I have settled into this nice little comic reading niche where I’m only getting mini-series these days, and I have to tell you… it’s really working out for me.
I almost got started back up on The Flash and Batman recently, what with Wally West taking over The Flash main title again and Chip Zdarsky handling the Dark Knight, but after a few issues of each, I hopped back off. Nothing was particularly bad, but I was reminded that ongoings are a big commitment for, often times, little reward. But I don’t want to get into my issues with that today.
Mini-series are a lot easier. They only last a few months, they tell one short, dedicated story, and they have a committed creative team. if you like the book, great! You got a really good story out of it. If you don’t, well, it wasn’t too much money to set aside for them, and you don’t have to hang around for ten issues at $5 a pop to see if it gets any better.
So with my having recently read and reviewed such series as Dark Crisis: Young Justice, X-Terminators, and DCeased: War Of The Undead Gods, I figured why not keep it up? Let’s keep rolling the dice on minis featuring characters and creators I like and see how it works out.
Speaking of gambling…
TITLE: Mary Jane & Black Cat, although it seems to alternatively be called Dark Web: Mary Jane & Black Cat.
Writer and Artist: Jed MacKay and Vincenzo Carratu
Protagonists: Mary Jane and Felicia Hardy
Mary Jane and Black Cat ties into the recent Dark Web story that ran throughout the Spider-related titles. Which I wish I knew more about to break it down for you, but… this title is all that I read from Dark Web. Based on Felicia Hardy’s narration in issue one, I know it has something to do with an evil again Ben Reilly (sigh; that poor guy) partnering with Madeline Pryor (which is an admittedly strange and intriguing duo) to create a new Inferno type saga. Demons, inanimate objects trying to eat people… that sort of thing.
During all of this mayhem, Black Cat runs into Mary Jane Watson… and the latter is exhibiting super powers! OF COURSE her powers are “jackpot” based because some writers just take the easiest way out (remember in the wake of One More Day when there was a red-headed heroine named Jackpot introduced who was strongly hinted to be MJ?). She apparently spins an ethereal slot machine, and whatever the results are, she gets powers based on that.
Also, MJ is dating a man named Paul and is a mom now to two small kids, though we have not gotten any confirmation on if she is their biological mom or not (at least as far as I know).
While trying to escape the monsters, MJ and Felicia get pulled into Limbo due to the magics of Belasco. He puts them on a quest into The Screaming Tower to fetch his Soul Sword. He was aiming for Black Cat since he needed a thief, but pulling Mary Jane in was just a happy accident. As the two look for the sword, they find S’ym–a former associate of Belasco’s. The three make an agreement to help each other find the sword and save the betrayals for after the fact.
Further complicating things is Felicia’s renewed relationship with Spider-Man, breaking a promise she made to MJ from back when the latter was still trying to resolve things with Peter…
Man, it is always good seeing someone write Black Cat correctly again. Nice to see the character assassination Dan Scott tried on her did not stick. This book is written from her point of view, so it’s a lot of stress on her part that MJ not find out about the broken promise… at least to until they are safely back home and out of Limbo.
The dynamic between Mary Jane and Felicia has been a pretty good one since the mid-90’s when Marvel first turned Felicia into a full-fledged hero when she realized what a good guy Flash Thompson was. And Jed McKay has been writing Hardy in one book or another for years at this point, so he has as good of a handle on the character as anyone. I’ve been off-and-on reading his BC books just because, again, I’m sticking to mini’s, but I enjoyed his handling of her here as I knew I would.
The interesting conceit of this book is that Mary Jane’s slot-based are obviously dependent on luck. And Black Cat causes her foes to have bad luck. Because keeping her secret from MJ is stressing her out, her powers unconsciously view Mary Jane as opposition, so throughout this title, when MJ spins for a power, we see her get stuff like “control over pudding” or “make colored smoke”. They need to trust each other to survive, but Cat’s own mental state is subverting their chances!
I keep having issues with the ending of stories lately, though. There is a late reveal that anyone who claims Belasco’s sword will bond to it. Due to this, Belasco will just kill anyone who brings him his sword so he can “free” it from them. This is a problem for the girls that we do not see the resolution to right away, but when it is revealed how they got around that enchantment… eh, it doesn’t make loads of sense. To be fair, I don’t have a more creative way to dodge that bullet, but McKay could always have created a different obstacle for the retrieval of the sword if he wanted!
As far as the art goes: I love it! It’s exciting and kinetic, and makes MJ and Cat both look tremendous without ever feeling cheesecakey. Carratu is amazingly talented, and I’m down to see anything else he works on.
A pretty fun little character building story that, despite its ending, probably won’t have too long of legs. It’s weird that this story’s own central mystery was undercut by the release of Amazing Spider-Man #19 and #20, which came out a few issues before this saga concluded and gave away the result of Cat hiding her secret from MJ. You would think Marvel could have timed that better considering, you know, THEY are in charge of when their books release! But whatever. Despite a flat fix to the last big problem, everything else here was great.