Editor's Note: Black Panther #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 4.
Kurt Taylor Lane:
Kurt Taylor Lane:
Summary: The Black Panther has crashed landed while returning home to Wakanda and is seriously injured. After a series of events, T'Challa meets with Namor in Latveria, only to be confronted by Doctor Doom.
Comments: Marvel's Secret Invasion tagline, "Who do you trust?," should apply directly to the publisher these days. As I was looking forward to reading an almost double sized Black Panther, surprise, surprise, I discover it's really a regular length story with some filler added to the back. I could let this slide, but it's not the first time Marvel has decided to blur the meaning of an oversized book.
I don't even think those extra pages would have done anything for this story anyhow. While not a bad read, this issue is not keeping you hanging on every page. T'Challa and the Nation of Wakanda was actually one of my favorite stories in Secret Invasion and I was confused on why Marvel has decided to restart the series. After several teasers on who the next Black Panther was, I was still unconvinced that Marvel would reboot a great overlooked series. They didn't restart Captain America when Steve Rodgers was killed, right? I like what Reginald Hudlin has done with the Black Panther series to date. As of now, there is no Black Panther, only a tease of who the next one will be, Storm or Echo, who hasn't made an appearance yet in this book.
The Panther's meeting with Namor was the highlight of this book. The standard formula for talking with Namor usually consists of someone needing his help, he remarks how he's better than the surface dwellers, and it all ends up resolving itself. Here, the friendship between Namor and TíChalla resonates with diplomacy and truth. Namor's reasoning for him and Doom allying with Osborn is realistic, and I was glad to learn that it's not some far-fetched scheme to control the world. It's a practical power move on the part of these two monarchs, making it more down to earth and enjoyable for me.
Enter Doom. This man is the most over worked character in the Marvel Universe right now. He's got his own one-shot, he's in Fantastic Four, and he's in Dark Avengers. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the good doctor, even going as far to name my son after him (Victor, not Doom, although the latter name could apply at times), but if canon is involved, something's got to give with the series of events here. At times, Latveria is in ruins, other times it's standing proud. Doom is in custody for one book, free in a different series, hanging out with Osborn in the next. I'm not asking for some magical "Crisis on 616" to come resolve everything, just a little cohesion in the storylines would be nice.
Final Word: As stated above, Black Panther #1 is not a completely bad read, but I felt like it went nowhere at times. I could say not to throw away this series yet due to a first issue, but for die-hard comic fans, I'd be telling you something you already know.
Much of Reginald Hudlin's run on Black Panther has been relatively hit or miss with me. Overall, I've enjoyed it, but I never really got into the character until recently. Like my original feelings towards Spider-Man, I always preferred the original Black Panther stories over most anything else but lately, thanks to re-reading Hudlin's Marvel Knights Black Panther work and loving every second of Jason Aaron's "Secret Invasion" tie-in, I've come to really enjoy the character and the stories. I also feel that Marvel has handled the marriage of TíChalla and Storm exceptionally well, and the stories to come out of that event under the "X-Men: Manifest Destiny" theme have been very strong.
But there also comes a time when a publisher has to break the mold of a certain character. It happens all the time, often for a few story-arcs and often to try and create a spike in sales and hopefully grab some new readers with a solid story or decent mystery. This is, of course, the case with the latest re-launch of Black Panther. Marvel has been promoting it for a couple of months now with the burning question "Who is the new Black Panther?" Frankly, it would not be that big of a deal if there was a new Black Panther in the form of a new king of Wakanda, maybe a small initial shock and response to something like "the death of T'Challa" or "what happened to TíChalla" resulting in a set of story-arc with a thematic mystery of T'Challa's whereabouts.
But the hype surrounding this new re-launch does not feature a new king of Wakanda; it features a new Black Panther, a female Black Panther. Seeing as how the original Black Panther is the king and all, it's kind of a big deal that a woman assumes the mantle while the king is indisposed.
There's a mild spoiler here that needs to be revealed in order to proceed with this review. The new Black Panther is NOT revealed in this issue.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing as it creates a sense of mystery and a guessing game of who will become the new Black Panther. It also opens the possibility for the identity of the new Black Panther to be kept secret for a number of issues and the reveal of who is NOT the Black Panther can begin. Similar to the handling of Rulk over in Hulk, just hopefully with better stories.
This first story-arc featuring the Black Panther will undoubtedly be an origin story, that much is for certain. It will be about whoever assumes the mantle taking on the responsibility of the king, although having that person be a woman will make things all the more interesting. However, after reading this story and knowing the history of the Black Panther, I see the mantle can only belong to one of two people, regardless of how many heads went on the body during Marvel's ad campaign. The mantle that belongs to Wakanda's warrior kings must either go to the queen, Storm, or T'Challa's sister, Shuri. To be quite honest, while my money is on Shuri, I think it would be a smart move for both of these characters to become the new Black Panther. Could you imagine, a Black Panther on the X-Men? That'd be pretty sweet.
But my reasoning behind the mantle having to go to one of these two has to do with the character's history. The Black Panther isn't a typical hero. The Black Panther is royalty, and if the mantle went to anyone but Storm or Shuri, I think that would degrade the character and the meaning of Wakandan royalty. It will be interesting to see where Hudlin takes this as he potentially sits on a gold mine in terms of story possibilities, not only for this title, but for every Marvel title.
This title, like many others, is no doubt meant to play a bigger role in "Dark Reign." This much is obvious when you see why T'Challa becomes incapacitated. The new Black Panther, or even a revived T'Challa, is definitely on my list of my hypothesized Avengers that will form to eventually take down Osborn. Regardless, T'Challa's condition and the coming of a new Panther has everything to do with "Dark Reign," and this is a wise move by Hudlin and Marvel as it will put this title in the "must buy pile" when a reader sorts through his weekly stack. Hudlin uses the "Dark Reign" backdrop to show T'Challa's honor and strength of will, even when facing down an old ally like Namor. But it is also that honor that causes T'Challa's downfall when standing up to one of Namor's new, very powerful allies. This issue ends on a high note and promises to show us in detail, what led to T'Challa's current predicament.
I've always been a fan of Ken Lashley's artwork and that feeling remains in tact with this issue. During the brief Flash: The Fastest Man Alive series, Lashley's artwork was the only thing that was really memorable. Lashley is a great artist and really seems to be a perfect fit for this story. Hudlin is definitely on to something, and it's great to see Ken Lashley working on a title that could be potentially huge. He brings a strong level of consistency and detail and does an excellent job adapting his style to the style of the story.
Overall, Hudlin is on to something that could be huge and phenomenal. It will be interesting to find out who becomes the Black Panther, and if it will be Storm or Shuri, but either way, readers should be in for a solid first story-arc or two with great artwork and direct ties to Norman Osborn and "Dark Reign." I'm interested to see where this title goes and if the momentum and quality of this issue continues to grow.
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