Writer: Christopher Priest
Artists: Sal Velluto (p), Bob Almond (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with the present day incarnation of T'Challa locked away in his throne room, as we learn that his temporal duplicate has died. We then jump back a bit as we see that shortly after their return from the adventure in the past T'Challa's double had collapsed, and after they managed to stabilize his condition & get him back into stasis we are let in on a rather surprising secret about T'Challa's double. We learn that despite his bombastic behavior that marked him as coming from T'Challa's past we see that this temporal double was actually pulled to the present day from the future. We also learn that this man is dying from an inoperable brain disorder, and that while his double is in the advanced stages of the disease, we see the present day version of T'Challa has discovered early signs of the disorder in himself. We then look in on Queenie, as we see she is determined to learn more about T'Challa's double, and to this end she turns to a very unlikely, and rather dangerous ally. What follows is a shocking finish as we see Queenie plan misfired horribly, and T'Challa gets to be on hand to watch his own death.
This issue gets around to explaining the existence of the second Black Panther, and how he is linked to the version we've been following since issue one. However while Christopher Priest lays out the idea quite nicely, and manages to use the idea to generate several nifty little plot threads (e.g. we learn why T'Challa left Monica), I must confess I'm a bit confused by the idea that the second version is from T'Challa's future, not his past. Now perhaps the second version wanted to disguise the idea that he's from T'Challa's future, so he adopted the Silver Age act so T'Challa & as readers would mistakenly believe he was from the past & not the future. However, even this explanation runs into some trouble, as the present day version of the character would quickly recognize that he has no memory of a journey into the future in his past, and as such he would be able to dismiss this deception rather quickly. However trying to understand temporal logic is never recommended, especially when one is in the Marvel Universe, with its conflicting theories of how its writers view the idea of a character being able/unable to change one's past.
This issue also advances a couple characters quite nicely as Queen does something in this issue that horribly backfires, as her actions effectively give this latest arc its rather ominous title. Now in a move back to the way this book originally delivered its plots, this issue jumps back and forth between what appears to be three separate timelines, as we get the scenes leading up to the death, the death itself, and the aftermath. The issue also adds an imagined meeting with Magneto to further complicate the matter, but if one makes an effort, this story delivers all the key information one needs to piece together which scenes fit where. The story is also quite rewarding for the reader who was willing to make the effort, as T'Challa's future suddenly has a very definite finish, and T'Challa was on hand to see how he is going to die, which is something that makes the jovial behavior of the second Black Panther even more impressive. I'm not sure what Christopher Priest has planned for this book when the big status quo change hits in a couple months, but he's certainly taken a bold step in this issue as he's shown us how T'Challa is going to die.
The book's regular creative team returns after two months off and they waste very little time reminding the reader why they are one of the most impressive art teams currently working for Marvel. From the opening establishing shot of Wakanda, to devastating blow that is delivered on the final page by one of the Black Panther's enemies, this issue is a visual feast. I mean this material leaps back & forth, and yet the art is always very easy to follow. It's also given a couple cooler than heck scenes to deliver, as we get a battle between T'Challa & Magneto, and a jail break that while well intentioned turns out to be a disastrous move. The art also captures to little details so perfectly, as one can see what stage of the story we're at by the outfits that the characters are wearing, and we get panels like the shot of T'Challa trembling hand that convey a huge idea with a very simple visual. Now I'm not sure if I've read the news stories right about this book getting itself a new art team as of issue #50, but if this is the case then this book has lost one of the best that Marvel has to offer, and hopefully another title (Avengers) has gained this assembled group.
This issue benefits tremendously for its deceptively simple revelation that the second Black Panther is from the future and not the past. As such we see T'Challa is now a character who has learned not only how he's going to die, but with the presence of the brain disorder he also knows that the time he's has left is finite. I mean with this single plot twist Christopher Priest has turned this book completely upside-down, and with the big status quo shift that is set to hit in a couple months, one is left with come very big questions, such as why the future version of the character decided to present himself as coming from the past, and how is Queenie going to deal with the fact that she played a role in the death of T'Challa. Now I'm aware that the Black Panther is penciled into the lineup of Geoff Johns' "Avengers", but thanks to this issue, one is left to question if it'll be T'Challa under the mask in that title, and if it is how long will it be before he begin what is essentially his last adventure.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!