As a solo book, Black Cat has been one of the better King in Black tie-ins — a multi-title event that has thus far been scattered and often underwhelming. Writer Jed MacKay has integrated Felicia Hardy’s character motivations and personality very organically into the story of our villainous antagonist, Knull. This has been added to by some great car chases and the ever-lovable ghost dog, Bats. Issue #3 is not only a high point of the King in Black crossover, but also comes as an integral addition to Felicia’s history. Black Cat #3 reminds Marvel readers why we love her so much — she is suave, clever, and will let no one determine her fate but herself.
The plot of this issue interweaves between the battle taking place in New York, and a metaphysical conversation between Hardy and the part of her consciousness consumed by the cosmic Yggdrasil tree. Where action took center stage in the previous installment, this week, emotion carries the adventure. In the metaphysical realm, the magical, power-hungry manifestation of Hardy tries to convince herself to take the might of the Yggdrasil tree for her own means. During this confrontation, Hardy delves into her own backstory—revisiting snippets of her childhood, the origins of her powers, and her brutal fight with Venom, and so on. This is followed by the temptation of what Black Cat could do with Yggdrasil if she succumbed to its power.
What Black Cat #3 does well is give Felicia agency, whilst simultaneously acknowledging her weaknesses. Yggdrasil identifies that Hardy has an unwavering desire to not only survive, but to stay in control of her own fate, even if that means hurting other people. Implicit in Yggdrasil’s offer of near omnipotence is that no matter how hard Hardy tries, she is never in complete control. In fact, in her scramble for self-determination, she often finds that she loses a handle on things entirely.
What Yggdrasil fails to understand is that, for Hardy, they are just another meddling force seeking to assert dominance over her. This is where MacKay shows he is the right person to lead a Black Cat series, as he recognizes that Felicia is a character that will always take owning her failures and misfortunes over giving others authority over her actions. Her strengths manifest through her vulnerabilities — she would not be a survivor if she had nothing to survive through. The better sides of herself manifest when she uses her fear of failure to empathize with others, rather than take advantage of them.
The journey of self-realization is as much a visual tale as it is a written one. Artist C.F Villa does a good job of capturing the sentiment in this issue, particularly through the facial expressions and physicality of Hardy. Colorist Brian Reber’s work is equally impressive here, and his luminous golds complete Black Cat’s gorgeous Asgardian look. The only minor quibble I have with the art is that there is little stylistic difference between the earth-based events and the metaphysical ones. However, this comes down to personal preference.
Black Cat has been an absolute hidden gem of a series, and issue #3 proves why it needs more attention. This week’s installment will likely go down as a must-read in Felicia Hardy’s history, as it carefully and insightfully examines what makes the character so great.
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