There are many who dismiss the character of Felicia Hardy and it’s not hard to understand why. Created by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard (with a costume designed by Dave Cockram), Felicia was originally meant to be a villain for the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman. However, Wolfman decided he’d much rather write Felicia as a female foil for Spider-Man.
Wolfman claimed to have been inspired by the classic Tex Avery cartoon Bad Luck Blackie, which was about a black cat who caused trouble to anyone who got close to him. Wolfman was inspired to create a villain with the same power. Given that Felicia didn’t acquire her infamously fickle powers until long after her first appearance, however, comic book historians are skeptical.
Also… c’mon! She’s a blatant Catwoman rip-off and we all know it! Not that we care because Felicia is also responsible for providing steady work for J. Scott Campbell, Frank Cho, Adam Hughes and many other pin-up artists. She also features in roughly 15% of all the fan art prints at comic covnentions that are kept on display in “the other portfolio,” if you know what I mean and I think you do.
Given that, my hopes for Black Cat #1 weren’t high. I expected a simple story and cheesecake-driven artwork. I was half-right, but also pleasantly surprised.
The plot is fairly standard stuff. We’re introduced to Felicia through the eyes of a security guard who spots her heading into an art museum gala. We’re also introduced to the head of the New York City Thieves’ Guild, whom Felicia is on the outs with. Hilarity ensues as a heist is pulled, Felicia’s crew is introduced and a breakneck chase through the streets of Manhattan begins, with Felicia dodging the security guard and The Guild.
This story is decent enough as an introduction to Felicia’s character, though if you’ve read one Lupin III comic you’ve already read Jed MacKay’s story. The back-up flashback tale which introduces us to Felicia’s father and his mentor (a David Niven-ish sort called the Black Fox) is more original, if only because it may be the closest thing we’ll ever see to a James Bond vs. Dracula comic book.
While the story may be standard stuff, the artwork on the main story by Travel Foreman was a surprise. I greatly enjoyed Foreman’s work on Constantine The Hellblazer due to Foreman’s gift for drawing wonderful demonic figures and horrifically distorted monsters. Foreman is the last person you’d expect to draw a Black Cat comic… and this issue shows why. There is very little consistency to Felicia’s appearance between panels, with the shape of her face and the size of her jewlery changing constantly. Curiously, Felicia is the only character who seems to have this issue. The artwork for the flashback story by Mike Dowling is more reliable but also doesn’t do anything to stand out.
The best part of the issue is the two-page story by Nao Fuji, which involves Felicia and her pet cats pulling a heist. Is this a blatant rip-off of a dozen Catwoman stories? Yes, but it’s fun and cute and has a certain spirit that the rest of the book lacks and shows a solid understand of Felicia’s character that MacKay seems to miss.
Black Cat is at her best when she is light and silly. That is the key to her appeal and why Peter Parker was so tempted by her – because she made him think that maybe he didn’t have to be as serious and responsible as he was. She made him feel good and she should make us, the reader, feel good as well. The two-page story manages this. The main story doesn’t. Overall, Black Cat #1 isn’t a bad book, but it is artistically uneven.
Black Cat #1 releases on June 5, 2019!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.