By: Dan Slott (Writer), Humberto Ramos (Penciller), Victor Olazaba (Inker), Edgar Delgado (Color Artist), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer)

The Story:
In case you missed it the first fifteen times the Black Cat says it, she wants revenge on Spider-Man.

The Review:
The Black Cat moves from subplot to main plot as she directly engages Peter Parker/Spider-Man for the first time since her encounter with the Octopus version turned her life upside-down. As with any good Amazing Spider-Man issue, there’s much more than that going on, too, with other subplots percolating along and some pretty significant reflection on Spidey’s extended cast.

Also included is a makeover for the Cat, albeit a subtle one. Her “catsuit,” pun intended, is relatively unchanged, but she’s now sporting a fur-lined collar pinned by a cat’s-head brooch at the neck, yellow cat-eye designs on the front of her shoulders, and her usual white furry trim has been changed to black. Another addition is her wide metal, chain-linked belt, which doubles as a wicked looking barbed whip in battle. It’s a good example of trying to update the look while not reinterpreting it, but it falls short from being a perfect one, in particular due to those cat-eye shoulders. Thankfully, the way Ramos draws the cat, they are rarely seen, but if they are really that dismissible (or maybe, forgettable, and they just didn’t get drawn in) then maybe they shouldn’t be included in the redesign.

Ramos similarly is “okay” for the rest of the book, with a few more misses than hits. There are a couple of panels with Anna Maria where his layout choices are improved, but in general they continue to be more confused when dealing with her height relationship. One example that works well is when Anna Maria looks over her shoulder at Octavius’ old robot behind her. Other than that, there are some serious distortion of characters’ bodies and faces that are more distracting than effective. At least he never loses his characteristic dynamism in his art, which really helps to sell the chaotic battle between the Cat and Spider-Man.

What I’m still not sold on is the Black Cat’s reasons for her vendetta in the first place. Yes, I’ve read everything that led up to this, and yes, the Cat repeats her reasons many, many times in the course of the issue. But rather than clearing things up, it feels like the comic is trying out the old adage of “say it enough time and it becomes true.” This might be enough for newer fans to accept, but longer-time fans (like me) will be saying this is “writing out of character,” and I hope it doesn’t become the Cat’s new status quo. (That said, I will point out that it’s nice to have a character in this series fail to accept Spidey’s explanation of a brain switch so readily. He explains it as if saying “brain swap” is enough, and Black Cat literally shouts “I don’t care!”)

Other supporting cast moments ring true. MJ’s new love interest, a firefighter named Ollie, gets a lot of panel time, and their relationship is further established for the reader with a sense of finality. This could be MJ’s new status quo and I’d be fine with it, and it reads as if Spider-Man is checking in and saying “Yup. That’s going on over there. Now back to my own life.” J. Jonah Jameson’s moment is even more brilliant. We were left wondering what would happen to Jameson after his tenure as mayor was over. Turns out, he’s about to be positioned in what makes incredible sense for a Jameson in Spidey’s universe– a conservative television pundit.

The Bottom Line: This issue contains all the momentum of subplots and character development that you need to make a solid Spider-Man issue. Peter Parker’s honest attempts to keep building a future is nevertheless held back by the failed attempts that line his past– pretty much every subplot reinforces this theme, with the Black Cat’s main plot driving it home. The villain’s makeover is visual as well as narrative, but the former is far more successful than the latter, and may do more harm than good for the Cat’s character in the long run.

The Grade: B+

-Danny Wall

Other Tidbits:
— In the most sub of the subplots, a name is revealed that may bring back even more controversy, as Ezekiel was a part of “The Other” storyline that attempted to establish a more mystical origin for Peter Parker. I, for one, had hoped we were done with that.
— It doesn’t seem clear why the Black Cat steals the tech that allows her to track Electro. It’s all done completely off panel, but the reader has to put too much together on his/her own to make it an effective scene.