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Black Panther #52

Posted: Saturday, December 21, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Christopher Priest
Artist: Jorge Lucas

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens by showing us the drug den that Kasper hit last issue is being investigated by Sal Anthony, the corrupt police lieutenant who set up the attack on Kasper & his fellow police officers. As Sal Anthony manages to ferret out the member of the gang that Kasper had strong-armed into helping him gather the evidence, we see the idea that the Black Panther who attacked this drug den might not be the real deal is brought into play, as Kasper's rather clumsy methods lace the finesse one expects from the Black Panther. We then look in on Kasper as we see he's rather disturbed to discover that the White Wolf refuses to let him loose, as the car & costume that he burned at the end of last issue show up fully intact outside his apartment. We then see that Kasper's suspension is ended, but while he's back on active duty, he discovers his punishment for refusing to carry out an errand for Sal Anthony hasn't ended, as Kasper ends up with the most menial tasks one can perform and still qualify as a police officer. As his frustration level builds we see Kasper decides he needs to take action against Sal Anthony, and he takes to wearing the Black Panther costume once again. However, the issue ends with Kasper being paid a visit by yet another person who might have something to say about his dressing up as the Black Panther.

Comments:
Either Christopher Priest has decided to use the "previously in" page to fill in the gaps that he didn't get around to in the previous issues, or I simply haven't been paying attention as closely as I really should've, as this month's bit of text offers up a pretty surprising bit of information. Basically I learned that Kasper turned down the errand that his commanding officer asked him to perform, and the attack upon his squad was setup to teach him a lesson that it doesn't pay to bite the hand that feeds him. Given I entered this issue believing that Kasper & his fellow officers were attacked while performing the commanding officer's questionable errand, this new bit of information puts a bit of a spin on the idea, as we see Kasper & company weren't set up to trigger some sort of gang war, but rather this attack was done solely to send Kaspar a message about refusing orders. With this new insight it's easier to understand why Kasper is so driven to expose his commanding officer's actions, as in a sense his fellow officers are in the hospital because he decided to defy this man. This also makes the commanding officer look a fair sight more dangerous, as this entire attack was designed to send a message.

The final page surprise certainly turned this story on its head, and Christopher Priest deserves full marks for this truly unexpected turn of events. This issue also does some strong work developing the idea that our lead character has gotten himself in a situation where he's clearly out of his league, and one gets the sense that he's woefully unsuited to the tasks set before him. On the other hand by offering up a character who is two or three steps behind everyone else, this book has almost become the reverse of what it was before, where one was left with the sense that no matter how out of control the situation seemed to get T'Challa was always one step ahead of his opponents. I rather like the idea that Kasper is stumbling his way through this adventure with his half-formed plans, as it offers up a very real sense of danger, when we see Kasper starts to move forward not knowing that his plan has already been exposed, and it's very likely he's walking into a trap. Then again that final page changes everything, as we are left with the sense that right from the very start of this story we've been looking at only the corner of a much larger picture. In any event I'll be back next month looking for the answers to the big questions this final page makes.

Jorge Lucas returns for another issue, and truth be told every issue that he can provide the art for is a bonus, as not only is this book still shipping on time, but the with the amount of detail on the page can't help but make one grateful that Mike Marks was smart enough to line up a secondary artist to step in before the looming deadlines started being missed. The art on this issue is certainly impressive as a large part of the material is talking heads, and yet these scenes never grow dull, as the art keeps things moving with a nice array of differing perspectives. The art also does a great job on its big impact moments, as the scene where Kasper's inside man is uncovered made for a pretty powerful scene, but the highlight of this issue would have to be the one page shot of Kasper leaping into action in his Black Panther costume, as the background cityscape shot is absolutely amazing work. My only question with the art is that there's a scene in this issue where Tork decides to lose the pants he was wearing, and I kept expecting the text to offer up some explanation for this little detail, but it never does, which tells me it was the art's job to explain why Tork felt the need to shed his pants.

Final Word:
There's not many titles that could seemingly throw everything out the window, and yet deliver a new plot that was just as rewarding. Now yes there are elements that link this new Black Panther to what we had been getting previously, and the last page would seem to suggest that the ties are far stronger than it initially appeared. However, what makes this new arc so impressive is that Christopher Priest has taken a title that thrived on its complex plots, and turned it into a hard-boiled crime drama, but I still find this book to be one of the most rewarding reads out the stands. I also enjoy the fact that the new Black Panther is more prone to make mistakes than T'Challa, as we get the sense that the villain he's looking to take down is smarter than our hero. The book also does a pretty solid job of playing up the idea that Kasper isn't exactly looking to get involved in the life of a costumed crime-fighter, but rather putting on the costume is more a means to an end.



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