Friday, March 11, 2011

Hell('s Kitchen) is for Heroes - Black Panther #515

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear! #515

Writer: David Liss

Artist: Francesco Francavilla

What Happens
: The actions picks up right where it left off last issue, with T'Challa standing atop a roof overlooking his seemingly dead friend Brian. Contemplating whether or not his secret identity as "the man without fear" has been compromised, our hero prioritizes and goes after the villain responsible for all the mayhem- Vlad the Impaler.

T'Challa and Vlad meet up on a darkened rooftop and exchange taunts, with the crazy superpowered Romanian going so far as to call our hero "Pussy-Cat Man" (and yes, I will be calling T'challa that for a while now). I mean, T'Challa has been looking for a new name, right? Anyway, they fight pretty evenly until Pussy-Cat Man shorts out Vlad's electrical powers. Vlad flees like a little girl, and Pussy-Cat Man is left to lick his wounds.

20 minutes later "Mr. Okonkwo" (T'Challa's civilian identity) hits the hospital in search of news about his injured friend Brian. The doctor comes out and informs Okonkwo that Brian is indeed worm food, and T'Challa slugs a soda machine. Yeah, that'll bring him back... As T'Challa leaves, Luke Cage shows up to rub salt in his wounds. T'Challa tells Cage to bugger off, and the two are left in the exact same position as last issue.

As Okonkwo heads back to his apartment, he is greeted by none other than his sexy neighbor Iris. Man, this lady can't take a hint! Our hero shoos the damsel away (and breaks my heart a little for still NOT having that affair), and gets down to business, creating his own weapon to use against Vlad. If this were an 80's movie, there would have been an awesome "makin stuff for the final battle" montage.
Skipping some of the more boring parts of the issue, we jump to a scene back at the hospital where T'challa had "kicked some can" earlier. It seems Vlad is there, chatting up the doctor that treated Brian. The two talk a bit, and we find out that Brian is indeed alive, and he's going to be used to get back at T'Challa.
The issue ends with Pussy-Cat Man using his freshly minted gadgets to get the drop on Vlad's guards. Storming Vlad's penthouse, Pussy- Cat Man is shocked to find Vlad's wife unconscious on the floor with no pulse. Wow, it would suck if Vlad walked in on those two. Well guess what happens in the issue's cliffhanger?
What I Thought: Cut and paste. That's all I can say at this point. The purpose and cast of the story is set, and the plot is moving at a snail's pace. Take for example Luke Cage showing up at the hospital. Did that scene even need to happen? It didn't do anything to further the idea that T'Challa has rejected outside help, I mean he already did that last issue. Also, Iris? I understand that she's a hood rat, but seriously, give it a rest for an issue or two.

I will give this issue points for its action scenes. The back-and-forth between Pussy-Cat Man and Vlad is one giant cliched comic book pissing match, but it's a lot of fun to actually see a villain cause trouble for a hero. In most of T'Challa's previous comics, he's so far ahead of his adversaries that there's no real struggle.

And last but not least, the art continues to be the strongest selling point to this series. Francisco Francavilla is pulling double duty on this book AND Detective Comics, so that explains a lot of the visual overlap that appears between the adventures of Pussy-Cat Man and a certain caped crusader.

I'm really hoping this series picks up in the next issue or two. I won't drop it unless it becomes unbearable, but I'm already a little bored of this new direction.

Score: I'll have to give this issue 2.5 hood rats out of 5.
Don't trust a ho, T'Challa.


  1. I guess I'm still just not sold on the concept of this book. T'Challa beating up on street thugs in Hell's Kitchen? I just don't get it.

    But that isn't to say it can't work. It did, to an extent, in the Christopher Priest run, although that was also filled with political intrigue that kept T'Challa pretty closely tied to his African roots even as he was kicking drug dealers in the face. Plus, the borderline postmodern storytelling approach and the fact that we were kind of removed from T'Challa himself (since someone else was the narrator) gave that run some style.

    But I'm not sensing any of that from your review of the issue, or from the images themselves. This seems like straightforward superheroics, and that doesn't cut it for me when you put a character out of his element in the way they've done here. The writer has to justify that somehow, either through the story itself or even just the storytelling style. Otherwise, it's just an African king randomly beating up thugs in New York City.

  2. Marc, you've perfectly articulated everything I feel about the concept of this series. All that made T'challa truly unique (his heritage, position, even power source) has been stripped away, but the desperation to prove himself doesn't seem strong enough to drive the storyline along. The "hook" seems to be that he's really bad at being an average superhero.

    With the snail's pace this book is traveling, I have no idea how this plot could possibly unfold into something bigger. I'm guessing with the appearance of Luke Cage, an Avengers or T-Bolts crossover is going to usher the Pussy-Cat Man into the larger Marvel Universe. As with most BP stories in the last few years, this one just makes me appreciate Priest's work that much more!

  3. Ah, because THAT's what will help this series establish its own identity -- having it cross over slash "tie in" with another series! I'm sure it'll have a big tie-in story when Fear Itself gets started, too.

    Seriously, that's a great strategy for getting people to buy one or two issues of a series, but it doesn't exactly create long-term readers or encourage good storytelling. Not that I expected this series to last long anyway -- in fact, I'm kind of surprised that it hasn't been canceled yet. Maybe they're waiting for Daredevil to get back on his feet with his own series again?