Black Cat #4 Review

by Charles Martin on March 31, 2021

Black Cat #4 Review
Writer: Jed MacKay
Artist: Nina Vakueva
Colourist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Ferran Delgado
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Black Cat #4 pulls back the curtain on the Queen Cat, the photo-negative nemesis that has made a few ominous cameos in prior issues. 

We're talking full reveal here; Queen Cat is the star and narrator of the issue. And that's fine; there's nothing wrong with turning your protagonist into a guest star in her own series. (Provided you do it in moderation -- picture me giving a suspicious side-eye to Ta-Nehisi Coates's Captain America.)

As serious Marvel scholars are already aware, Queen Cat is the putatively-heroic alter ego of the formerly-thoroughly-nasty but now-amnesiac Lily Hollister, who did heinous stuff as Menace before Hobgoblin hooked her up with the palette-swapped version of Felicia's costume. This issue salts exactly enough of that backstory into the panels to ensure no reader gets locked out by continuity.

And it turns out, Queen Cat's been dogging Felicia's every move since the start of the previous volume. She wants to be a hero, but she believes there's no first step to take other than defeating the Black Cat. So she's been surveilling her since the start of her Thieves' Guild chain of heists.

I checked; undercover Queen Cat did not appear in Black Cat (2019) #1. So this (probably) wasn't planned from day one. But there's also nothing wrong with retconning a series a little -- particularly when it's done this well.

Queen Cat (don't call her Lily) comes to life under the talented pencils of Nina Vakueva, with the usual strong colour support of Brian Reber. Ms. Vakueva has a superb physical style that works particularly well for this issue's two cat-suited leads. Her posing has the confidence (and some of the style) of Kris Anka, though her lines have a scruffier, looser finish. Personally, I like the sort of art that retains strong traces of the human hand -- but I recognize that others may prefer a higher level of polish.

I usually blather on at too much length to spare a word for the efforts of letterers, but this issue is a special case. The powerful contribution of Ferran Delgado has to be honoured here. This comic is narrated by captions snipped directly from QC's journal, and Mr. Delgado strikes the perfect balance between realism and readability. QC has distinctive handwriting that is neither artificial nor indecipherable.

Jed MacKay's script is all about character conflict. Obviously, Queen Cat vs. Black Cat is the meat-and-potatoes of the issue, but it's closely paralleled by the struggle within Queen Cat. Amnesia is an easy crutch for writing soul-searching, but Mr. MacKay uses it as a pole to vault deep into this would-be hero's quest for her own identity.

It's Felicia's reaction to her opposite number's self-doubt that gives this issue its climax. Mr. MacKay gives her voice a unique (and for Queen Cat, infuriating) blend of supportiveness and patronization. It's neither the best nor the worst response QC could expect … but it is oh-so-right for the mercurial Felicia Hardy. 

Best of all, it brings a satisfying conclusion to this supporting character's moment in the spotlight while leaving the door wide open for more interactions in the future. Queen Cat is skillfully installed as a new and welcome part of the Black Cat's ongoing story.

Black Cat trades the madness of King in Black for a more personal style of crazy, taking a full issue to explore the Queen Cat: her motivation, the actions she takes against Felicia, and the results. Solid guest art and the usual whip-smart writing deftly guide this new-old character into a stable orbit -- and should leave fans of the series thoroughly satisfied by a refreshing outside take on the story so far.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I confess my Marvel scholarship around the AXIS era is spotty. I don't recognize the "Hob-Hero" QC talks with here. But he plays his role admirably without the need for an identity.