Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tales From The Library! - Black Panther Vol. 1: Who Is The Black Panther?

I wanted to start this themed month off with a character that I’ve liked but haven’t read a lot of: The Black Panther. He was introduced in Fantastic Four and has been around since then. He’s been a part of the Avengers and has had a few series during his time in the limelight. He was even married to Storm which could have been cool if Marvel did anything cool with it. T’Challa may be the Marvel character who is most like Batman in a lot of ways. He’s rich (Royalty, man!!), he’s a master at fighting styles and tactics, he’s pretty smart, he uses an animal with the name, and he’s lost family members to crime. There are differences of course. His world is much more expansive than Gotham, the Black Panther is a title given to him, he has no secret identity, and he will cross the line in ending his enemies permanently.

Earlier in the year, I looked at a Panther story from the 80’s. I’ve wanted to look for more stories but really haven’t yet. For this character, I decided to once again visit the library and I found something. “Who is the Black Panther” was the arc that revamped the character for his series in 2005. The trade contains the first six issues of Black Panther. It was even adapted into a kind of lackluster animated series/motion comic. At least it had good voice casting. Hollywood director and former BET Pres. Of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin handled the writing duties for the series. Coming in on art duties are John Romita Jr. for pencils and Klaus Jansen with inks.

Black Panther Vol. 1: Who Is The Black Panther?
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Klaus Jansen
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Randy Gentile and Chris Eliopoulos
Assistant Editor: Cory Sedlmeier
Editor: Axel Alonso

We start out by getting an idea of what Wakanda is through flashbacks. The country is technologically advanced because of its vibranium deposits and has never been invaded. The Black Panther is the country’s ruler and is a well-skilled man. One of them even defeated a young Captain America during World War 2. We then move to present day or at least a few years ago (the book doesn’t say). The US government is getting briefed on the new Panther: T’Challa. He earned the title from his uncle S’Yan in a match. The US government is worried if this new change could be a threat.
Nice shield, Cap! 

Meanwhile, an assassin named Ulysses Klaw is gathering a group of superpowered people along with his men to take down Wakanda and the Black Panther. He had killed T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, at a global conference years ago. He also lost his arm and eye at that conference and basically wants revenge. Klaw’s Belgian government nursed him back to health and even gave him a cybernetic arm that could do anything. He ends up hiring villains like Batroc the Leaper, the Rhino, the Cannibal (?), the Black Knight, and the Radioactive Man. He even gets a neighboring country (Niganda) to help in the fight.

Klaw puts his plan into motion in taking over Wakanda. The Cannibal keeps Wakanda’s UN delegates busy, the Radioactive Man messes with the vibranium deposits, the Black Knight takes to the skies and takes out their air support, and Rhino does what he does best:  running over stuff. Niganda’s forces even come over. T’Challa gets his forces together to face the battle and even he jumps into the fray. Meanwhile, the US government finds out about the attack and sends its own covert group of cybrernetic soldiers to see if Wakanda needs help.

The other villains are taken out in various ways. While the Panther is busy, Klaw and Batroc sneak into the main city and take Ramonda (T’Challa’s mother) hostage. Luckily, T’Challa’s uncle and some guards are able to get her away from those two. T’Challa is then able to make it back and finally face off with Klaw. It takes a while, but T’Challa is able to stick to Klaw literally. Afterwards, America’s cyborgs show up asking to assist, but T’Challa kindly tells them to leave and the story ends.

I thought that this was a decent outing for the Black Panther. It’s not great but it is far from horrible. First, here are the positives. I thought it did work as a nice intro piece to the character and his world. We get the basics of the Wakandan society and how the Black Panther fits into all of that. The flashbacks were nice and filled in some detail. I especially liked the flashback featuring Captain America. This was one spot that animated series didn’t improve on unfortunately.
T'Chaka as played by Keith David. I better see him or Dijmon Hounsou in the movie!

I thought T’Challa was cool as ever kicking butt and taking names. I also liked his supporting cast like his uncle (S’Yan), mother (Ramonda), and sister (Shuri). I also did like the overall story with Klaw getting multiple villains to attack Wakanda. The artwork was pretty nice as a whole. Romita and Jansen did some nice work in these six issues. It was crisp, consistent, coherent and pretty action-packed. The Panther always looked good. There were times where it didn’t look as good though.
America stockpiles cyborgs? Figures.

Now, there were things I wasn’t a fan of. I didn’t like most of the dialogue here. It felt a bit forced at times and most of it just didn’t gel with me. I also wasn’t a fan of the main villain, Klaw. He was just a guy who wanted revenge but I did like his plan in trying to take Wakanda down. I also didn’t like how it ended. After BP skewers Klaw and tells the Deahtlok clan to leave, it just ends. There’s no resolution or anything. I was also wondering when the main story takes place. Is it in the present or past? The book doesn’t actually say which does suck for someone who is looking for some continuity.

Overall, this was a decent intro into Black Panther and his world. It’s not perfect but it has more pros than cons. If you are curious about the character, check it out. T’Challa is still going these days. He’s now featured in a comic called The Ultimates and has a new series coming out soon. He’s even going to be featured in the new movie, Captain America: Civil War (that trailer looks sweet), and have his own movie coming soon. I just hope Marvel doesn’t push it back… again. Yeah, I’m still bitter about that and I’m still wondering if we need another dang Spider-Man movie. Anyway, I’m done for today. Peace and God Bless.


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