A Hell Of One’s Own Making: Reviewing ‘Mary Jane And Black Cat’ #5

When performing a heist for a villain, it’s always a good idea to have that proverbial ace up the sleeve. If said heist is a Hell heist, well that ace is going to have to be one hell of an ace. Good thing that Black Cat is always prepared no matter what type of heist comes her way.

Truly, in my opinion, one of the best things that can be done with these long-lived comic book characters is to throw them into a space they don’t often inhabit. Sure, stories where they are in their element fighting the same battles and such can still be compelling but there is just something even better when they are in a situation that instantly has them in over their heads. Mary Jane Watson and Felicia Hardy/Black Cat have encountered a ton of stuff in their fictional history, being associated with Spider-Man and other heroes helps with that, but a Hell dimension is definitely not a walk in the park for them. Yet, because both are so skilled, tough, smart, and powerful it almost is now that they have reached the end point of their journey.

Jed MacKay always has such a great handle on characters, whether they are the leads or supporting cast or guests/cameos, thanks in part to a healthy knowledge of and love of the Marvel Universe as a whole. Able to tap into the history of these characters and how they have acted previously without needing to expressly have it stated or spoken on the page necessarily, just creating a feeling of how fleshed out and individual these characters truly are. Even down to the way that these two women manage to outsmart and trick Belasco, having him lose his position in Limbo once more (Belasco as a forced minion of S’ym now is quite delicious).

Overall, this has been a great fun little heist romp with a major focus on really securing the friendship of the title characters. I groaned a few issues ago when it seemed like the Felicia/Peter relationship (read the review for issue #3 if you want to see me rant about that relationship) was going to be an issue but I quickly asked to be forgiven for doubting MacKay who has been fantastic in every book he’s written (and I’ve reviewed a ton of them at this point). Truly, I could read a whole series of these two going on adventures as friends, bouncing off each other and whatever area of the Marvel Universe MacKay chooses to toss them into.

Another great benefit of this miniseries has been the opportunity to see the artwork of Vincenzo Carratú for the first time, here in his first-ever Marvel Comics series. There is a tangible powerful energy to Carratú’s work that really fits this series. There is tons of detail and movement, and the choices for the panel layout really make it even more fluid as things bounce around the page. As noted before, character moments and emotion are huge in this type of story and a great way to capture that is through the great use of close-up panels that Carratú employs here. In a way this is similar to how the action panels are pulled off, giving us a sort of point-of-view feeling where one could swear, they are actually smack dab in the middle of the fight rather than just an observer.

Shifting sizes and shapes of panels that change the pace and focus are fantastic, but Carratú goes beyond just that look. The pages after the heroes whip out the shared soul sword and go against Belasco is elevated by the brilliant choice to have the borders between panels become fire (we see it also on an earlier page too) speaking to Limbo as a whole but also their new powered status. It’s the type of stuff that reminds us how fun comic books can be. I’m looking forward to seeing what Carratú will be pulling off with the icy world of Iceman over in the soon-to-launch Astonishing Iceman (a book I’ll also be reviewing).

Bringing even more life to the pages are the always great colors of Brian Reber, who has spent quite a bit of time with the Black Cat side of things the past few years. His style is quite smooth and almost slick, playing between the more vibrant types of colors and those that are a bit more toned down, more natural one might say. It would be easy to stick with one tone/level of color across the board but then the spaces and goings-on would not feel as accurate as they do thanks to the variety of colors that Reber employs so easily.

All the stone and such spaces around them in the tower and castle are lighter colors while the costumes and powers and demons are where the big pops of color are brought into play. Those yellow flames, the blue hue of powered-up Mary Jane, the sharp purple color of S’ym, that light but also popping red/pink of Belasco, and all the rest. One can really tell how much Reber shifts the colors once they are back on Earth, where there is a swift change in the tones and vibrance to make sure that Limbo and New York City are very distinctively different from one another as they are.

Rounding out this spectacular creative crew is Ariana Maher, hands down one of the best letterers working in comics. No matter what is needed at the moment, from types of fonts or bubbles or colors or changes that can make tone/volume clear, Maher does it perfectly and in a way that always fits the personality of whatever book she happens to be working on. There is a ton of colorful bubbles and caption boxes here where the voice of the characters is clearly coming through the text, allowing us to hear it so well with every word our eyes move across. Really there is just an inherent joy to the work that Maher does, and one can feel it radiating off the pages.

Mary Jane And Black Cat #5 is now available from Marvel Comics.

When performing a heist for a villain, it’s always a good idea to have that proverbial ace up the sleeve.COMICONRead More

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