We’re Doing A Hell Heist: Reviewing ‘Mary Jane & Black Cat’ #2
by Scott Redmond
‘Mary Jane & Black Cat’ #2 keeps up the same amazing energy that the feline thief enjoyed in her own solo series, but takes it up a whole other notch with the character dynamics as well as the fantastical setting and players added to the board. There is a powerful flow that moves through all pieces of work in this comic, creating something that is solidly amazing and fun from start to finish that is worth revisiting over and over till the next issue arrives.
If there is one thing Black Cat knows how to do well, it’s stealing valuable things when under fire. Usually, that fire isn’t hellfire from a hell dimension with a bunch of demons and soulless cannibals gunning for the same thing, while working alongside the ex of your used-to-be ex that is now your secret boyfriend. That’s what happens when you find yourself hired by an ancient immortal demonic-appearing sorcerer.
Jed MacKay has the ability to take any character whether they are big or small or new or old, and just pull every bit of energy out of them and make every interaction gold. There are numerous reasons to grab any of the series he’s written from the gorgeous amazing art teams that MacKay always gets to work with to the characters themselves (who doesn’t love Black Cat or Moon Knight!?) to just the overall action-packed love that every one of the series has for the Marvel Universe itself. Glorious fast-paced deep character interplay is right at the top of the list of reasons to pick this book up because pairing the always amazing Felicia that he writes with his way of writing Mary Jane does both characters justice. Honestly, some of the best that either has gotten in a long time and we must have more of this.
We’re getting a fun heist in a hell-dimension story with Belasco wanting his own soul sword back and the duo dealing with traps and competitors. Just think of what more we could get if this series gets to continue beyond its Dark Web tie-in issues. Watching Felicia and Mary Jane bounce off each other through the Marvel Universe is just the type of energy we need in 2023 and beyond. Everyone moves on at some point but I dread the day when we’re not getting Black Cat being written by MacKay, and I hope it’s not any time in the near future.
Looping things back to this particular issue, I love that it’s a straightforward premise on paper but the execution is anything but simple. As I said it’s a heist story in a hell dimension, so all the settings and characters are nothing like you get in a heist story. Throw in Mary Jane’s new superpowers, their unreliability, and the use of various bits of Marvel Universe and Limbo lore and it’s a delicious recipe.
Speaking of gorgeous amazing art (mentioned three verbose paragraphs ago), the work that Vincenzo Carratú and Brian Reber are doing here is great. I want to start with something that is artistic but a character thing too. The redesign for Belasco here is creepy, gross, and beautifully inspired, the type of change that just makes so much sense. We get an in-story reason, skinning oneself for magical reasons, but skinless Belasco wearing his skin like tons of us wore our sweatshirts around our waists in the 90s is just chef kiss stuff.
I’m in love with Carratú’s style and hope we see far more in stories to come at Marvel. Just imagining an X-book or such in this style has me nodding my head in excitement already, so make something like that happen, Marvel, just not at the expense of this series if it gets to continue beyond these first issues. Let this team run with this book as long as possible.
That aforementioned style is just so energetic with tons of details and depth, making each setting feel unique and expansive. As stated numerous times we’re in a Hell-dimension therefore Carratú has room to and takes advantage of being able to drop in a lot of Hellish and creepy elements from the food that is being eaten or how cups or decorated or a tower full of creepy eyeballs. All are brought together in a way that just moves across the page thanks to the natural kinetic energy of the artwork but also very smooth paneling choices that move us around and frame things in the best possible way.
Much of this works in tandem with the color palate choices that Reber makes, allowing this world to have even more depth and even a bit of reality. By that I’m referring to how there are two types of colors here, the overall very natural toned-down style ones and then those that are far more superhero/fantasy/etc vivid popping ones. Costumes of the various characters or the demons and such pop out far more because the overall world around them is brown and gray castles or mountain peaks or open spaces that are naturally almost drab in a way that would be expected of them.
Setting things up like this allows the reds of Limbo Hell elements or the aforementioned costumes to stand out in a flashier way, making the Hellscape setting perfectly creepy and tonally correct but also almost like a normal sort of background in a perfect way. Sure it’s a dimension full of demons and monsters and the like but from their perspective, it would be pretty normal right, so we sort of get that view now that we are there with the main characters thanks to the color choices. Just like how the first issue had New York looking this way to really feel “real” in a grounded way, we get that with Limbo in this one, and truly it just works.
Let us once more sing the praises of Ariana Maher, hands down one of the best letterers that are working today. There is such energy in the work that Maher brings to the page, just look at that very first page. One of the things with various types of lettering is fitting the captions and dialogue onto a page in a way that fits into the space and doesn’t take away or obscure the important visual moments on the page. On this very first page, we have another narration opening through caption boxes from Felicia, and they are staggered down the page in a way that at first might just seem simply to fit them on the page above all the artwork.
A closer thoughtful look at them makes one realize that they are descending almost like stairs in a way that leads directly to Felicia, therefore guiding the reader’s eyes down the page till they land right on the main characters and the situation that they are in. Insert your favorite mind-blown inspired gif here. All through the issue, one can always find stuff like this from Maher, very thoughtful uses of lettering to showcase emotion or volume/tone or to help guide the reader around the page hand in hand with the rest of the artwork.
Mary Jane And Black Cat #2 is now available from Marvel Comics.