Review: ‘Black Cat Annual’ #1 Is A Fun, Colorful, And Violent Entry In The Fantastic Black Cat Saga
by Scott Redmond
Black Cat Annual throws Felicia Hardy into a world different than her usual stomping ground but doesn’t lose a bit of the series trademark humor, fun, and emotional weight. Truly fun and colorful and engaging artwork that continues the book’s great trend to play with panel & page layouts fill every single page. It’s a great intro sort of issue to Felicia and the book’s style for new readers ahead of the upcoming Infinity Stones centric story arc.
The massive heist that took over most of Black Cat’s life has been completed, Manhattan was saved, and her beloved mentor Black Fox has been dealt with. It’s time for Felicia Hardy to take a well-deserved vacation. At least that was the plan before White Tiger and South Korea’s Tiger Division comes calling with a job.
Black Cat has been a delightful series since its first volume launched, and that continues to be the case as the series delves into the ‘Infinite Destinies’ crossover touching the annual issues of many series. Unless something was missed along the way this issue seems to not really have an actual connection to the mystery of the humans that have now been tied to Infinity Stones like the other issues, but that is more than fine. Not only is the issue typical fun Felicia adventures, but the next arc will also be diving into Felica having to track down and “steal” the Infinity people so it all works out.
Tiger Division recently appeared in Taskmaster #3 that was written by Jed MacKay, who of course is the writer of this series regularly but also has a big part in this annual event and the Nick Fury backups appearing in each issue. Black Cat and White Fox are the perfect ally foils for one another, and it would be great to see them interact a lot more in the future.
Joey Vazquez has a style that really plays into the fun vibes of this series, and this issue in particular, especially when paired with the bright color palette that Brian Reber offers up in the issue. It has big-time animation energy to it which is quite welcome. It pairs well with the fun romp that this issue presents. The last arc had a lot of really heavy emotional seriousness to it alongside the usual fun and that paired well with Michael Dowling‘s artwork.
That’s not to downplay the seriousness of this issue, because there are some pretty hardcore scenes in some of the fights including the way they dispatch the main antagonist later in the issue. Vazquez and Reber rise to the occasion either way, and it’s great.
Another thing that this series always does that I truly appreciate is the really interesting choices to sort of color outside the lines when it comes to the shape and placement of panels, which Vazquez continues. None of the artists are afraid to have a panel on top of another or change the shape of panels to make it stand out (like the one here where Felicia gets injected with a surprise from White Fox) or even just playing with white space around panels. Traditional ideas of panel layouts are great, but stretching the medium in various ways and making sure books have their own energy and style is always a great move.
There are some really great action scenes in the issue, the fights feel real in there are clear effects upon the characters, but also the way the various characters’ powers are showcased make for some really gorgeous comic panels. Especially when Auntie Ante uses her magical abilities.
Ferran Delgado is the other member of the regular team alongside MacKay and Reber, and his lettering work is also another highlight of the books. The caption boxes of Felicia’s narration are not only stylish just like her, but always so well positioned and put together, and the dialogue bubbles have their own personality. Just one look at the first page and one of White Fox’s replies to Felicia and you can definitely feel the iciness of the reply from the icy-looking bubble work put in.
There are quite a number of stylistic changes with the words in this issue from the intro boxes of the Tiger Division to their logo in a bubble to just the fonts and little bits of personality flair added to each character’s dialogue. Also can’t forget the fantastic personality and real feeling SFX that Delgado doles out every single time that just sells all the action even more.
With the backup, MacKay gets to write more of Nick Fury following the work done in the aforementioned Taskmaster series. It’s just so well done and gives us way more insight into this character who has been at times criminally underused in recent years. If MacKay weren’t already so busy, I’d so love to see an ongoing Nick Fury series from him, as long as it didn’t cost us this book which is tremendous.
These backup stories shift artists with each entry, and this time it’s Juan Ferreyra’s turn and his style definitely works really well with a spy-type story. It’s dark and moody as it should be for this type of story. The minimalistic style choice really works as it keeps attention on the details that they want you to see in each panel while creating a very noirish type mood.
Joe Caramagna taps in for the lettering on this part of the book and just pulls it off per usual. While many hardly think about it, just like with any creator there is a sort of signature style often with some letterers and I feel like Caramagna is one of those. Once his name is seen in the credits and the letters are seen it just all clicks.
Black Cat Annual #1 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.