish it out to civilians, either, if they get in her way. Regina Venderkamp may be shallow and petty, but at least she channels her impulses in a vaguely pro-social way; she doesn’t deserve what happens to her, at least from what we’ve been told. The Black Cat’s slide into villainy will presumably reach its climax next issue, when she turns her unflinching violence against Jay and Aunt May. I hope she tempers her anger, given their age and the fact that, when they purchased the statuette, they weren’t trying to score points against Felicia Hardy, but just wanted something nice for their mantel. But we’ll see, I guess.
We learned last time that Felicia is determined to get back all of her stuff. This story could have begun there, with Felicia in her trophy room, delighting over her repossessed goods, and saying to herself that there’s just one object left to get. In that sense, the first four-and-a-half pages of this story are redundant, except to illustrate how cold and hard Felicia has become. While I enjoyed this brief tale, I can’t reward that sort of decompression in a six-page story. Two webs.
I guess Regina meant to say that she “is about to” loan the Renoir to a museum, since it clearly is still in her private residence at the beginning of this story. Come to think of it, how could she buy it at all, given that story makes it clear that it came into Felicia’s possession through thievery? I’m no expert, but I think that there are very clear laws in place that recovered art must be returned to the original owners, or their heirs.