Comics : Ultimate Spider-Man #51

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

There's a stunning burglar on the prowl, and she seems to be sporting a cat motif. Recently, despite Spider-Man's interference, this Black Cat stole a tablet from a high-rise office building.

Meanwhile, Craig Watson has forbidden Peter Parker from seeing his daughter, the beautiful Mary Jane Watson. This development was a result of Craig reading a segment of MJ's diary where she reflects on being thrown off the Queensborough Bridge.

Oh, and the anti-Spider-Man media is in full force again because of amateur video that portrays Spider-Man pursuing the Black Cat. Trouble is, they seem to have the crazy idea that the two of them have been on a crime spree together.

In Detail...

"Shadow Puppets."
Ultimate Spider-Man #51
Feb 2004 : SM Title
Summary: Black Cat
Editor:  Ralph Macchio
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils:  Mark Bagley
Inker:  Art Thibert
Cover Art:  Mark Bagley
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 Reprinted In: Spider-Man TPB (Ultimate) #8
 Reprinted In: Ultimate Spider-Man Reprints (Hardcover) #4
 Reprinted In: Ultimate Tales Flip Magazine #26

Attorney Walter Dini is not happy. Which can only mean one thing: his client, Wilson Fisk, is unhappy as well.

Apparently the tablet that the Black Cat stole was procured by a Mr. Moore for Fisk. Moore is clearly inexperienced in dealing with organized criminals, since he accidentally called Fisk the Kingpin, something that Dini does not like at all. Moore suspects he's being set up. This accusation is immediately dismissed by Dini. The Kingpin's Consigliare (mob lawyer) reminds Moore of the price of failure, and sets up a meeting with someone who can help Moore regain the tablet.

Back at Midtown High, Peter gets a date with Saturday detention for sleeping in class. This further sours Peter's already-bad mood. When Peter tries to talk to Mary Jane about it, she is hesitant. She takes her father's threat of putting her in another school quite seriously. Peter's mad that she's letting her father get to her...MJ suggest that Peter wouldn't understand, not having a father himself. Peter takes offense and an argument breaks out in the hallways. They ask each other: "What do you want me to do?" MJ storms off, crying.

Peter's day gets worse when Robbie Robertson catches our hero sulking at work. Thinking Peter has nothing better to do, he gives him a bunch of snail-mail personal ads to enter into the computer. One of them is from that enigmatic criminal the Black Cat, inviting Spider-Man to another rooftop encounter.

In a dark, closed bar, Moore meets the person who can get the tablet back for him. Her name is Elektra, and she's looking very much like her movie counterpart.

Back at the Parker home, Aunt May (who's quite aware of the situation with MJ) checks in on Peter. Peter tries to call MJ, but her father picks up the phone. After hanging up, he thinks back to his first encounter with the Black Cat. He thinks back to her invitation. And then he finds a way to justify swinging over their to meet her.

"Meeting her just to talk is okay...you know what, I'm insulted she would try a trap this lame." Ah, the sound of justifying a meeting with a beautiful woman. And said beautiful woman is waiting with wine and cheese, which, according to her, is not easy to get all the way up to the rooftop. The Black Cat is intrigued by Spider-Man, which is a fancy way of saying she's attracted to him. She takes off her goggles, fully revealing her face. The two are about to enjoy some wine, but are interrupted by a flying sai.

Elektra has officially crashed the party.

In General...

Coming after Jonah's revelations two issues back, and the sheer fun of anniversary issue 50, this story just seems to fall flat.

Did we really need five pages of Dini making his threat? Sure, this means Fisk has officially thrown his hat into this tussle for the tablet. Dini does not come off as particularly menacing or threatening. It all seems pretty mob-by-numbers (and I know mob-by-numbers....I review Kingpin!

The MJ/Peter conflict was nudged forward a tad, but it did make for convincing motivation to go meet the cat. Also, it's good to see the Bugle Staff involved, even if only as a brief plot device to further the Cat storyline. And, to be fair, I DO like this incarnation of the Black Cat. She's alluring, but less in-for-face (well, except her bust line). Her banter, with Spider-Man, however brief, was fun and flighty.

I've got mixed feelings about this Elektra appearance. She doesn't say much, which is good. I always felt the character was best served when she was conservative with her words. But her involvement seems forced. I suppose I should be happy that a Mark Bagley-drawn catfight is coming.

But on that note, the art in this issue was weaker than it's been in recent memory. The hand-drawn cross-hatching in several panels does not enforce the illusion of depth or shadow. Instead, they distract the reader, taking away from the entire comic book experience. There's plenty of blame to go around though, as the coloring was strange as well. The Black Cat and Elektra still look good, though.

Overall Rating...

"Meh."

That sound is preserved for overwhelming moments of indifference. The issue isn't particularly bad, but it's not really that great either. It's not a can't-miss-issue, with the exception of the moments with the Black Cat in them. Let's hope that catfight, despite being a terrible pun given one of the participants, and maybe some interesting developments, bring the next issue up.