Like many comics fans, I have a couple comics pitches in my back pocket. If, for some strange reason, Disney and WB decided to ask me, a totally unqualified random stranger to write some comics, or if Jim Lee cornered me in an elevator, I could instantly throw out a couple ideas. And if you, dear reader, are anything like me or my friends, I suspect that you could, too.
Well, I don’t know how Jed MacKay did it, but I’m pretty sure he somehow telepathically managed to nab my idea. Maybe it was an inception sort of deal – I’m not sure. But no matter how he thought it up, Black Cat #4 is an incredibly fun little comic that both could only happen in the Marvel Universe, and is an exemplar of just what makes the Marvel Universe so much fun.
Let’s take a step back. In 2014, as a tie-in to a mediocre Rick Remender event called Axis, Kevin Shinick and Javier Rodriguez wrote a book about the Hobgoblin, where the villain has become good-ish, and makes a lot of money by selling superhero identities to random people. One of those people is the amnesiac former villain Menace, Lilly Hollister. Hobgoblin turns her into the hero “Queen Cat,” who is literally just wearing a color-reversed version of Black Cat’s costume.
Queen Cat does not show up again. Until now.
MacKay and artist Nina Vakueva reveal in a series of flashbacks that Queen Cat was tracking down the Black Cat for the entirety of this and the previous run of Black Cat. Queen Cat feels insecure in her identity, in this one thing that she can hold on to – her superheroic identity. She is aware that she is a copy of someone else, and feels that the only way she can become real is to take down Black Cat. It’s both a very Marvel Comics superheroic nonsense story, and also a pretty simple emotional one.
Black Cat has been a sleeper book for a while, quietly one of the best books at Marvel that isn’t written by Ewing, Hickman, or Howard. Black Cat #4 uses a weird little forgotten bit of continuity, an intriguing character voice, and fun, action-packed art to tell a very good superhero story.
However, we’re in a moment where people at Marvel are pushing the limits on just what a superhero story can be. Look at books like Al Ewing’s Immortal Hulk or Guardians of the Galaxy, Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men, Tini Howard’s Excalibur, or Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther. Those are doing something new with comics. Black Cat #4 is very good — it’s very fun. It’s very pretty. But it’s more of the same as the last sixty odd years of Marvel Comics.
But hey, sometimes you don’t want a big, life-changing comics thing. Sometimes you just want a fun superhero story. And Black Cat #4 is just that sort of thing.
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