Felicia Hardy, AKA the Black Cat, has been a lot of things in her life: thief, good guy, bad guy, queenpin of crime, lunatic. These days she's playing for the good guys, and is generally happy with it. But a while back, something happened: Dr. Strange cast a spell that made everyone forget that Peter Parker was Spider-Man... including Felicia.
But eventually, Spidey revealed his identity to her once more, and her lost memories came flooding back. Everything she'd lost was laid bare. The knowledge that she once had love with Peter Parker and lost it eats at her every day, and those painful memories often burst forth at the most inopportune times.
While fighting to regain her composure, Black Cat is approached by her former lieutenant, Hammerhead, who has an offer: find and recover his kidnapped partner-in-crime the Owl, and he'll forgive her for betraying him when she turned away from being the queenpin of crime.
As has been the case with so many animal-themed villains lately, the Owl was kidnapped by Taskmaster and Black Ant (working for Kraven, unbeknownst to Black Cat). Her search leads her to a docked freighter, where to her surprise, not only does she find the Owl but a much bigger surprise as well...
But before Felicia can escape and find help, Taskmaster and Black Ant are upon her!
Things don't look good for the Black Cat! Will Spider-Man get her SOS in time to help?
Writer Nick Spencer really throws a curve ball in this opening installment of “Hunted.” By shifting the focus to the Black Cat and turning it into a character piece, he’s laid the groundwork for a startlingly human aspect to his epic man v. animal (-man) extravaganza. Felicia’s nursing a wicked broken heart, and Spencer wastes no time exposing it for readers to empathize with. Historically, Black Cat is played as either a scheming narcissist or a sex-bomb girlfriend – rarely as a three-dimensional, sympathetic human being in her own right. Kudos to Spencer for digging deep into her character and motivations. Her flashback scenes are truly heart-breaking (even as they lay bare reasons Felicia and Peter never would have worked long-term as a couple).
As a character study, the issue works fantastically, even as it dovetails with the kick-off to “Hunted.” It could be read on its own outside the context of the larger story and still tell a fully-realized tale with a satisfying ending, even if it is a cliffhanger. But as high as that praise is, it pales in comparison to the revelatory artwork by Iban Coello. The art is stunningly gorgeous: ever-so-slightly cartoony without sacrificing a sense of reality; capable of rendering action flawlessly. The page layouts are innovative in ways that inform the story rather than muddle its flow. But that same uniqueness is used selectively, never in a flashy manner and only as the page demands it. I’m not sure what all Coello has drawn in the past, but this issue alone was sufficient to put him on my radar for future projects he’s involved with.
If you haven't read Amazing Spider-Man in awhile, or maybe just haven't been enjoying Nick Spencer's run on the book, do yourself a favor and pick up this issue. You won't be disappointed.
Amazing Spider-Man #16.HU: The Black (Cat) Album
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 9.5/109.5/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 5/105/10
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