As many of my loyal readers know (ok, I’m sure no one out there really knows or cares), I have an ever passing fascination with the Black Panther. Having first appeared within the hallowed pages of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s legendary run on Fantastic Four, the Panther is forever tied to Marvel’s first family. That makes him of particular interest to a blogger such as me.
While recent years have seen the warrior king of Wakanda revamped as an international diplomat, replaced by his sister, depowered at the hands of Dr. Doom, and transformed into an urban vigilante, there’s no denying the staying power of T’Challa within the Marvel Universe. Much like DC’s Wonder Woman property, there seems to be an undercurrent of support for the Panther, but every year or so the character is taken in some new direction that deters a lot of fans.
Marvel’s latest attempt at reinventing the Panther’s persona has come in the form of the newly coined “Black Panther: The Man Without Fear” series. The title is continued from the recently concluded “Daredevil: the Man Without Fear” series, presenting readers with a swap of sorts. As the hero Daredevil hits the road to do some much needed soul searching (and shake off the disappointment that was the mini-series known as Shadowland), a changing of the guard takes place in his New York neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen. It seems T’Challa is also facing an identity crisis of sorts, and he agrees to serve as the protector of Daredevil’s old territory.
And thus we have the premise for Black Panther’s new series, as well as our new feature here at FF Plaza--- Hell’s Kitchen is for Heroes! In which I’ll take a brief look at the happenings of T’Challa’s in his new urban jungle. So without further rambling….
Black Panther: The Man Without Fear! #513
Writer: David Liss
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
We start this issue in the midst of a fray. The hero know as Black Panther is doing his best dark knight impression as he beats some two bit thugs in search of their boss man named "Vlad." (Points to this comic already for naming the villain Vlad, because obviously only evil people have that name) Anyway, as BP busies himself with the task of cracking skulls, he finds the son of Vlad waiting for him. Lots of guns fire on T'Challa and our hero is left in a hailstorm of bullets...The story jumps back 3 weeks prior, as Matt Murdock gives T'Challa the okay to watch over Hell's Kitchen. We as readers also find out that the lawyer Foggy Nelson, Daredevil's BFF (big fat friend), has set T'Challa up with a false identity.
Now known as Mr. Okonkwo, T'Challa takes the job of managing a diner called "Devil's Kitchen." We see him interview some new applicants, including a girl with some Serbian insurgent tattoos (hint: that plot point WILL come back to bite him). Our hero even calls his wife Storm and tells her that he cannot have any contact. Being an understanding wifey, Storm tells BP that she will respect his wishes. This of course would be fine, except there's a hottie across the hall named Iris who's totally jocking T'Challa. But who wouldn't?
As T'Challa thinks about his new life, he reflects on new mission, which is to find his true strength without the resources of a king or the strength of the panther god. To this end, T'Chall is no longer even going by the moniker "Black Panther", as he tells a random pimp "I shall be known by my deeds and not a name." That's a lot different than "I'm Batman."
We then jump over to Vlad, who is taking care of some business. We find out that he has energy based powers given to him through a Romanian super soldier type experiment. Vlad tells his tale to a lackey who screwed up, and ends up impaling the dude to really get his "point" across.
With the exposition of the issue given, we jump back to the Black Panther in the hailstorm of bullets. He cuts the power to the room, jacks some dudes up, and gets info about Vlad out of Vlad's son. T'Challa returns home and finds one of his neighbors has been murdered, illustrating the dangers of living in his newly adopted home. The issue ends with Vlad's son apologizing and the Impaler contemplating what to do about this new man without fear...
Thoughts: I was very skeptical of this series, especially after reading the 4 page preview online. But a few fellow reviewers gave this title a surprising amount of praise, and I had to check it out. After reading this introduction issue, part of me still has trouble swallowing the premise. On one hand, it's a noble and heroic thought that the Panther would give up his very identity to become a "commoner." That T'Challa wants to better prove his mettle as a man and hero does ring true to a sense of nobility.
On the other hand, it seems very far fetched that such a well known public figure could just camouflage himself as part of the public with so few repercussions. The way everyone in this story services the plot really make the comic feel out of sorts, especially T'Challa's decision to cut ties with his wife. While we see seeds of T'Challa's failure in keeping his life a secret being planted already, it was a little too convenient for him to just fall off the face of the Earth.
The two major compliments I'll give this issue are 1.) We get an appearance by Matt Murdock. This gives a sense of closure to the previous volume of Daredevil and truly passes the torch from one hero to another. Although BP and Murdock are pretty emo, the scene with the two of them together lends a lot of credibility to Marvel's new directions for these characters. And 2.) The art is dark and perfect. T'Challa's new panther suit is sleek yet militaristic, giving it a very modern twist. Check out the scans!
Score: 3 Beaten Pimps out of 5