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@brinkthemoviemyfavoritemovie: where was this at?
Kevin Smith took a lot of flak for the three-year gap between issues three and four of this mini-series. I’m not going to focus on that, because he’s not the only high-profile writer from another sector of the entertainment industry guilty of neglecting their comic book work for their day job, and moaning about the publication schedule distracts from the utter horribleness of the finished product.
First hitting shelves way back in 2002, “Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do” starts off innocuously enough, with Spidey and Black Cat teaming up to take down a heroin pusher named Mr. Brownstone. Okay, red flag number one. If you’re going to do a serious story about the drug trade, don’t name your villain after a Guns N’ Roses song. For someone whose entire shtick revolves around being a pot smoker, Smith sure likes his dated drug references. Another red flag? Mr. Brownstone supposedly molests teenage boys. We’re really going down that road, Kevbo? Terry Dodson’s art is pretty and all, but we’re starting to get an icky vibe here.
Round about issue three is when the trouble really begins. Turns out Mr. Brownstone has a brother, Francis Klum, who can teleport stuff and is transporting heroin into people’s bloodstream. Okay, not a terrible plot development. Smith’s definitely come up with worse. So Mr. Brownstone drugs Black Cat and the issue ends on a cliffhanger as he’s about to rape her. Wait, what? How did we get here? Where’s Spider-Man? Hopefully Smith will get back on track next month. But then this happened:
Flash forward three years later. Smith has contributed to the end of the “Bennifer” era with “Jersey Girl” and“Identity Crisis” has made rape the hottest comic book trend since the foil-embossed hologram cover. So Smith decides to ride this trend and make “Spider-Man/Black Cat” the rapiest rape comic that ever raped.
We now find Felicia Hardy/Black Cat in Riker’s for supposedly murdering Mr. Brownstone in self-defense. Matt Murdock shows up and gets all Elliot Stabler and insists on a rape kit, but, wait, Felicia says she wasn’t raped. So many twists and turns! This is like the “Memento” of comic book rape stories.
Then Spider-Man insists they break Felicia out of prison, and Daredevil agrees because, uh, Smith really needs an action sequence to distract from all this rape talk. Luckily Francis teleports in and uses his powers to make Spidey and Daredevil fight. (He can also control minds apparently.) Turns out Mr. Brownstone has been sexually abusing Francis for decades and forcing him to teleport drugs in a weird psychosexual relationship that should have stayed in Kevin Smith’s head. So he finally snapped, and when he saw Mr. Brownstone attacking Felicia, Francis teleported into his brother, causing him to explode from within. Oh, that old trick.
Then poor Nightcrawler gets dragged into this mess, because he’s a teleporter and what’s another guest star going to matter at this point anyway, and explains that Francis comes from a long line of Nazi-engineered teleporters who– What the what?? This is a Spider-Man comic, right?
Meanwhile, Felicia insists Francis turn himself in, but he plays the “you don’t know me!” card. Oh, but as it turns out, she does, in fact, know him. Because she too…was raped. Yep.
In an extended flashback, we learn that Felicia was the victim of a date rape during her freshman year at Empire State. She didn’t report it because she doesn’t want to be “just another statistic.” And thus, Smith lets a rapist go unpunished just so he can explain why this huge character defining moment in Felicia’s life never once came up before. Oh, but instead she learns how to fight so she can go all Charles Bronson on her attacker. But then he dies in a car crash, so there’s zero dramatic resolution. Back in the present, Felicia and Francis bond for like a second, but then Spider-Man and Daredevil show up and completely misunderstand the situation as usual and everybody fights. A gun blows up in Francis’ face and he flees, swearing revenge on all parties. (Despite the fact that he just bonded with Felicia over their shared trauma.)
First of all, for all intents and purposes, the story was over by issue five. Felicia didn’t kill Mr. Brownstone, it was his teleporter brother getting revenge for years of abuse. Fine. Weird and totally creepy for a Spider-Man book, but fine. There is no reason for the final issue and its polarizing twist. There is no reason for Felicia Hardy to be yet another female character whose tough, independent attitude is explained away by sexual assault. Black Cat is indeed now a statistic, but of a different kind. Smith basically just threw this major life and continuity changing event into the mix because he didn’t know how to end the story.
An epilogue finds Francis buying the Mysterio costume from Kingpin. Because remember how he turned out to be the villain in “Daredevil: Guardian Devil,” the only passable superhero comic Smith has ever written? Well, now Francis is Mysterio, so its like Mysterio is the bad guy again! You liked that before, right? Forget about all that creepy incest stuff and Black Cat sharing her deepest secret with a borderline psychotic stranger, because Mysterio is back! (Except that Francis Klum eventually stopped being Mysterio, but whatever.)
Look, no one is saying that “Spider-Man” comics can’t deal with serious issues. But if you ever need an example of just how far off the map superhero comics went in their forced attempts to go “dark” during this decade, look no further than “Spider-Man/Black Cat.”