By: Jen van Meter (writer), Javier Pulido (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), Joe Caramanga (letters); Grim Hunt Prologue: Joe Kelly (writer), Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors) & Joe Caramanga (letters)

The Story: Someone is stealing priceless Russian artifacts and trying to frame Black Cat.  But why?

What’s good: This issue has an unadvertised back up story that is a prologue to The Grim Hunt (ASM #634).  I really wish I’d known that before reading #634 and I don’t understand why Marvel didn’t put a note on the cover hyping this prologue because it is really good.  By the same creative team as #634, it really sets the stage well for The Grim Hunt.

I bought this issue mostly because Javier Pulido was handling the artistic duties and although the art was a mixed bag (more on that below), there are some great pages and panels (especially a page where Black Cat surprises the impostor-thief and goes looping down the impostor’s zip cord).  In fact, a few odd panels aside, the art is very good in this issue.

The story is serviceable.  This is really a tie-in of sorts to The Grim Hunt as the Kravinoffs are involved in the theft of these Russian artifacts.  So far this story promises to be “okay”, but nothing special.

What’s Not So Good: There really isn’t much weight to this story.  Here’s a funny thing: I probably wouldn’t have bought this if it were pitched as a “Grim Hunt” tie-in.  But, that is really what we’re dealing with: this is a tie-in to a 4-issue story arc in Amazing Spider-Man.  That’s what we’ve fallen to folks: a comic that comes out 3-4 times every month has a tie-in miniseries.

I also don’t understand why Marvel editorial would want to tie Black Cat to The Grim Hunt.  Everything having to do with the Kravinoffs is dark and gritty.  So, is Black Cat here for comic relief?  She just really doesn’t fit and using her this way marginalizes a character that I enjoy otherwise.  I can certainly see the reason to do a Black Cat story, but I question the timing.  If they would just wait a few months, they could run a Black Cat story along with a lighter story line in Amazing Spider-Man or (gasp) just put the story in ASM itself.

Above I mentioned the art of Pulido and while it is mostly good, there are a few whacky looking panels in this issue (the one where she is doing bench presses???).  I know that’s a small criticism, but Pulido is so good that I notice when there is one funny panel in the book.

Conclusion: A serviceable story, but a misfit in terms of tone with what is going on in Amazing Spider-Man proper.  This is saved by good art and a great back-up story.

Grade: C-

– Dean Stell