Writer: J. Torres
Artists: Ryan Bodenheim (p), Walden Wong (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with the Black Panther & the museum guards battling a host of wild animals that have sprung to life, but these creations crumble into dust when the young prince that T'Challa is working to protect decides to play hero, as he rushes forward and delivers a solid right hook to the belly of the spell-caster who had brought these creatures to life. We then see that unlike most people who have been targeted for assassination, the prince & his family have decided to continue their public outings, as they head off to attend a Broadway play. However while the Black Panther is able to take down the gun man who was sneaking up behind the king, we see later that night T'Challa is not able to protect the king from the third attempt on his life, as a female reporter who had seduced her way into the king's room managed to poison the man, and T'Challa arrives to late to do anything but aid in the woman's capture. We then learn from the mother that the prince is really the son of her second husband, and not her first, so he's not a direct descendant of royal family, but given the rash of poisonings, the prince is about as close to royalty as they're going to get, and the mother isn't about to reveal the truth of her son's lineage. The story then ends with the prince becoming king of a royal family that has been ousted by a rebel uprising.
This is one of those issue that really didn't stick with me, as I read the issue on Wednesday evening, and when I got around to reviewing it a couple days later I really couldn't recall a single thing about it. Now, yes I I could blame this lack of recall on the fact that I normally read about 20 comics a week, and this issue simply got lost in a mind that is already crammed with comic book trivia, but upon reading the issue again for the purpose of this review, I found that the reason why it didn't stick was because there was nothing all that memorable about it. I mean the evil spell caster is defeated when the young prince punches him in the stomach, and the hidden assassin is caught by T'Challa who is able to spot the man & leap across an entire theater before this man could pull a trigger. Then there's the big climax where we learn the identity of the mystery killer, and in the grand tradition of all bad murder mysteries this person is a background character, who is suddenly thrust into an important role when the writer decides the story needs a killer who the readers would recognize. Then there the rather longwinded wrap up where the politics of the situation are discussed, and in a scene which I guess is suppose to make one think, the issue ends by asking a series of question that will likely never be answered.
Issues like this are really difficult to review, as when a comic is bad I normally have to edit down my reviews, as I get a little too longwinded in my whining. The same goes for a comic that I found quite enjoyable, or at the very least offered up some type of insight that I can offer up my opinion about. However, this issue sits in the middle of the road, doing very little to rock the boat. So what is there to fill a review with. I guess I could say that it's nice to see Everett K. Ross back in these pages, even if it was only for a brief visit, as I didn't really care for the rather abrupt way the character was jettisoned from the book when the new direction hit this book. I guess I could also make mention of the way that this arc made it's dutiful attempt to mimic the style of the Christopher Priest issues, with it's amusing chapter titles, and I will concede that a couple of the chapter headings did make me smile. I'll also give the book credit for actually following through on the idea that the king was targeted for assassination, by actually killing the character in the final pages, and while I don't really understand how this would end the threat to the young prince, I guess the simple fact that I actually care what happens is enough proof that I was able to invest my interest in the story.
Ryan Bodenheim's work holds up pretty well, as the cast of characters are fairly easy to tell apart, and the action is never unclear as to what is playing out on the page. The art also delivers some pretty solid impact visuals, as one has to love that shot of the Black Panther racing up the side of the building when he figures out the killer is in the king's room. The shot of the king's body in the final page is also quite horrific, as one look is enough to tell you this man didn't die a particularly pleasant death. The art also does some nice work showing us the attacking animals were not real, as the scene where they crumble away into dust is nicely done, and the scene where the spell-caster decides to kill himself, the art does a great job of playing up the nightmarish quality of his exit. There's also some solid action shots, as the panel of the Black Panther unleashing his energy daggers at the animals was an impressive shot, and the scene where the woman is advancing upon his from the shadows as he investigates the murder scene is well done. Now the art does need more range when it comes to its facial expressions, and there's some perspective problems that show up from time to time (e.g. the Black Panther's leap across the theater), but for the most part the art manages to hold its own.
An issue that never quite manages to spark my interest, and while I'll give the book credit for attempting to deliver a fairly complex situation, in the end I found the scenario that J. Torres came up with was simply complex to be complex, and the big reveal in the final pages didn't pack enough punch to justify the winding path that the story took to reach this point. I mean in the end is it really important who was the true father of the prince, and why does this revelation suddenly allow the story to act as if the crisis has been resolved, as the story had left me with the impression that the entire royal family had been targeted for death. The book is also a bit unimpressive with the threats that it offers up, as most of them are dealt with in a single panel, and the book never quite manages to created a sense of danger. There's also the simple fact that the royal family is rather an unlikeable group of characters, as the only personality traits that get any attention are their less than admirable ones. In fact it almost feels like this royal family would feel right at home on the "Jerry Springer" show.
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