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Black Panther #51

Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Christopher Priest
Artist: Jorge Lucas

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Kevin Cole seated in his car outside to home of the superior officer who set up an ambush that killed a half dozen police officers and left Kevin as the sole survivor. However, ever the good cop we see Kevin resists the urge to take this man out, and instead he sets out to make use of his five day suspension to put the screws to the gang that performed the hit on his fellow officers, in a bid to build a case against the crooked Lieutenant Sal Anthony. Using the borrowed Black Panther costume to mask his identity, we see Kevin pays a visit to the secure compound that houses the gang that took down his fellow officers. However, other than putting a good scare into a member of this gang, and giving the bulletproof costume through a good workout, Kevin's visit accomplishes very little. However, a visit from the White Wolf does look to provide Kevin with the easy solution, as Kevin finds the man to be very accommodating to his needs, especially when the White Wolf provides Kevin with the ever elusive evidence that Kevin is trying to collect. However, the warnings about the White Wolf's true intentions leave him wary to accept this help, and by issue's end Kevin's made his decision when it comes to accepting help from the White Wolf.

Comments:
This new direction had a decidedly more insular feel to it, as we focus of the problems of a single character, rather than T'Challa's more sweeping plans that sent the world economy on a rollar-coaster ride, or threatened to topple entire governments. Heck even when T'Challa was dealing with problems within Wakanda, the stories had a sense of grandeur to them, as T'Challa’s enemies tended to have entire tribes backing them. However, this new direction is operating on a smaller scale, as we're following a police detective, who is working to expose a corrupt element within the force, and one of the ways he's going about it is with the use of a borrowed Black Panther costume, which he wears when being bulletproof & intimidating are desired traits. In a sense it does remind me of the first year of this book, where we had T'Challa coming to America to look into the murder of a young child, and if one removed the involvement of Mephisto from that story, I guess I can see that Christopher Priest knew what he's doing back then, as this book started small, and then expanded its reach to become one of the more impressive titles on the stands when it came to making it's stories feel important. Here's hoping it can pull off this trick again.

This issue does a pretty good job of playing up the idea that simply the act of wearing the Black Panther costume serves to immerse Kevin Cole in a world that operates on a far larger scale than he's used to working within. One has to love the wolf in sheep's clothing approach that the While Wolf is conveying in this story, as everything this villain is doing seems to be designed to make Kevin's mission easier to accomplish, as we see he offers him a supply of specially designed bullets that can't be traced back to him, and later in the issue there's also a great little moment, where the White Wolf causally offers up the information that Kevin needs accomplish his goal of bringing down the man who sent him in to be killed alongside a half-dozen other fellow police officers. The last page is also quite impressive, as we see Kevin makes his response to the White Wolf's offer, and we see that this response isn't likely to be taken all that well. In other words by the end of this issue Kevin may have proven himself to be an honorable man who can spot a devil in disguise, and resist temptation, but this matters very little in the light of the fact that in making such a clear rejection of the White Wolf's offer, Kevin has made himself a very powerful enemy.

It does look like this book has opted for a two-pronged approach when it comes to its art, as we had Dan Fraga last issue, and this month we get Jorge Lucas. Now both of them have a nice detailed style that lends itself remarkably well to the action sequences. They also have a similar style when it comes to their panel layouts, and the overall look of their art, so if this arc is collected in trade paperback form the switch between the two will hardly be noticeable. I certainly like the idea of having two artists on this book, as I've had quite about enough of Marvel's other method, which involves placing an artist who can't handle a monthly title on a book, and then we have the mad scramble to find a guest-artist who can deliver the four to five issues that the regular artist can't finish. It also doesn't hurt that both artists working on this book are quite capable, as they have the basics pretty much perfected, with the material proving to be quite easy to follow, and as I mentioned before they both do their best work on the action sequences. I mean the flashback of the ambush that left Kevin as the sole survivor was a great piece of work, as is the sequence where Kevin finds himself wading through an entire house full of armed thugs.

Final Word:
The new direction is still taking some getting use to, as Christopher Priest pretty much threw everything out the window, and I'm still trying to figure out if I'm enjoying what's replaced it as much as what this book had going for it before. Now I will concede that the material is well crafted, and quite entertaining, but to tell the truth Kevin "Casper" Cole is a little too good to be true in this issue. I mean it's a little early in the game to be too concerned, but this issue is all about tempting the character with the easy solution and thus far Kevin hasn't given in. I mean it's one thing to explore the idea of what makes a good cop, but if Christopher Priest continues along this path then it's going to become a little difficult to accept the idea that Kevin would ever make the wrong choice. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I'd like to see the edges on the character roughed up a bit more, as right now we have Kevin taking the straight & narrow course, while the more engaging choices he could've made are quashed by his unwillingness to be anything but a good, by the book police officer.



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