Felicia ‘The Black Cat’ Hardy has recently decided to become the Queen of New York’s underworld, or at least the super-powered part of it. Now the ruler of a criminal empire, she’s been plotting to reacquire all of the objects d’art she used to own before her secret identity was exposed. Last issue, she set out to regain the final item she wants: a statuette that Aunt May and Jay Jameson bought at auction.
Peter has come to May and Jay’s apartment to break the bad news about the destruction of Parker Industries, but there’s no answer when he knocks. Unlocking the door with his key, he enters to find the place in disarray. There are signs of a struggle, but thankfully no blood; also, no sign of the statuette May bought. Peter, with a flash of insight appropriate to a six-page story, immediately intuits what happened here and who’s responsible.
In her hidden lair, the Black Cat gloats over her finally-reassembled collection, as May, Jay, and Regina Venderkamp - who have been lashed to chairs - watch helplessly. “Why did you take us?” asks Jay. “You clearly don’t need money, and my wife and I never did anything to you.”
“Wrong!” explains the Cat. “You bought my things at auction.” She explains that once people take your possessions from you, you look vulnerable, and then people will expect that they can take the rest: “Your belongings. Your freedom. Your dignity. And they will… unless you show them they’re wrong.”
So saying, the Cat lights a match and burns her collection up. “Nothing and no one will ever have that kind of hold on me again,” she explains in a very pretty splash page. “I’m setting myself free.”
Enter Spider-Man, who - as part of the same flash of insight - deduced that the Cat must have returned to her former penthouse apartment. The sudden eruption of flame tells him his deduction was correct. Breaking in, he frees the prisoners as the Cat watches. Our hero begs his former lover to help him save the prisoners, but she declines to assist, or even to hinder. “Take them if you want… the more people they tell, the better.” And with that, she departs, leaving Spidey to get the three innocents to safety.
“You idiot!” says Regina. “You couldn’t save any of my things! They’re priceless - “
“Oh, shush, young lady,” says May. “They’re just things. People are what count.... I want you to know,” she tells Spider-Man, “it’s fine by me if my company continues to associate with you.”
“Ooh. Speaking of Parker Industries,” he replies, “remember how you said people are more important than things?”
Back at the Slide-Away Casino, the Cat addresses her minions. She tells them that, as they’ve seen, her friends get rich and enemies get very bad luck. And now that she’s free of the past, she’s ready to take the game to the next level.
Let’s start with a few words about this installment before considering the story as a whole. This one doesn’t waste time, putting Peter on the Cat’s trail right away, and having the Cat explain herself in a quick burst of exposition. Her move to destroy her possessions is surprising, given her long-established character and motivations, but the change feels organic, and earned surprise is always fun.
Lest we forget, this story - along with the main tale in the front of the book - does away with part of the Superior Spider-Man legacy, with the cast now on board with Peter Parker and Spider-Man being ‘friends and associates’ again.
I do have to admire the editorial sleight-of-hand, though. By having the initial confrontation between the Cat and May ‘n Jay happen off-stage between part 2 and part 3, we can neatly elide the question of how Felicia managed to abduct two elderly folks from their high-rise apartment and take them across town to another high-rise apartment without injuring them or attracting attention. I could just buy it if the Cat had super-strength, or could fly, but all she’s got is bad luck powers. I’m not sure how they’d help in this instance.
Anyhow, let’s think about the Black Cat story as a whole. It seems to serve two purposes. Firstly, it lets us readers know that the Black Cat has indeed changed. She’s not out for revenge against Spider-Man anymore, like she was a year ago (real time) in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 3) #3, nor is she out to make herself rich, like she has been for most of her career thus far. Instead, she’s out for power and respect; she’s out to make herself as tough and free of vulnerabilities as she can, so that she will never be humiliated again. Secondly, this story makes sure that Spider-Man knows all this as well.
The story achieves these goals pretty well for a three-part back-page tale. It allows us to spend some time with one of the more interesting characters in Spider-Man’s cast right now, and also opens up a discreet trap door if they ever want to retcon this story away: Peter suggests that Felicia’s luck powers are affecting her personality somehow. That’s been suggested in these pages before, which makes me think that Dan Slott and his amanuensis, Christos Gage, are laying some pipe for a future tale.
Three webs for a satisfying conclusion to the Black Cat solo story with a nice, surprising payoff.