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Black Panther #60

Posted: Monday, June 16, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Christopher Priest
Artists: Patrick Zircher (p), Norm Rapmund (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Kasper Cole receiving a visit from the first of six Wakandan warriors that he'll have the defeat in combat as he moves through the ancient Wakandan rite of Ascension. While he narrowly manages to hold his own, we see he does eventually get the upper hand, and this earns him an invite to the Wakandan embassy, where he learns another part of the test will be a question answer session about the history & tribal customs of Wakanda. After spending most of the night pouring over volumes, we see Kasper spends the next morning trying to convince the leader of the 66 Bridges gang to give up the kidnapped child he was trying to rescue, but this conversation fails to produce the desired result. After a brief conversation with T'Challa in which Kasper is urged to drop his dangerous course of action, we see his refusal has him meeting with the High Council of the Wakanda, who continue the test, by sending in two armored warriors that Kasper has to fight, while simultaneously he also has to pass a oral test regarding the information he spent most of the night trying to memorize. While Kasper is successful on both counts, we see the fourth warrior is Okoye, the Panther's Dora Milaje, and while he also wins this fight, he manages to inadvertently humiliate her in the process. He then learns who his final opponent will be and things do not look good for poor Kasper Cole.

Comments:
If I had one problem with this book, it's that there are times when Christopher Priest makes his protagonists a little too effective. I mean one of the main reason I found this new direction to be so enjoyable was that Kasper Cole was a raw rookie in the super-hero game, and as such he was allowed to make the stupid mistakes that T'Challa would've never made. In turn these mistakes lead to some fairly dramatic consequences such as the murder of Sgt. Tork, as well as some fairly cute moments like his falling off the helicopter, instead of making a dramatic entrance into the cockpit of the craft like most heroes. However, while this issue starts off strong with Kasper barely fending off the attacks of the first Wakandan warrior, the big battle of the issue has him putting on a display of agility that presents him as a highly skilled warrior, while at the same time we're called upon to believe he learned in a single night what takes most Wakandan children years to memorize. I mean I realize from a writer's standpoint it's tougher to write a character who when backed into a corner, is going to find himself knocked back into this corner a couple more times before they manage to narrowly pull off their victory, but from an entertainment standpoint, it was a little disappointing to see Kasper Cole suddenly become a one-man fighting machine.

On the other side of the equation since Kasper Cole does look like he's slated to be the character who Christopher Priest is going to bring over with him to the new book, it does make sense that he would want the character's rough edges to be somewhat smoothed over. What's more since the purpose of this arc is to have Kasper advance up the ladder and earn the respect of T'Challa, I guess it makes sense that having his stumble & bumble his way to victory would distract away from the idea that Kasper can hold his own in a fight, and as such he's deserving of the respect he feels T'Challa is denying him. There's also something to be said for the idea of using the early battles to build up the hero in the minds of the reader before the book delivers the big surprise on the final page, as we see Kasper looks like he's about to do battle with one of the only people who T'Challa has been unable to defeat in hand to hand combat, and surely Christopher Priest wouldn't have Kasper accomplish something T'Challa was never able to. Then again the one advantage that Kasper does have going for him is that he brings a degree of unpredictability to the table, as his fighting style looks to be entirely self taught, and he's willing the step outside the lines when it comes to securing a victory, so his ability to pull off the unexpected is fairly high. This doesn't stop me from entering this fight with the belief that he's going to get his head handed to him though.

It's great to see Patrick Zircher back on a monthly book, as while this book is lined up for the chopping block, I do believe he'll be making the jump over to "Nightwing", so one can almost look upon this arc on this series as a preview of the street level super-heroics that are a staple of Nightwing's solo book. This issue is a wonderful display of Patrick Zircher's ability to convey in your face action scenes, as the opening round with the grandmother warrior really moves along from a visual sense. The art also manages to clearly deliver the material, as the little details like Kasper's seeming disinterest as his Wakandan host is explaining the importance of reading the text books on Wakanda history, manages to convince the reader that he has no chance at pulling this off. The same goes for the action scenes, as the art manages to visually convey the idea that the High Council of the Wakandas views him as little more than a petty annoyance, who is going to be quickly putting his place, and the warriors that race forward to do battle manage to come across as quite imposing. The sense of motion as Kasper avoids their attacks before finally striking back is also quite impressive, with my favorite panel being his energy blade attack that damages the holographic emitter array. Pretty solid looking cover to, even if it does look like pretty much every other cover we've seen on this book since the new direction began.

Final Word:
It's pretty clear that this arc is meant to establish Kasper Cole as a legitimate hero in the eyes of readers before he's punted over into the Crew, and I will concede that Christopher Priest offers up a pretty solid showcase of Kasper's ability to hold his own. The only problem is that I had rather been enjoying the character as a less than perfect hero who was not only allowed to drop the ball, but who also came up with clever plans that completely fell apart when he put then into motion. Now I realize that there's only so far one can go with a lead character who can't hold their own in a fight, but I feel this issue swings the pendulum a little too far in the other direction, as the battles he has in this issue lack the sense that he's just barely keeping his head above water, and this was exactly the feeling I went into this arc hoping to find. I mean this is his trial by fire, and thus far Kasper hasn't even broken a sweat let alone stood a chance of getting burned. Still, the last page does make a pretty strong case that from this point on things are going to be far more difficult.



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