Review: MJ Takes Center Stage In ‘Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #3’

by James Ferguson

While the action heats up in the present with Spider-Man and the Black Cat looking to stop Hammerhead’s latest scheme, we jump back to the past to explore the effects of the relationship between these two characters. Also, how does Mary Jane fit into all of this?

I will be the first to admit that I love the high-flying antics of the wall-crawler, but what keeps me coming back for more is the personality of him and his supporting characters. Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #3 is a perfect example of this. Sure, I’m excited to see Spidey and Black Cat fight some goons, but the part that really stands out in this issue is the incredible relationship drama in this love triangle. MJ is put through the emotional wringer and you can’t help but feel sorry for her.
The thing is though, she’s not about to sit around moping about how quickly Peter moved on or how it makes her feel. She turns that into a drive to better herself and move on. Writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum creates a nice parallel between MJ’s actions in the past and those in the present, showing her as the strong woman she is in both time periods.

As sure as MJ is, Peter is a big ball of insecurity. He’s grappling with some potentially big news from the Black Cat and doesn’t know how to explain it to Mary Jane. Despite his abilities to face off against super villains like the Scorpion, he breaks down when it comes to some of this interpersonal stuff.
Artist Luca Maresca differentiates the past from the present with the costume choices since Peter gets a new flashy costume early on in the video game this comic is pulling from. This helps tell the two apart. Where Maresca excels is with MJ, particularly with her facial expressions that say so much without having to spell it out in dialogue. You can see how she’s struggling to figure out her feelings. She can’t get mad at Peter for having to run out and save people, but she is still upset with how he leaves her to clean up a mess at home. She’s entitled to that anger because Peter is still a human being, despite his spider powers.

Letterer Travis Lanham showcases MJ’s internal narration well, distinguishing it from Peter’s usual caption boxes. The placement, font, and colors, work well to back up her voice and tone.
There’s a great fight in the past with Spidey and Black Cat squaring off against the Vulture right in front of MJ. Maresca frames this beautifully to show the flirty nature between the two heroes and how it seems to rub this new relationship right in Mary Jane’s face. Some of these images will break your heart, even though you know that everything is OK relationship-wise in the present.

Most of Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #3 is bright with some spectacular color work from Rachelle Rosenberg. She uses shadows well to convey a more serious tone at times, like when the wall-crawler and the Black Cat are preparing to bust up one of Hammerhead’s hideouts or when Peter and MJ have a serious talk.
Although I know where this story is going since I played the video game, Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #3 is still full of surprises. It builds upon the game, enhancing every part of it in the best way. It also fills in some of the gaps, providing more context for some things that were mentioned but not really explored in the game. This makes the comic a nice complement to it, while also standing on its own as a great book.
Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #3 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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