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Black Panther Annual #1

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2008
By: Shawn Hill

Reginald Hudlin
Stroman and Lashley (p), Paris, Cuevas, Sibal (i)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Black Panther Annual #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 27.

"Black to the Future"

Plot: Hudlin projects a future Marvel where Wakanda and American superheroes come to some possible agreements, one a truce following a war, the other a risky alliance hinging on a strategic wedding.

Comments: Hudlin is apparently very serious about those golden frogs. They've been the sentient Macguffins directing events in the main title for months, and here their hubris leads them to Uatu, to see how he feels about some of their theories about what happens now that Storm has married T'Challa.

It's so great seeing Larry Stroman doing mainstream comics again; his work is as strong now as it was a decade ago, and he has great fun aging several familiar heroes in this issue while introducing several believable new heirs. Crowd scenes were always his forte in his space opera work, and it's great to see he can do ornate period flashbacks to the Colonial Era as well.

This issue is full of imaginative challenges, because it's a "What If?" story, a possible future. It's not one of those where everybody dies, though. Hudlin's scope is grand and far-reaching, and his version of Wakanda and the Panther make more sense when compared to other aspects of the Marvel Universe than they did when he dropped in direct references to current political figures in his initial issues on the title. Here Civil War is referenced, a story he's already carefully positioned Ororo and TíChalla in opposition to. Apparently there's another international battle coming that will dwarf that one, one that results in tragic deaths and an uneasy peace.

For Hudlin to put all this in the context of the colonial and slaving history as it effected Africa and the Americas is ambitious, but fitting. Wakanda is one African state that has never been conquered by outsiders, a fantasy that the optimistic sixties Marvel offered to a world torn by Civil Rights unrest. Here we see the future of the alliance between Marvel's most famous mutant of color and one of Marvel's proudest and most benevolent Kings.

Hudlin has taken what seemed like an editorially mandated alliance aimed at propping up flagging sales (Storm's popularity has far outshined the Panther's for years) and turned it into a believable relationship, here one with believable offspring, diplomatic allies, and challenges in making sure a Wakandan son can safely marry the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. The future developments are believable and many of them compelling in their scope. Apparently, this marriage is a positive for both characters.



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