There are comic books and then there are comic books that take their audience on a truly transformative emotional journey, and Balck Cat has most assuredly been one of those books from start to finish. This is a truly special book that should be placed on every comic book fan’s shelves to be read over and over again. Gorgeous, fun, emotional, heartbreaking, funny, and honestly one of the best books that Marvel has ever published.
Some out there say that all good things must come to an end. Others say that everything ends and it’s always sad, but everything begins again too and that’s always happy.
But we’re not talking about Star Trek or Doctor Who here, the place that those quotes were pulled from. No, we’re here to discuss the much-awaited giant-sized finale to the ongoing series for one Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat.
Thief. Villain. Antihero. Daughter. Queenpin. Bad luck. Ally and more to Spider-Man. A woman with razor-sharp claws and a razor-sharp sassy tongue, intelligent and ten steps ahead of the game but with a heart of gold that she keeps up her sleeve.
All of those describe Felicia Hardy at some point in time since the character made her debut in July 1979’s The Amazing Spider-Man #194. Despite her long history at the publisher, she has spent most of that time as a supporting character or foe to Spider-Man and other characters/teams, depending on the status quo of any given era.
In June of 2019, Marvel finally gave her the ongoing series that she has always deserved. In turning to Jed MacKay, Travel Foreman, Brian Reber, and Ferran Delgado they helped to create something that is truly special that will resonate long after this final issue has been read by the audience that came along for this ride. A ride that saw Felicia and her friends and allies and others stealing from the big-time Marvel characters, taking on symbiote gods, saving all of Manhattan, and in the end saving things that were most important on a human level.
Over twenty-five issues (counting annuals and this giant-size finale) the series saw a great number of amazing artists help bring life to these adventures. Following Foreman, there was Michael Dowling, Dike Ruan, Annie Wu, Nina Vakueva, Kris Anka, and finally C.F. Villa who was the regular full artist for this second volume. Covers from J. Scott Campbell and Pepe Larraz across the two volumes completed the package.
In working to think of what to say about this final issue, it was seemingly impossible to do without first laying everything out there above. Because this book wasn’t like so many others out there, it was special in a way that always made it stand tall and proud every single month that it arrived. This was a book that wore its big giant fun deeply emotional heart upon its sleeve, taking us on a ride that had amazing highs and heartbreaking lows that could make you truly feel for these characters.
This wasn’t just the ending of this series; it was the ending of a journey. In fact, it was a perfect ending. Sure, the word perfect is a loaded one that gets thrown around a ton, but in this case, it is exactly the correct word. There truly could be no other way for this book to end than the way that it did. There will be those that disagree and state that there could have been some other stories to tell or ways to go out, but they would be wrong.
Felicia Hardy was going to go out on her own terms when the time came, and she most certainly did that. The way that this book set up a whole heist for three issues showcasing to us how intelligent and dedicated and focused Felicia is in her craft and how she can get stuff done, only to flip it all on its head for this issue was perfect. The biggest score was always about things that are truly priceless and can’t be replaced like material objects can be.
There is little doubt in my mind that MacKay is truly among one of the best writers working in comics right now. Not just in the sense of being able to weave a coherent and logical and entertaining story. It goes deeper than that. These are stories where every single detail and every single interaction and moment truly matter. They have weight to them, impact, just like things do every day in the real world.
It’s also the fact that his character writing is beyond words. It can be easy sometimes to put most of one’s focus on the main character of a book and even the regular supporting cast. The same level of care and depth that was put into Black Cat and her supporting cast was put into every single character that came into this book, no matter how big or small their appearance was. A quick glance at any of the work that he has done and is still doing will show that this isn’t a one-time sort of thing, it’s just part of who he is and how he tells stories.
Not once does he shy away from the depth of emotions that are naturally in most people, especially people who go through what so many of these characters go through regularly. Being able to go from fun to scenes that make you want to cry and back again faster than you can say Doctor Strange is not an easy task. Yet, MacKay makes it feel like lifting a feather in simplicity.
As noted above this book has had so many artistic hands upon it that have brought their A-game every single time, bringing this world to life. For this final issue and most of this second volume, that duty has been in the hands of Villa alongside Reber and Delgado who have been there since day one.
It doesn’t matter if an issue or scene is mostly talking or packed full of action, they will make it energetic and charming and just gorgeous on all levels. The way that Villa can make Felicia look dangerous yet also charming with just certain facial expressions or body language fully sells so many of the parts of this story.
I could go on all day about the dynamic nature of the action scenes that Villa brings to life (I’ve reviewed this book for most of the second volume, so I definitely have done it), but I want to talk about another aspect that makes that action stand out even more. That would be the paneling work that is done in this book. It would be very simple to just show some action shots in standard panels or even somewhat non-standard types of ones. Not with this book and this team, no.
They go all out. There is a whole page spread that is a multi-story hospital rendered with action happening in just about every single room that is being shown, as the various Infinity Stone wielding figures, Felicia and Fury’s agents get into the biggest fight ever bouncing from panel to panel. When I think of comics this is the type of stuff I think about and love to see, just full-on usage of what this medium allows and going all in for the fun and amazing visuals.
As noted in past reviews this attention to paneling also has allowed issues with shorter page counts to feel like there is just far more story packed in than one would expect. This is a dense book, that is a labor of love from everyone involved.
Color-wise that love has been coming from Reber this whole time, who continuously finds that perfect beautiful middle ground that bridges the bright superhero world colors with the dark shadows that are needed for a crime/caper book like this has been. Everything about Felicia’s world, though most of her existence, has been about standing somewhere next to or across a dividing line between the worlds of light and dark and Reber captures that visually. Not only does it thematically work but it also just mirrors reality and actually makes this feel like a lived-in world with depth and complexity, just like it should be.
At the same time, the color palate that Reber brings to the page is never static, always shifting and morphing, sometimes even in the same scene, in order to best showcase the particular situation. No matter what colors are brought forward they never distract or pull away from what is happening, they perfectly spotlight the action and stand alongside it as a partner.
Juggling working on various differing art styles, in some cases over this series changing issue to issue, seems like it would be a challenge. Sometimes some artists’ styles and some colorists styles don’t mesh as well as others. Reber though seems to be able to dance with any partner, helping bring out the best in the visuals no matter what is asked for. This book has been a gorgeous sight to behold every month that will truly be missed so very much.
Last but certainly never least, Delgado has also been there since day one making sure the large amounts of dialogue always just perfectly flow through the pages. Adding all the perfect bits of life to the caption boxes and giving us those flares of personality that bleed into each character’s dialogue so that there is never any doubt just who is talking at that moment. Again, it would be simple to just have the words be a bit bigger in a bubble that has a character yelling or when one of the stone wielders uses their powers, but we get more here.
The bubbles when Felicia yells in a scene in this one, for example, turn into jagged porcupine-like bubbles with red hues and the text gets larger. With Star using her powers, her bubbles turn a red color matching her stone and power color signature when she’s speaking her powers into working. These seem like little things, but they truly just make everything that much better. It shows the care that is put into the craft to make things feel real and genuine, and it is impressive to behold.
Let us not forget the always wonderful SFX that allows us to hear and experience so many actions even more through this book. They have just as much power and personality as the characters that are populating this series.
Every bit of this from every member of the creative team and those backing them in editorial and other capacities helped make this book akin to catching lightning in a bottle. That’s truly how special and memorable it was as not just a book, but a truly emotional and spiritual journey.
So, while this is an ending, it’s also truly just the beginning. And that is definitely something worth celebrating.
Giant-Size Black Cat: Infinity Score #1 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.