In Review: Black Cat #1

This is comic book perfection! Highest possible recommendation!

The covers: There are six covers listed in the credits for this premiere issue. The Regular cover by J. Scott Campbell and Sabine Rich has Felicia Hardy in her infamous costume squatting down outside a jewelry store window. She has a smile on her lips and her clawed hands have already scratched the glass. The illustration is shown from within the store looking out and is great. The Travel Foreman Variant has the Black Cat leaping down at the reader. She could even be leaping between buildings. She looks good and the colors are frosty cool, albeit primarily in black and white. The Artgerm Variant is a knockout frontpiece! This is a bust shot — literally — of the Black Cat. She’s on a black background that matches her costume, so all that can be see is her head, hair, the fur around her neck and plunging neckline, and her right hand partially over her chest. This is gorgeous! I love any work done by Phil Noto and I love his Variant. A full figure of the title character is on the left holding several necklaces of different jewels and metals. She has a hand on her hip and she flashes a million dollar smile. Beneath her is a white cat looking up at her with a smile. To the far right is a small image of the Cat and Spider-Man making their way through the city. Felicia Hardy and the Black Cat are in the bottom right corner. This is on a white background with a border in violets and blues. Love this! Next is the Kris Anka Variant. This has Felicia on a white bed (?) in a white room, leaning over the side backwards. She has a hand behind her head and the other on her cheek. Very much in the mode of classic pin-ups, but hard to make out the background. The Scottie Young Variant is on a light blue background with the title three quarters of the way down. A ball of red yarn has been tossed from the upper left, bounced off the a in Black and is going into the bottom right corner. The character is in mid leap at the top center, drawn in Young’s iconic cartoon style. If you like Young’s work, this is for you. It doesn’t work for me. Brace yourself for the Variants that follow, there are at least twenty-eight more. Other websites are stating their are also “Virgin” Variants — covers without text featuring only the art, but I haven’t seen  physical copies of some of these or seen them offered online, so there could be more. That Felicia, she’ll take you for all that you have, won’t she? The Black Cat is on a spectacularly rendered crimson colored sheet laying down to admire a large diamond, with several hundred other ones surrounding her. Jay Anacleto is responsible for this Variant from Unknown Comics. This is outstanding! There’s also a Black and White Variant by Anacleto for Unknown Comics that features the same visuals without colors. Also worth finding. Mirka Andolfo has the Black Cat on a simple bed with assorted stolen gems around her, including a necklace hanging off the spike of one of her heels on the Comics Elite Variant. Above her bed is a giant oval containing an image of Spider-Man’s mask. Nice, but the lighting makes her look faded. Campbell returns to the do the Variant for ComicXposure. The point of view is looking down at a large chrome bathtub filled with milk and a short haired, costumed, Black Cat. She looks up at the reader to reveal her mascara is running. Two white felines circle the tub. WOW! Ssalefish also has a Variant by Campbell. This features an electric blue cover with the title of the book in the lower center. The Black Cat is crawling across it and Spider-Man is crawling beneath it. Simple, yet effective. Campbell does more Variant covers, this time for Frankies Comics. The A has the Cat crouched on the right turning her head to the reader with a smile. This is atop a faded cover of Amazing Spider-Man #194. Very cool. The  A Virgin is a blow up of the Cat from the A cover, but on a white background. I like the A better. Holy furries, Batman! The B has the Black Cat wearing a furry cowl with gloves and a tail. She’s looking at the reader with her gloved hands up and behind her is a subway car with the book’s title on it. The B Virgin features the Cat image from the B, with just a white background. But Campbell isn’t done, also doing covers for his own website. The McFarlane Homage Variant features the Black Cat in the same pose as the iconic Spider-Man #1 cover with the webbing replaced with red yarn, with her holding the ball. Perfect! Felicia’s Loft Variant is a twist on the Mary Jane’s Loft Variant that’s become an iconic cover. Felicia Hardy looks out her apartment window holding a cup of hot milk, as she watches Spider-Man swing by. She’s surrounded by three cats, has a newspaper on the table featuring her night antics, which is covered in jewels, and her costume is on the floor. The MJ/Red Cat Variant has a leopard suit wearing Mary Jane squatting on a pile of gold coins. She’s got her hands to her head. She smiles as she rephrases her classic introductory dialogue. The background is a strong blue, with the word Red scribbled in red over the word Black in the title. Cute. I would love to get a copy of the Le Chat Noir Variant, which is Campbell’s take on Théophile Steinlen’s iconic poster. The Black Cat has a slight smile on her face as she assumes the position of the cat from this French illustration. Stunning! Clayton Crain does a Variant for Midtown Comics that has the Cat crouched on a building, her backside shown primarily to the reader, with her head turned to the right. A giant spider-web is before the city. This is cool. The Hidden Gem Variant is by Terry and Rachel Dodson. Spider-Man is against a wall up high, with Felicia’s arms wrapped around him. His mask is pulled up to reveal his lower face. He’s smiling as is she. There’s a spotlight on the pair, but they don’t care. Anything by the Dodsons is worth picking up. The Game Variant cover is a horizontal cover that features an image of the Black Cat from a video game. I don’t play video games, so I couldn’t say where this is from. It looks okay. The first Greg Horn Variant is a cover to look to at horizontally. Felicia is laying down, on her elbows, before the reader. She’s gorgeous! In the foreground is a spider web that’s got several rain drops on it. A glowing green-blue arachnid is hanging from a web that originates between two fingers Felicia is holding up. The Spider Ham Variant cover by Horn is an unusual piece for having the Cat on her knees, turned to the left, hugging a giant Spider-Ham plush doll. She looks at the reader with a slight smile on her face. I don’t like the way she looks and prefer my Spider-Ham is own universe’s adventures. Adam Hughes comes through with a Variant for ComicSketchArt. Three different versions of the Black Cat are on this white cover with pink highlights: she’s in profile in the upper right, she’s on her hands and knees on the left, and a small version of her is leaping to the bottom right corner. Diamonds are everywhere. It’s a Hughes cover — Get it while you can! Mike Mayhew does two covers for his online store. Both contain a bust shot of the Cat with her hands to her face like she’s doing the Bat-tussi. The first cover has spider webbing all around her and the Virgin Variant has her on a black background. Anything by Mayhew is worth the effort to pick up. A bust shot of the Cat has her laying down, but her hair is so voluminous that the background cannot be seen. She has a gaudy necklace around her neck, with her having part of the chain in her mouth, and other baubles are around her and in her hair. She reminds me of Medusa from the Inhumans in this  Sanctum Sanctorum Comics & Oddities Variant by Peach Momoko. KRS Comics scored David Nakayama for a Variant and a Virgin Variant cover. Both feature “Inspired by Campbell” in the bottom left corner under the artist’s signature. Both are slightly tilted to the lower left, with Felicia wearing a black halter top — with the word MEOW across the chest, with just a bit of tummy showing, matching black leather skirt, and black Uggs. She’s got black sunglasses on her forehead, short white gloves on, and carries a white jaguar patterned purse. A city street is the setting, barely visible as they look to be just pencils, and three black cats accompany her, with one in the foreground. The Virgin Variant is the exact same thing though the text is gone and the background has gone light violet. Both are very fetching. Ben Oliver does Jetpack Comics’ Variant cover which is a bust shot of the title character looking longingly at the reader. Spider webs are on her chest and on the left side. This is colored in cool blues and violets in addition to blacks and whites. Beautiful. Limited Edition Comix has the Variant by Belen Ortega. This is a bust shot of Felicia turned to the left. She’s biting into a necklace. The background is a dark red. I don’t like her face on this. Gerald Parel is responsible for the Unknown Comics Variant that has the Cat sitting on a bar stool in a restaurant. The background looks like a blurry photograph. The Gerald Parel Customer Appreciation Variant by Parel for Unknown Comics features the same image of the Cat on a black background. Lucio Parrillo does the Scorpion Comics Variant and it’s fantastic! Sitting on the corner ledge of a building, complete with gargoyle beneath her, the Black Cat holds up a massive diamond she’s obviously just stolen from the building behind her that has a sign that states it’s the NY Diamond Distributors. I love the smoky colors, giving her a sinister edge. A WOW! cover is created by Junggeun Yoon for the Mega Gaming and Comics Variant. The Black Cat is on a red leather sofa complete with massive matching red cushions. A black cat sits on the top of the furniture in the right, while on the bottom left a cat colored like Spider-Man looks up. Everything about this is working wonderfully! Overall grades: Regular A, Foreman Variant B, Artgerm Variant A+, Noto Variant A+, Anka Variant B-, Young Variant C+, Anacleto Variant A, Anacleto B&W Variant A-, Andolfo Variant C+, Campbell ComicXposure A+, Campbell Frankies A B, Campbell Frankies A Virgin B, Campbell Frankies B C+, Campbell Frankies B Virgin D, Campbell McFarland Homage A+, Campbell Felicia’s Loft A+, Campbell MJ/Red Cat Variant A, Campbell Le Chat Noir Variant A+, Crain Variant B-, Dodsons Variant A, Game Variant C+, Horn Variant A, Horn Spider-Ham Variant C, Hughes Variant A+, Mayhew Variant A+, Mayhew Virgin Variant A, Momoko Variant B, Nakayama Variant A+, Nakayama Virgin Variant A+, Oliver Variant A+, Ortega Variant C, Parel Variant B-, Parel Virgin Variant C-, Parrillo Variant A, and Yoon Variant A+

The stories: There are three stories in this issue and all are outstanding. The first is a twenty page tale titled “Thieves Like Us” by Jed MacKay. This introduces Felicia, her allies, and how she gets out of scrapes. It is the perfect introductory story for this series, for new or veteran readers. Every character is fantastic and I hope to see all return. I was especially pleased to see who appears on the final page. “The Ongoing Adventures of the Black Cat and Her Purrfect Purrloiners!” is a two paged tale by Nao Fuji. This has the Cat on a heist with three of her cats and it’s as cute as can be. The final story is eight pages long, also written by MacKay. “Leaving Miami” focuses on the Black Fox playing baccarat — against Dracula. Really. It’s going in the criminal’s favor until someone interrupts the game. It’s very fun, with the dialogue killer. Overall grade: A+

The art: The art on the first story is by Travel Foreman and it’s fantastic. He makes Felicia gorgeous, the Cat incredible. the supporting cast wonderful, the settings impressive, and the action killer. This is the first time, I believe, I’ve come across Foreman’s visuals and I’ve obviously been missing out. This is amazing work. Fuji also illustrates his own story and it’s also impressive artwork, with the Cat’s reactions to her kitties priceless. Mike Dowling is the artist on “Leaving Miami” and I love his work as well. I love the characters, with Dracula and his two very familiar looking bodyguards great. The action is good, with the Fox’s fall and Dracula’s dissipating awesome. The final page is a full-paged splash that’s perfect for the closing dialogue. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Brian Reber is the colorist on the first and last tales. The light sources on his characters are great, the beautiful blues for the night skies exceptional, and the sounds are outstanding, standing out strongly against the artwork. Fuji also colors his own work, using a lot of browns for the background to create a rich location. Using this color allows the Cat’s costume and trio of companions to stand out. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Ace letterer Ferran Delgado is responsible for the text of the first and third tales, creating scene settings, narration and dialogue (the same font), arrest signs, sounds, signage, whispered text, yells, the third story’s title, and vampire hisses. I love the font for scene settings, wish that the narration and dialogue were differed by something other than the shape and color of their balloons and boxes, enjoyed the signage, found the whispered text perfect, and was impressed with the final story’s title. Fuji letters his two-pager, with no dialogue but plenty of cute sounds. Overall grade: A

The final line: I haven’t been this fired up by a hero book from Marvel Comics in a long time. The stories are fun and thrilling, the characters honor their past iterations while charting new paths, the visuals are phenomenal, the colors vivid, and the letters just flat out cool. This is a book you can give to anyone to get them hooked into comics, let alone, this series. This is comic book perfection! Thank you, Marvel! Highest possible recommendation! Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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