This week Marvel’s dipping back into their Gamerverse with a new miniseries starring the PS4 Spider-Man! The newest series adapts The City That Never Sleeps DLC and presents the backstory for the relationship between Spider-Man and Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat! Does Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes! #1 manage to stand on its own?
We’ve got a discussion about that title, plus a Rapid Rundown of other new titles for the week, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #1
Written by Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum
Illustrated by Luca Maresca
Colored by Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by Sana Takeda
Joe Grunenwald: The PS4 version of Spider-Man is back in another miniseries, this time facing off with Felicia Hardy! Friends, did the first issue of Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes steal your hearts?
Hussein Wasiti: I don’t know if anybody here has played the game, but this was just an adaptation of the downloadable content missions that came out a month or so after the game. Well, mostly an adaptation. It condenses the first couple of missions into a few pages and then delves into some new material, flashing back to the first meeting between Spider-Man and Black Cat. I had a pretty good time with the flashbacks. Other than that, this just wasn’t for me.
Samantha Puc: So, I think everyone here knows that I am utterly, completely obsessed with the relationship between Peter Parker and Felicia Hardy… and I love the Spider-Man game for PS4 (though I wish her role in it was much bigger). This was totally up my alley in every single way.
Chloe Maveal: I’m not a massive video game person so I’m unfamiliar with the way the story relates to the games (or as Hussein said, the DLC). But it read as….fine? Don’t get me wrong though — I love a good femme fatale and this def delivered on that front.
Grunenwald: I’ve not played the video game, either, so this was entirely new for me. I like this iteration of Spider-Man, and having Mary Jane as the ‘person in the chair’ is an interesting twist on the character. Black Cat is a character who’s never really done anything for me, but I did largely enjoy her interactions with Peter. I think I’ll like her more once they start delving into that last-page reveal more and move away from ‘everything I say is overt flirting’.
Puc: This must be an interesting tale for readers who haven’t played the video game… I won’t spoil it, but Felicia’s big reveal has been a big point of contention for Spidey fandom since the DLC was released!
Wasiti: Definitely. I’m curious to see people’s reactions to this whole story, especially since the discourse surrounding it was so long ago.
Grunenwald: Well now that I know the full story is already out there I’m tempted to look it up. As an adaptation, I know you mentioned it does some condensing of the material, Hussein, but how does it fare overall?
Wasiti: I can’t recall if I’ve ever read a comics adaptation of any pre-existing material, so my reaction here is mostly one of confusion. I actually played the DLC very recently so seeing it in panel form was strange, as were the little touches that Dennis Hallum threw in to make it feel more like a comic narrative; the jokes, the expanded conversation with Mary Jane, and so on. I think that’s why the flashbacks resonated with me, because it’s entirely new material and I didn’t feel like I was reading some Bizarro version of something I’ve played extensively in the past.
Puc: I agree with that assessment. There have been a few mini-series adapting the game content to comics in the last year, which have been hit-or-miss in terms of their effectiveness, since the narrative was originally created for a video game wherein the player is Peter, but I thought the team behind Black Cat Strikes did a good job expanding the content to make it feel more natural as a comic book, if that makes sense. It was also fun to get Hallum’s interpretation of Peter’s past with Felicia in the game-verse.
Maveal: Honestly, as someone coming into the issue blind, this could have easily been titled “Horny On Main” and been appropriate. The redemption for me was Peter’s awkwardness throughout literally every interaction with Black Cat and Mary Jane being The Man In The Chair. That was pretty great, as Joe said earlier. It was a fun read from a non-gamer perspective, but entirely driven by quips and awkward boners. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. The history between the characters was fleshed out pretty nicely regardless of game knowledge.
Grunenwald: Peter’s memoir will be called “Thwips and Awkward Boners.” :::retires from public life at the top of his game:::
Maveal: Give this man an Eisner immediately.
Grunenwald: In all seriousness, I suppose ignorance is bliss on this one. Being unfamiliar with the story I really enjoyed how much it felt like a classic Spider-Man comic. The flashback in particular could’ve been from any Spider-Man continuity or time period and felt right at home. I also really loved the art from Luca Maresca and Rachelle Rosenberg. Visually this comic has a Mark Bagley-esque quality that took me back to the Spider-Man comics of my youth in the best way possible.
Puc: I’m shipper trash, so I’m biased on all of this. I feel like I have very little constructive feedback here because I just… yes.
Wasiti: I’m a Peter/Mary Jane guy so I’m afraid I cannot contribute to this horny shipping stuff in any significant way. I did enjoy the art for many of the same reasons as you, Joe. It’s expressive and sleek. That cover didn’t do anything for me, though.
Maveal: I thought the art was fairly unique. At least in a few places. Luca Maresca clearly decided to play with limb proportions and facial expressions on a few pages that gave it a really great movement-heavy effect that I dug a lot. Though I do with that it was more consistent throughout?
Puc: The art is super dynamic; I saw the inconsistencies as markers of whether the panels were in the present or past, unless there were other changes that I didn’t notice.
Grunenwald: I agree with Hussein on the cover. I think that may be the first piece of Sana Takeda art that didn’t blow me away. The figures just feel static, especially compared to the interior art’s energy.
Wasiti: Look at Spider-Man’s jaw on the cover! Guy’s in bad shape.
Grunenwald: Does anyone else have any thoughts on this issue, or are we ready for verdicts?
Wasiti: I do want to point out that Hallum managed to get a lot done with this issue. It’s really intricately plotted, and feels like an over-sized issue even though it isn’t. He establishes Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship pretty quickly and does the same with Peter and Felicia. It’s kind of remarkable.
Grunenwald: That’s a great point. You don’t need to know much going into this issue, and what you do need to know is given to you without a ton of exposition up-top. It’s solid writing for sure.
Puc: Definitely a super tight, super impressive script.
Grunenwald: Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s not a life-changing Spider-Man comic, but as someone who wasn’t familiar with the video game story already I thought it was a lot of fun. It’s a story well-told, and the visuals feel like classic Spidey. I’d give this one a STRONG BROWSE, leaning towards a Buy if you just need a decent Spider-Man fix on a cold day.
Wasiti: I’ve warmed up to this comic over the course of our conversation. It’s got a great script and the art is pretty nice despite a couple of missteps. Ultimately I don’t know who to recommend this to. Gamers who don’t read comics? Gamers who reads comics? Comic readers who haven’t played the game? I don’t know! With that, I’m giving it a BROWSE.
Maveal: I agree entirely. It was nothing spectacular or groundbreaking for me, but it was something fun to dive into with no previous knowledge. The script got a lot done and the art was playful enough to keep my eyes following. And obviously for those who are into gaming, this seemed like a real treat. I’m going with a STRONG BROWSE as well.
Puc: My verdict is split. If you played the game and want to see how this storyline plays out in a comic, or if you haven’t played the game and you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss was about, I’d give this a STRONG BROWSE. If you really need more Peter/Felicia in your life (and I know there are plenty of shippers out there — We Are Legion), then this is definitely a BUY.
Final Verdict: It’s a unanimous verdict, with Joe, Chloe, and Sam giving Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #1 a STRONG BROWSE, and Hussein giving it a regular BROWSE!
- Avengers #29
- The Avengers continue their hunt for the Starbrand, who is set to make their imminent return, but must get through Silver Surfer, Terrax, and Firelord in order to complete their mission. Unfortunately, this story isn’t really working for me. It’s not terribly engaging and just has me extremely excited for the final issue of the arc later this month. The art is fantastic as always but I’m just looking for the exit sign here. — HW
- Iron Man 2020 #1
- Iron Man 2020 is already off to a banging start. This debut issue is simultaneously really creepy, really sad, and really amusing — Arno Stark has his work cut out for him. That said, I’m tired of stories where Artificial Intelligence is inherently evil and out to defeat humankind, so I’m hoping this creative team does some heavy lifting to subvert that age-old and frankly tired robot trope. — SP
- Valkyrie: Jane Foster #7
- The conclusion to the “Strange Aeons” arc continues this series’ attempts to grapple with the complexities of death, in a much starker way than previous issues. There is some truly phenomenal storytelling going on in Valkyrie: Jane Foster, and issue #7 guest artist Pere Pérez gave me proper chills, especially with the last page. Incredible, affecting work. — SP
- Al Ewing finishes to his tenure as co-writer on this series with this frankly beautiful examination on death and loss as necessary parts of life. Jane and Marvel’s medical community are tasked with curing Death of… Death, which leads to some great character moments as well as solid emotional beats. — HW
- Venom: The End #1
- This one-shot is extremely dense, but it’s worth reading just for the deeply affecting, incredibly devastating love story between Venom and Eddie Brock. If you, an immortal being, could keep your beloved alive for centuries even as they disintegrate before your eyes, would you? — SP
- Pretty much from the jump I knew this was going to be unlike any Venom comic I’d read previously. The scope of the story is massive, and Adam Warren, Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz, Guru-eFX, and Clayton Cowles tell it exquisitely. The extensive narrative captions throughout give the issue a documentary feel, and Chamba and Guru-eFX’s visuals convey a lot of really crazy events beautifully. This was a far more affecting story than I expected it to be, and it’s definitely worth a look. — JG
Next week: Atlantis Attacks!