Killing Your Love With Science: Reviewing ‘Iron Cat’ TPB

by Scott Redmond


The ‘Iron Cat’ trade paperback showcases once more what an amazing character Felicia Hardy/Black Cat is and why she is one of the best breakout characters of the past few years, now firmly entrenched in the top tiers as a Marvel powerhouse. An energetic, gorgeous, powerful, and fun comic book series that channels all the elements of the previous recent ‘Black Cat’ stories and has a penchant for reminding one of why comic books are such a fantastic medium.


While her acclaimed main solo adventures wrapped up at the end of 2021, that hasn’t stopped Black Cat’s continued rise. In the summer of 2022, writer Jed MacKay — the one behind Felicia’s adventures the past few years — teamed up with artist Pere Perez, colorist Frank D’Armata, and letterer Ariana Maher to bring us the overly delightful Iron Cat miniseries.

This is very much a story that was meant to be part of the previously ended ongoing series, MacKay stated as much in numerous interviews, but because of the way he writes one can dive in without knowing a ton about what came before. Finding a way to heavily reference Marvel’s past, both distant and recent, but also modernizes things and make it pretty friendly to new or lapsed readers is not easy to do. Yet, that’s exactly where MacKay lives when it comes to all of his Marvel Comics work.

Under his care, Felicia has escaped the former bonds that kept her mostly as a love interest/ally/foe of Spider-Man, allowing her to be a force to be reckoned with within the Marvel Universe. This is a character that has now tangled with magicians (or “Merlins” as she calls them), aliens, gods, the Infinity Stones, and even saved Manhattan from being sealed away in an ancient being’s vault for eternity! It is that last adventure that ties to this series because, to save Manhattan, she had to sacrifice her mentor and father figure Black Fox since he was the one who made the deal that threatened the city.

Things are quick in this series because MacKay moves swiftly to set up the situation and just dives right into the action and character moments. We see flashbacks of Felicia’s years with Black Fox; through this, we’re introduced to Tamara Blake, another student of Black Fox, who is also Felicia’s ex-girlfriend. Long story short, she blames Felicia for Black Fox’s death and wants to kill her, and is using the Iron Cat suit Felicia created with Tony Stark’s tech for a heist (seriously go read her solo if you haven’t) which, of course, loops Iron Man into the story.

It’s a super science revenge story since a foe of Tony’s is dragged in as Tamara’s backup, who eventually ends up a bigger threat to the entire world. We get to see what sets Felicia apart and why she can come out on top in so many ways. While Tamara is smarter or better at planning than Felicia, something Black Fox spoke to as well, Felicia treats the entirety of being a thief as a production/dance and she is able to adapt better. MacKay doesn’t make the characters perfect in any way, he embraces their flaws and their strengths to create an engaging version of the character.

A portion of the energy of this series comes from the tight story and the depth of character exploration on display, but it also comes from the beautiful, flowing artwork that Pérez and D’Armata bring to the page.

When focusing on characters with tight action pieces, one needs an artist that can really hit the proverbial nail on the head — both in ways that make sure the audience is engaged and buys in. One never has to worry about that with Pérez, who brings such an intricate level of detail to each and every page. Facial work and body language is spot on, allowing us to instantly understand how a character is feeling and even what they might be thinking at that moment, with or without the accompanying captions which might give us more detail.

Just like how the characters move, the panels and imagery on the page flow around like their dancing making sure that panels are perfectly formed to get the most out of any specific moment. It draws the eyes down the page in the direction that is desired, making sure we capture every single detail as well. There are panels of various styles and shapes scattered around some pages showcasing competing actions of the characters or tightly focusing on them for maximum emotional energy. It is ordered flowing chaos that is fun and keeps the pages moving in a powerful way.

Never does D’Armata shy away from the vivid bright over-the-top sorts of colors. It is a super book, after all, and each of the spaces the characters inhabit is just so bright and almost otherworldly in some respects. Yet there are also plenty of darker colors and shadows mixed in to keep things toned down and almost grounded in some ways. Each of the characters has their own distinctive set of colors that surround them from blues to pinks to neon greens, and the way those colors play off each other on the same page is pretty cool. In a way, it adds more of the character’s personalities to the page on top of what we’re already seeing.

Another realm that is just full of power and energy is the lettering which comes from Maher, one of the best around. Just like with the personalized colors, we can feel the energy and personality of characters through the speech as everyone’s bubbles are not only colored differently but even shaped differently. Mixing this with changes done to the font in order to really sell the tone/volume of a moment — always love when a yell or scream causes the bubble to take on the shape of the large words/letters themselves, creating something special and fun. Every word, utterance, or thought conveyed upon the page with weight, power, and energy, making sure that we can “hear” it quite well as we read through the issue.

Iron Cat is now available as a TPB from Marvel Comics.

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