Story By: John Semper
Written By: Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir, and Sean Catherine Derek
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)
THE PLOT: Kingpin uses the super soldier serum on Felicia in order to test it so he can make an army of soldiers to do his bidding. But when Felicia takes on the identity of the Black Cat, she goes to her favorite web head to help save the day.
LONG STORY SHORT: Felicia’s father John manages to destroy the Kingpin’s copy of the formula, then heads back to S.H.I.E.L.D. for the remainder of his life. Spidey ends the night wondering if Black Cat is possibly a kindred spirit, having no clue to her true identity.
MY THOUGHTS: I keep needing to learn to bite my tongue whenever I start these season four reviews, because I expect the quality to drop instantly and for the episode to be terrible for whatever reason. I’m not basing this on anything besides memory, and I never disliked this series at all. So I find myself in for a pleasant surprise each time and have for the past several weeks. And if you were to ask my what I thought about this episode, essentially I really couldn’t say much besides the following.
Uhh…I liked it.
And really thats it. This was again a solid episode, and I’m somewhat surprised that it was. I shouldn’t be, the last episode had me excited.
Maybe it’s the fact that this is yet again another major change from the comics in how the Black Cat was brought in. Somewhat akin to Two-Face in Batman: the animated series, Felicia’s story has been built up from her role as potential arm candy to Peter Parker. She really did start out as a snobby, stuck up rich girl who played the field at her college. However, since season two she’s been given some considerable dramatic heft and it’s shown the dimensionality of the character that I suppose the writers thought she needed for her to become the Black Cat. I honestly don’t know if that’s the case and if it is I disagree, but all that being said this is for intents and purposes a very different BC from the comics and yet she still very much is a complete representation of the character from the comics. This is not Cat’s first alternate media appearance, having appeared as a straight up villain in the 1982 Spider-Man cartoon. This is the first time however that the sexual tension between she and Spider-Man was fully realized in a cartoon.
That I think makes the most of this episode’s talking points. It’s a very interesting thing they did with the Black Cat/Spider-Man flirtation, because they wrote it in such a way where it made perfect sense for the continuity of the series, as well as resembled the comics so well that any fan of ASM who has not seen the series can come into this episode and not have too much of a problem with how they did BC….until she returns to the Kingpin. I had to get my head on straight as the episode began because foregoing all knowledge of the episode due to the series and the fact that I have seen this before (I actually was made aware of the Black Cat before she appeared in this show as a kid and was one of the viewers who waited for her to suit up.) I needed to be in the mindset of someone anticipating this show’s version of Felicia’s costumed alias. And I have to say the beginning scene was absolutely perfect. Black Cat completely manhandles Spider-Man in a way which he does not job to her while showing off her prowess as a cat burglar. Her bad luck powers not present, she relies on agility and guile to get the best of the Webslinger and it’s very well done.
Part of that is owed to the shocking gorgeous animation. Every model is detailed and consistent, looking great and moving just as great during the action sequences. But the best part about the animation is in all honesty Black Cat’s model. There’s no two ways around this, she looks hot. Athletic and acrobatic, it’s interesting to see that the designers changed not only her hair but her entire model too make her more appropriate to go against Spidey. Comparing to Felicia’s original model, it is obviously a notable difference. One gets the idea that the production crew felt they fell into a hole with Felicia becoming the Black Cat because at no point befire this has she ever been remotely threatening. This model looks like she can kill Spider-Man, after doing whatever she wants with him.
The other half of the credit is owed to Jennifer Hale’s terrific performance. It must be said that she’s been owed credit way before this, as she is a veteran voice actress and I think she’s done very well for this version of Felicia. Particularly in the Alien Costume Saga, and the Morbius arc, she really did bring a wide range of emotions that helped really make her character come alive. Honestly, I think she’s better at it than Sara Ballentine as Mary Jane which is sad to say, but nonetheless true in my eyes. (or ears) But Hale’s performance makes a complete 180 shift into a breathy seductress who’s line would come off as embarassing in the hands of any other actress. The change in her voice when she went back and forth from the Black Cat to normal Felicia was good, as it didn’t come off as a put on voice that Felicia was doing. It honestly felt as though she became the type of woman she may have been yearning to be since season three. At the beginning of part one, she laments on her past lovers and how they’re all mysterious, then comparing them to her father. You get the idea that this whole thing is one big wish fufillment for Felicia, which is completely different from the character in the comics, who barely has any semblance of a double identity and hasn’t really since the 90s.
Now, all that praise being given the means by which Felicia becomes Black Cat have to be adressed. I don’t know why the actual physical change needed to happen every time she became Black Cat, and for that matter it was never explained how she did it. She didn’t glow until her costume appeared Firestar style, nor did she pop out any magic words like “Shazam!” or “It’s Morphin’ Time!”. Her father Hardesky said that he trained her for the days they’ve been held captive, but the general idea is that the abilities she now has is due to the formula. This is supposed to be a version of the serum that made Steve Rogers Captain America, only improved over that. So by that logic, the idea that Felicia can do things such as evade S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and hang with Spider-Man does make sense. But then why is she able to turn the powers on and off? Ideally, if you were to take a serum to make you infinitly better, why would you want the ability to go back to the way you were, provided there were no initial side effects?
Another question, why did they test it on Felicia? Kingpin already had her and Hardesky in his custody. He could have used the formula on Felicia’s father and kept Felicia as incentive for Hardesky to return after scouting around. Plus, he’s a top level acrobat. It would have been a chance to see the possiblities of the new formula. Now going by that token, it does make sense to test it on a normal individual. However Kingpin risked an awful lot to have Felicia just go off with super powers and come back faithfully. I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense, but it’s funny.
One last thing about the powers, if Felicia was permanently changed into her Black Cat persona than I think it would have been interesting if Spider-Man never found out what happened to her, and there would be identity tension for Felicia to reveal herself to him. That would have worked out very interestingly, but alas.
There were also some silly things at the beginning when Hardesky and Felicia try to escape. First and foremost, THEY CAN JUST WALK OUT OF THEIR CELL? Second, Hardesky has a gas bomb or something of the sort readily available at his disposal. When Felicia asks how he got that, he says there’s no time for explanations. If that’s not an indicator to lazy writing, I direct your attention to an old Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns cuts off and escaping Bart and Lisa in his mansion. When asked how he got ahead of them, Burns responds by saying “There will be plenty of time for explanations later.” pointing out the utter contrivancy of that line of thinking. So to see it here done in all seriousness was bad.
And Doctor Octopus appears out of nowhere in the final five minutes. Where exactly was he the whole time? Surely not hiding in the surprise bad guy room in the back of that plane. This two parter ended up really not using him very well, but I do think they wrote him fairly decently especially with his final “Curse you Spider-Man!” line as he got away.
This episode isn’t as wholly solid as the first part, but it’s still fun to watch. This two parter served as a great story overall, but as an introduction for the Black Cat, maybe three parts could have helped flesh it out a bit more. I do think she doesn’t have a wasted scene here and she’s used very well. Here’s hoping her future appearances won’t be annoying, as I’ve been proven wrong for weeks now.
3.5/5 “MARY JAAANE!!!”s
Best Quote Contender-
Spider-Man: “You didn’t happen to have driving lessons form a guy named Blade, have you?”
All images taken from drg4.wariocompany.com and marvel.toonzone.net.