I’m in two minds about the second instalment of Black Cat. This volume contains a drastic and jarring change in tone that results from a significant and quite shocking plot development: Train Hartnett’s perceived betrayal leads former employers Chronos to send out one of their agents to either bring him back or dispose of him entirely. Unfortunately things take an unexpected turn when the agent in question has his own agenda and the operation plays out in a way nobody else anticipated. Whether this turning point has a positive or negative effect on the series as a whole remains to be seen but for the time being I’m finding it to be a frustrating and quite baffling experience in terms of what follows.
The death of a major character is always going to make the viewer sit up and think about what direction the story is to take later on; even more so when it occurs so early on in the series. After this I expected the atmosphere to remain dark and full of angst, which might not necessarily be a good thing but I’d class it as being preferable to what happens here: saddened by the events that transpire after he turned his back on Chronos, Train recovers from his injuries but undergoes a profound change in personality that is as unwelcome as it is perplexing.
Black Cat may not have set out to be an entirely comedic show but right now I’m not sure whether to take it even partly seriously. The elimination of one of the main cast in such dramatic fashion suggested it would be more hard-hitting but the story of Train’s recovery is marked by a change to a light-hearted monster-of-the-week format, which is very different from the preceding episodes and apparently ignores the significance of the events that set him on this course in the first place. Considering how Train was so introverted to begin with, I expected the death of someone, at the hands of Chronos no less, to push him even further in that direction. As it is, he becomes a comedic and slapstick individual, which to me is utterly out of character and something of a wasted opportunity from a storytelling standpoint too.
The story arcs that make up the latter part of the volume are still entertaining though, albeit in a less memorable way: a potion that offers superhuman strength is enjoyable enough to watch and presents us with some minor characters who grab the viewer’s attention during the short time they’re on screen. Even so, it’s all too jovial for my tastes and make me worried about its episodic nature; I’m hoping that it doesn’t stay this way for long because it doesn’t contribute to the development of Train’s character, or those who survived with him.
If future volumes return to the storyline regarding Chronos and its renegade agent Creed, I can probably forgive it for my criticisms here: there appears to be a three-way conflict in the form of Chronos, Train and the Taoists which has plenty of potential. For viewers who enjoy a mysterious villain and supernatural action Creed’s confrontations with our hero deliver the goods on that front and not even Black Cat’s questionable production values detract too much from them. I have to admit that the supernatural aspect and giant insects were entertaining as far as the genre constraints allow so hope to see more of them in future outings, in addition to seeing where Creed’s plans take the story as a whole.
Black Cat seems to be suffering from an identity crisis at this stage in the game: it showed much promise as a tense supernatural thriller, only to throw this potential out of the window and take a lighter and less satisfying episodic approach instead. Whether it returns to the more serious and intriguing theme in future is hard to say but given the nature of what’s on offer here I can’t help but see this volume as a thoroughly mixed bag.