Current Reviews


Ultimate Spider-Man #50

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Art Thibert (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with the Black Cat paying a late night visit to the offices of a wealthy young executive, where she manages to steal a stone tablet that the man had locked up in his safe. However, when Spider-Man happens across her he soon discovers that he's acquired two left feet, and faulty web shooters which allows the Black Cat to pull off a pretty easy escape. The next day we see Peter's luck takes another bad turn when his relationship with Mary Jane encounters an unexpected obstacle.

A double-sized issue that proves to be an extremely quick read as the opening half of the issue is devoted to introducing the Ultimate version of the Black Cat to readers using an extended sequence where next to no dialogue is spoken. In fact looking back on the sequence the Black Cat only utters a single line of dialogue, and this is moments before she pulls her vanishing act. However, these long stretches where the Black Cat's actions are depended upon to sell the character to readers work quite well, as while her cat burglar talents are nothing new if one is familiar with the heist movie genre, the character's bad lack powers make for a fun time. In fact if the Black Cat is lined up as the antagonist of this arc than watching Spider-Man stumble and bumble his way to victory could be quite funny. However, the longtime reader in me was quick to recognize the item that the Black Cat stole, and I imagine that Spider-Man is going to have bigger fish to fry. Beyond the Black Cat's introduction the latter half of the issue centers around Peter and Mary Jane's relationship, and we see a plot element from a previous arc manage to resurface to put a fairly formidable stumbling block in the path of their relationship. However I'm starting to grow a bit uncomfortable with the practiced ease that Peter is able to lie to his Aunt May, because it's getting a bit difficult to view her as the obstacle she needs to be when Peter always seems to have the answer she's looking for.

As for the art, Mark Bagley is called upon to do the majority of the storytelling in the opening half of this issue, as there's next to no dialogue to detail what's going on, but the art does a very impressive job of detailing the various steps that the Black Cat takes to make her way into a secured building, evade the various security devices, and manage to escape Spider-Man when our young hero encounters the thief. The art also does a pretty good job of presenting her bad luck powers, with the scene where the guard accidentally sets off the sprinkler system being a particularly effective display. The talking heads material between Peter and Mary Jane is also quite strong, with the big kiss being quite effective. The scene where the obstacle manages to slam a wedge into their relationship was also well handled, and when Aunt May decides to go for a walk I have to say I was very impressed by how that one panel captured her inner thoughts.

Final Word:
I remember being quite fond of the Black Cat when she was a regular part of the Spider-Man books back in the mid-1980s, and as such I'm glad to see the character making a return to the Marvel Universe, though having her attached to a half-finished Kevin Smith miniseries isn't exactly the best way to get out of the starting gate. However, Brian Michael Bendis steps up to the plate once again, and while I didn't care much for the deconstruction that Bullseye underwent over in Daredevil, this issue does act to reignite my interest in a character that Kevin Smith left at the alter, as the Ultimate Black Cat is about as much fun as one could've hoped for, with her bad luck power resulting in some rather amusing moments. As for the Mary Jane situation I can't help but get the feeling that the Black Cat is going to make an impact on this relationship, as I really can't see Brian Michael Bendis passing by this opportunity to play with the green eyed monster, by playing up the idea that Mary Jane comes to believe Peter's cheating on her with the Black Cat.

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