Current Reviews


Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do #3

Posted: Friday, October 18, 2002
By: Ray Tate

"Hate Crimes"

Writer: Kevin Smith
Artists: Terry and Rachel Dodson(p, i), Lee Louridge(c)
Publisher: Marvel

My thanks to Lauren Saul M.S.N. for the second opinion.

I'm spoiling this book. If you care, stop reading. If you don't care, please, continue.

"If Tricia Lane was a friend of yours, then I'm sorry to report
that I miscalculated on her dose a bit. But her loss is
your gain. As I now know the proper amount to 'port into
someone I don't want fighting back."

The amount the scumwad speaks of refers to heroin--one of the substances he can teleport into somebody's body. The reason why he wishes to do so is to rape the Black Cat. I don't know if he will succeed or not, nor will I know until the next issue, but whether or not he succeeds is irrelevant.

Rape is a difficult subject to address in any medium. Buffy the Vampire Slayer--surprise, surprise--has best spoken against this heinous crime. Spike, a vampire tamed by a microchip in his brain, attempted to rape the Slayer. Buffy fought him off, but this scene was far from the dark fantasy trappings the show usually employs. The creators of the show and the actors displayed the attempt in all its ugliness. Not once was the crime meant to titillate, nor was it forgotten. Were Buffy not the Slayer, Spike would have succeeded, and the attempt becomes a pivotal element in the seventh season. The scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer satisfied by showing rape as the violent crime that it is one that logically fails and also plays an integral part in the continuity of the series. The characterization led to the rape, and Spike's motivation even was original. From the writing point of view, we discover once again that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most brilliant series ever to grace television.

I am not against the portrayal of rape in fiction. Some criminals rape. It's a monstrous fact of life, and writers should not shy away from difficult subjects if they intend realism. In the short story I wrote "The Spider Without a Web" which was published in the sadly defunct magazine evernight I implied that a young girl was raped. This was not a planned move on my part. This was where the story took me. There was no way out of it if I was to be true to the character of the antagonist whom I based on a composite of various serial murderers. If I've done my job correctly, the reader should feel anger toward the criminal. If I've done my job correctly, the reader should feel anger toward the scene itself and sympathize with the victim. Most importantly, if I have done my job correctly, no reader should question the need for the scene.

Spider-Man/Black Cat fails in the most important criteria. I questioned whether the scene of attempted rape was necessary and saw the writer's hand not the criminal's hand behind the crime. Going backwards, and where Lauren Saul happens to come in, the alarm bells went off with the heroin use. The heroin in the book makes the Black Cat helpless and immobile. I'm not saying that the consequence isn't possible, but what isn't possible is the criminal knowing the amount of heroin to teleport into the Black Cat's body. If he wanted to simply kill her, then the amount wouldn't be an issue. He could simply teleport a whole tubful of it into her system, and she would likely keel over dead, but he cannot possibly know the amount to teleport into her if he wants to make her immobile because that amount is dependent on her weight. The criminal cannot know how much the Black Cat weighs, yet he teleports only a precise amount of the heroin into her body, and it has the desired effect. This is not even theoretically possible, and it seems that this was Kevin Smith's way not the criminal's way of bringing down a powerful super-hero to make her as helpless as the average woman to this particular vile act.

Even the average woman who hasn't an inkling of knowledge in the fighting arts still has a shot at being able to fight off this particular attacker because the teleporter could not possibly know her weight and therefore the dosage necessary to keep her inert. Think of it this way. Using Kevin Smith's logic and/or poor research, the same amount of heroin that can knock down the average woman can not only knock down the Black Cat who is heavier in muscle as well as fatty tissue--that which props out so prominently from her costume--but can with that same amount of heroin also knock down the She-Hulk who weighs a ton.

After I listened to the alarm bells I started considering more evidence revealing the writer's hand not the criminal's hand behind the act of rape. If Spider-Man were with the Black Cat the attempted rape--we still do not know if he succeeded--would not have happened. Spider-Man is not a normal person. So, even if the criminal found a way to waylay the Black Cat, Spider-Man whose speed far excels the criminal's ability to teleport snot let alone heroin would make him feel pain very, very quickly and easily swing The Cat to the nearest hospital for a no doubt quick recovery. Likewise, if the criminal wisely tried to waylay Spider-Man first, the Black Cat would have at him. Kevin Smith therefore had to break them apart at least temporarily for this scheme to have a glimmer of hope in succeeding. He does this in an unconvincing spat between the Black Cat and Spider-Man.

Spider-Man seems out of character during the argument. His giving the criminal the benefit of doubt just because they have no evidence against him seems more like something Captain America might have done than the more outlaw-like Spider-Man. Spider-Man's instincts have led him to the criminal, and he trusts those instincts enough to intimidate the criminal to see which way he runs, but during his spat with the Black Cat, he suggests that he doesn't really know if the guy's truly guilty. Fair enough, but Spider-Man's arguments are not very convincing, and he misses a very obvious argument that would easily quell the anger of the Black Cat and keep the duo together. Granted beating this criminal into a bloody pulp would have been very satisfying, but neither hero is willing to kill--even the Black Cat who merely wishes to "bludgeon the sick bastard 'til he's passing blood in his stool." However, a beating, even from a super-hero, is not permanent.

"With great power comes great responsibility." What Spider-Man should have said to the Black Cat was. "Look, I agree with you. The guy is slimier than Man-Thing, but we've got to build evidence so he stays locked up in a nice concrete cell so he can't hurt or kill anybody else. After we get the evidence, we can take turns beating him with his own fist and give what's leftover to the cops." This argument is damn obvious. It's so obvious that it's conspicuous in its absence. Kevin Smith is too good of a writer not to see this argument. Therefore, I'm left with the conclusion that he ignored the argument to direct Black Cat into the attempted rape scene. Because of these artificial means, the ends cannot be justified. The scene must be called into question, and the writer's hands must be slapped.

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