"Who is the Black Panther? Part Five"
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Klaus Janson (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Klaw's army of super-villains meets some opposition from the Black Panther and the various technologies that Wakanda is able to employ against their enemies, and it looks like the tide of the battle has turned against Klaw. However Klaw isn't one to go down without a fight, and he is able to make it to the very heart of the Wakandan society, as the second wave of attacks has arrived in the form of zombie/robot soldiers.
Comments: I don't want to say that the bloom is off the rose simply because I found this issue wanting, but I found myself a little concerned after reading this issue. It marked the first time I found myself questioning if this is really all there is to this opening arc. Perhaps Christopher Priest's layered plots have spoiled me when it comes to the Black Panther, but I was extremely disappointed that Reginald Hudlin's entire approach to this opening story seems to be to throw a bunch of villains at the Black Panther's kingdom, and these uncomplicated attacks are intercut by equally simplistic scenes where the shadowy figures who set these dogs loose are licking their lips about the impending spoils of war that they'll be left with when the smoke clears. However, this plot-by-numbers approach would be easy to overlook if Reginald Hudlin had at least offered up some engaging action, but the entire point of this issue would seem to be to show readers how easily the Black Panther and the forces of Wakanda are able to deal with the villains attacking them. The Rhino's defeat is downright anti-climatic, and the Black Panther's clash with the Black Knight is over so quickly that I'm not even sure it can be called a battle. I guess the final pages provide some excitement as Klaw looks to have secured a nice position of power on the battlefield, and the robot/zombie soldiers have entered the battle. Frankly though, I found myself unmoved by these developments, as Reginald Hudlin has shown that he's not adverse to the idea of dismissing a threat when he grows bored of it by simply showing readers that it was never a real threat in the first place. Also acknowledging where you borrowed an idea from doesn't give one an automatic free pass, as one also has to put a new spin on it or it simply feels like you couldn't be bothered to come up with an original idea. The issue is also still trying a little too hard when it comes to making everyone but the Wakandans evil, immoral creeps, with the scene where the zombie soldiers are introduced being the most painful example.
There's nothing worse than getting a scene where an artist like John Romita Jr. being told to put away all his toys after he's been given a golden opportunity to show what he's capable of. The book opens with a great looking shot of the Rhino smashing his way through a double page spread, and the ensuing dialogue leads one to believe that we're going to get a scene where a squadron of fighter jets are going to be called upon to stop his rampage. Instead of a display of raw power, the scene is resolved with a decidedly unimpressive sleeping gas attack. Of course while I was a bit disappointed I still managed to tell myself that the cover image promised an exciting looking aerial battle involving the Black Panther, but once again John Romita Jr. is told to call it a day far too early, as this action is resolved with no fancy aerial manoeuvres, and its big climax is downright criminal when one has John Romita Jr. on board. Now Klaw's arrival in the final pages is well done, and the zombie soldiers are visually engaging, but this issue really didn't make use of John Romita Jr., and this can't help but leave me concerned.
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