Writer: Christopher Priest
Artists: Jim Calafiore (p), Norm Rapmund (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Kasper Cole at the hospital, as his difficulty adjusting to his newly enhanced senses have his family convinced he's overdosed on drugs. However, when Kasper is visited by the "ghost" of Tork, who hands him the business card of someone that will help him locate the kidnapped son of Sgt. Sal Anthony, we see Kasper heads off to meet this mysterious helper. We then learn that the man who Kasper was steered toward is Everett K. Ross, and Ross in turn takes Kasper to Monica Lynne, who helpfully steers Kasper in the right direction, by basically telling him to start making use of his enhanced senses. We then see Kasper is able to figure out who the young child was removed from the house that he had moved against earlier, and when he locates that drug den where the child was taken we see he's steered toward Chicago, by yet another member of T'Challa's supporting players, the young, but highly opinionated Queen Divine Justice. In the end, while Kasper is able to locate the house where the child is being held, he soon discovers that this entire mission was a test that was set up by T'Challa, to see is he would fall under the influence of Killmonger, and his rather suspect promises. The issue then ends with Kasper adopting the identity of the White Tiger, with T'Challa's blessing.
This final issue pretty much resolves all its various plots by tying them all together, and revealing that most of the various hoops that Kasper Cole has been jumping thorough during this latest arc have been part of the test that was being conducted by T'Challa himself. Now while it does resolve most of the lingering questions, I couldn't help but feel that the events of the previous issues were a little too dependent on the actions that Killmonger would take for T'Challa to truly be the controlling factor he's revealed to be in this issue. Then again the search for the missing child that makes up the bulk of this issue does have a nice holding his hand feel to it, as Kasper Cole doesn't really crack the case so much as he is directed toward the locations he needs to be by the various allies that he suddenly acquires in this issue. In any event this issue has several surprising revelations in the final pages, and overall the way that everything ties together in the final pages makes for about as strong a finish as one could really hope for. Still, the revelation that pretty much the entire experience was a test, and that there was always a safety net in place should Kasper get in too deep, does robs the story of some of the excitement that was generated by the feeling that Kasper was involved in a situation far beyond his ability to handle.
I've been with this book from the very start and while "The Crew" certainly takes some of the sting off this book finally succumbing to the threat of cancellation that has been this book's constant companion right from the start, I have to give this book full marks for lasting as long as it did. This was a quality book, that featured some of the most intelligently written material to ever come out of Marvel, and as an added bonus this book has always been blessed with some truly wonderful art. Perhaps even more impressive is that this book essentially cast aside its lead character during its final year, a move that on most book's would drive a stake through its heart, but not only did the newly created lead emerge into a highly engaging character in his own right, but so much so that he earned a spot in the lineup of the spin-off series. Now if I had to make one complaint about the new direction it would have to be that we also lost T'Challa's supporting cast with the shift over, but this final issue does act as a nice final kick at the can for these highly engaging supporting players, as Everett K. Ross makes a highly amusing return, with his attempt to purchase some drugs being one of his funnier moments. This issue also offers up Queen Divine Justice, who arrives with her highly engaging brand of soap box style posturing, though her comments this time out actually are quite insightful regarding the validity of the studies that have been made on drug use.
The cover by Patrick Zircher does look to have some perspective problems, and frankly I've grown a little bored of the covers for this book simply being a shot of the new Black Panther in an action pose holding his two guns in a menacing manner. Then again most of Marvel's covers have been rather uninspired affairs as of late, that seem to make as little effort as possible to tell one anything about the story one can expect to find inside. As for the interior art, the work of Jim Calafiore has always been a favorite of mine, as he has a nice edgy style that lends itself quite nicely to the more action orientated books, and this book's street level heroics also benefit from the art's overall appearance. The art also has some fun on the issue's more comedic moments, as our first visit to Everett K. Ross is a delightful exchange, in which his reluctance to get involved is perfectly captured during the six panel sequence where he opens the door. The issue tells the story in a nice, easy to follow manner, as there's a nice little moment where the art is called upon to draw our attention to a mailbox, and the art manages to get our attention to this object before Kasper makes the connection. There's also some clever visual touches like the shot in the final pages where Kasper & T'Challa are having their face to face conversation.
The final issue is about as good as one could expect given it basically states that T'Challa was the one pulling most of the strings, and all the hurdles that Kasper Cole has run up against recently are all part of a test that T'Challa created to test his heroic nature. Now speaking as a fan who has been with this book from the start, I have to say I'm sad to see it go, as it was one of the few titles that was consistently challenging the reader's intelligence, and was able to continually surprise me with how well it's highly complex plots fit together. Christopher Priest is a wonderful writer whose work I'll make an active effort to track down, and I truly hope the writer lined up to follow Geoff Johns on the Avengers keeps the Black Panther in the group, as this series has made the character into an engaging character, and made him highly deserving of a more prominent role in the Marvel Universe. This final issue is also highly rewarding for long time fans, as several supporting players make their returns for this final issue, with Everett K. Ross returning for a particularly amusing cameo.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!