Black Cat #1 Review: This is a Heist for the Ages

Black Cat
(Photo: Marvel)

Black Cat vs. Knull is about as lopsided a battle as one could imagine. One’s a masterful thief who steals from the best of the best while the other is the void incarnate—they’re not even playing on the same plane of existence. But when mounting a defense for Earth during one of its most perilous moments, everyone still has to do their part. Establishing a story that balances being sensible and preposterous, Black Cat #1 sets up the perfect avenue for the storied burglar to fulfill a key role in "King in Black."

Black Cat #1 is an excellent jumping-on point if you’re catching up on the calamities surrounding Knull and want to dive in without much fuss. Readers owe a lot of that to Black Cat’s self-awareness. “Is this Venom stuff?” she asks at one point in the issue, a fair question someone might ask if they looked over a reader’s shoulder and saw a mass of black ooze from any chapter in Knull's story. It’s a completely innocent question that’d normally be followed by asking how much that person wants to know, but Black Cat has no time for such conveniences.

Another excellent line from Black Cat, “We’re not cosmic whozits,” stood out as the best rationalization for where she and her gang fit into this intergalactic commotion. Generally unbothered by this degree of problem considering Earth’s greatest defenders have saved the planet many times over, her introduction to "King in Black" doubles as a perspective for anyone doubting the severity of this event.

Black Cat’s crash course in Knull’s war on existence also handily exemplifies two of the thief’s best qualities: Resilience and craftiness. Her skepticism of America’s foundation and inner-workings is briefly eroded by the infectious aura of the nation’s poster hero, Captain America, only for that hope to be torn away from her immediately. Perpetually calm and always several steps ahead of rivals, Black Cat’s resolve is typically impenetrable, but it’s impossible to miss the moment her shell cracks. A brief close-up of her panicked, masked face amid the carnage somehow lingers more effectively than any expression readers could see from the heroes traditionally volunteering to defend Earth.

Quick to steel herself again and regain that resolve, readers can see the gears turning in Black Cat’s head as she plans the greatest heist of all: Stealing from Knull. How would one even steal from Knull? Where would such a plan even begin? It’s a fair question with all potential outcomes sounding even more absurd than any symbiote timeline or flowchart one could prepare to recap Knull’s winding story to the uninitiated. But everything from Black Cat’s rapid rebound to her assertive delivery channel confidence into the outlandish Ocean’s Eleven-style scheme to set up a captivating foundation.

The first chapter in her story feels shorter than one might hope for, but that limitation itself also ties back to Black Cat’s character and reinforces some of the mentioned previously qualities. Through a then-and-now retelling of her brief symbiote encounter, we see how quickly Black Cat is able to recoup and reevaluate her options in the face of mounting peril.

Black Cat also has a surprisingly reserved presence in her own debut issue, but that’s again owed to everything occurring around her. Seeing Black Cat slay symbiote dragons might have been memorable, but considering how other heroes have performed against similar threats, it never would’ve been believable. As such, Black Cat sometimes gets overshadowed during the more explosive moments of Black Cat #1.

That type of action was never her game anyway—“above my pay grade,” she says at one point in the issue—so her sacrifice of the spotlight was a necessary one to set her up for an opportunity to do what she does best. Like Captain America’s confidence imbued in her, Black Cat’s resolve is infectious, easily carrying whatever comes next in her new series.

Published by Marvel Comics

On December 16, 2020

Written by Jed MacKay

Art by C.F. Villa

Colors by Brian Reber

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Cover by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia