"Who is the Black Panther? Part Four"
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Klaus Janson (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The Radioactive Man tests out his ability to destabilize vibranium, and this incident gives the people of Wakanda and its champion, the Black Panther, a sign that there is something very wrong. However, before they can really put the pieces together Klaw and his army of super-villains launch a series of highly organized and successful attacks, and needless to say the parties that are eager to get their hands on Wakanda and its technology are quite pleased.
Comments: While the book still suffers from some moments where the writing is trying a little too hard to convey the idea that the group that are gunning for Wakanda are "evil," the book is steadily winning me over when it comes to its willingness to embrace the idea of assembling a huge array of threats for our hero to face. The second half of this issue is basically one attack after another, and it makes for one entertaining show. I also rather enjoy the idea that there looks to be a genuine strategy behind the attacks, as one attack follows directly on the heels of a previous attack, which sells the idea that the Black Panther is going to be simply buried under threats before he can even begin to respond. In the end this issue earns itself a glowing recommendation thanks in large part to its willingness to play with toys from all corners of the sandbox. Basically, Reginald Hudlin has assembled a sizeable army of super-villains from all over the Marvel Universe. In fact I wish what Reginald Hudlin was doing in this issue was a more common practice, as while I realize there is some reluctance to mess with the proven success of having a regular rogues gallery threats that are recycled over and over again, I think the Marvel Universe could inject some life into its line if it loosens the reigns on its villains. I'd love to see Fantastic Four villains crossing paths with the X-Men. Now I guess one could make a bit of a fuss that Radioactive Man's decidedly sinister role in this issue runs counter to his current actions over in the New Thunderbolts, but truth be told the murder sequence in this issue is so effective that continuity concerns take a back seat to pure entertainment value. How can one not be won over by the sheer momentum that this book gains in its final pages as Wakanda comes under attack from a highly organized series of attacks? Watching the Black Panther scramble to counters these attacks should make for a very entertaining reading experience.
I'm a big fan of John Romita Jr., and as such, it's no real surprise that I love his work on this series. He's given ample opportunity to show off how perfectly suited he is to a title when the writing calls for high intensity action. How can one not love the panels where the Rhino charges his way through the Wakandan defences? There's also a lovely moment where the Black Knight takes down a fighter jet. The art also manages to do a wonderful job when it comes to the deeply unsettling scene where the Radioactive Man emerges from his chamber, as his expression when he makes his first kill perfectly sells how detached this character has become when it comes to the act of murder. The Black Panther also gets a nice little sequence as the character gets the opportunity to make one of those heroic arrivals, and the follow up scene where he tries to let the child know he's not a god is also quite effective, thanks in large part of the look of utter devotion that is etched on the face of the child.
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