"Who is the Black Panther?" (Part One)
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Klaus Janson (i), Dean White (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The book opens in the 5th century, where we see Wakanda repels an invasion by another tribe with a surprising effectiveness. We than jump forward to the 19th century where we see an invasion by Europeans is driven off in an equally impressive manner. The book than jumps to the present day where we see the American government is making noise about Wakanda's recent demand that a no fly zone be established over their country, and we see them enter into a questionable alliance with one of the Black Panther's long-time enemies.
Comments: This book sort of snuck up on me. While I knew I was going to pick it up, I had made plans to track down the films that Reginald Hudlin had written/directed, so I would have some idea what to expect, but it's a little late in the game to be doing this type of homework, as I now have the first issue to use as an example of his work. I've seen a couple other reviews online that made a bit of a fuss about the idea that the present day Black Panther is nowhere to be found in this opening issue, but I have to say I wasn't overly concerned by the character's absence, as Reginald Hudlin uses the issue to offer up a highly engaging history lesson of the nation of Wakanda, and we see it drive off a number of invaders which nicely leads into the present day material where the American government is making some noise about Wakanda's newly established no fly zone over their country. Now the material that deals with the unsuccessful invasion attempts works exceptionally well, as the scenes manage to deftly present the idea that Wakanda continually remains one step ahead of it's enemies. On the other hand the material that's set in the present day is less successful thanks in large part to the presence of a cartoonish military general who one almost expects to launch into a diatribe about fluoride in the water. Now I realize that it easier to evoke sympathy for Wakanda when we see the forces arrayed against them are foaming at the mouth, but frankly the idea would've been far more effective if it had been a cool, collected discussion of what to do about Wakanda's sabre rattling. I mean Norman Bates was never more creepy than when he when he was enjoying lunch with his victim, and calmly discussing how a good son loves his mother. Still, the final page twist looks quite promising, and I eagerly await the next chapter.
John Romita Jr. is one of my favourite artists, and I'm delighted to see he'll be this book's regular artist, as not only is he highly dependable when it comes to the monthly deadlines, but he also has one of the more visually exciting styles in the industry. I mean all the proof that one needs about him being the ideal artist for this title is offered up in the opening pages as we see an invasion force is crushed beneath the technical superiority of Wakanda, though if one needs further proof one only needs to look at the double-page spread that captures the battle between Captain America and the Black Panther. The one quibble I will make about his art though is that he doesn't seem to have a good grasp on what Everett K. Ross is supposed to look like which struck me as a little odd, considering the character's look had been well established in the previous series. Still, this is a minor problem that's easily corrected, and it doesn't take away my overall excitement that John Romita Jr. is this book's artist.
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