by Matt Fraction (writer), Terry Dodson (penciller), Rachel Dodson (inker), Sonia Oback (colorist), and Clayton Cowles (letterer)

The Story: Black Cat gets recruited by weirdoes to steal weird stuff; the Defenders take their hunt for John Aman to Wakanda.

The Review: As my top picks for this week can attest, I was looking forward to this issue, but this actually managed to exceed expectations.  Suffice to say, should Marvel ever consider a solo Black Cat series, Matt Fraction would definitely be on my short-list for the book.

Fraction’s has a naturally strong handle of Black Cat and her particular voice and he wisely has her narration the portions of the book in which she appears, allowing him to show off his understanding and clear love of the character.  Felicia Hardy is just as she should be: sassy, living on the edge, thrill-seeking, and cocky.  She leaps off the page and showcases everything that makes her a fan favourite.  Put simply, it’s impossible not to like Fraction’s Black Cat.  The way she’s introduced is also a stroke of genius: we get to see Felicia working an office job, which is comedy gold.  It also, of course, helps to have the Dodsons on art.  While their work overall on the issue is beautiful, as expected, having them draw Cat is a natural choice, given that drawing good-looking women has become one of their trademarks, having published several sketchbooks dedicated solely to doing just that.

Taking the Defenders to Wakanda is also a nice touch.  I’m really enjoying Fraction’s using this book not only as a way to spotlight disparate, B to C list characters, but also as a way to visit the far-flung corners of the Marvel Universe.  It adds a sense of vibrance and diversity to the book that makes it rather trippy, setting it apart from Marvel’s line.  I also cannot emphasize enough how much I loved the way Fraction introduced Wakanda itself: as the Defender’s land, they’re accompanied by narration that sounds like a voice-over from a cheesy old adventure movie or travelogue; it’s so amusing, that it’s guaranteed to have you hearing it in your head.

While I’ve touched upon it already with Black Cat’s hijinks, I also feel I should re-emphasize Fraction’s successful attempts at comedy.  As is often the case with this book, while it’s not a Deadpool book or anything, it certainly brings its fair share of laughs.  There’s a particular gag involving Silver Surfer’s head that is so random, so bizarre, and so inexplicable that it’s impossible not to laugh.  It’s a moment where Fraction’s Casanova brand of humour really shines through.

There are ultimately some really big things that happen this month.  There’s a big, big character death and it seems that John Aman truly has gone full evil.  However, while I feel I should praise this, the book, particularly given it’s focus on the “weird,” left me more skeptical than shocked.  I keep feeling like at least a few of these dead characters are going to be brought back to life, while I’m also starting to think that John Aman’s villainy is going to end up another “mind control” story.

Conclusion: Next to #4 (the Michael Lark illustrated Dr. Strange issue), this was probably my favourite issue of Fraction’s Defenders thus far.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans