As the title suggests, I'll be reading Christopher Priest's groundbreaking run on Marvel's Black Panther. I'll be specifically reading Black Panther vol. 3 issues 1-54.

Yes, I'm well aware that the comic lasted 62 issues and then was more or less spun off into The Crew, but starting with issue #55 the focus of Black Panther was shifted away from Ross and T'Challa and onto a new character that never appealed to me. The Crew realy wasn't much better except for the introduction of Josiah X, who has since been relegated to limbo essentially.

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Wait, this is all coming back to me now. I think I thought Mephisto was phony, because I didn't believe he could be beaten physically (per Silver Surfer #4). And then I waited for a reveal that didn't happen, or something. Also, I didn't care for another white guy in the cast, even as a villain. Seemed like pandering. Also, I really wanted Panther to be awesome, and being (temporarily) outfoxed by a white guy wasn't awesome. 

To be fair, that's a complaint I have with most comics, in that the hero seems to be in a life-or-death situation every issue. If that were the case, he or she would only have to have one unlucky day and they're kaput. I need more scenes in ALL superhero comics where they demonstrate, even if for only a panel or two, that they spend 90 percent of their time handily defeating bad guys with little effort and no personal danger. That we're only seeing the big stories in full. Because month after month of the hero just barely surviving makes him/her look incompetent.

Black Panther #5 - "Lord of the Damned"

Published: March 1999

Writer: Christopher Priest

Artist: Vince Evans

 

After transporting Ross and T'Challa to hell, Mephisto has a fight with Achebe (or is it Mephisto?). T'Challa tells him that he cannot force anyone into his realm and that as long as part of him was separated his power would weaken. Ross then remembers that Mephisto's heart is back in the apartment at the housing projects.

 

Back in Harlem, Zuri wakes up from sleeping to answer the door. It's Sergeant Tork, looking for T'Challa. Zuri informs him that the Black Panther is not there. Tork turns on the television while Zuri goes to find something to eat, selecting Mephisto's heart.

 

In Wakanda, Achebe is touring the city surrounded by armed guards when he's attacked by a wasp.

 

We switch back to Nikki and Ross, as Ross is still explaining what's going on, including Zuri eating Mephisto's heart. Ross wants to stop for the day, but Nikki prods him forward.

 

Back in hell, T'Challa pursues Mephisto through the gates of hell, telling Ross to stay put and that he'll be safe. Ross is worried that T'Challa will not be able to return.

 

There's another flashback to T'Challa's childhood, as he watches the Hatut Zeraze torture a prisoner. The White Wolf approaches and tells him that the man was caught smuggling Vibranium to white Ivory hunters and that they mean to find out the truth from him. T'Challa tells him that if his father knew they were torturing the man that he would be quite angry. Hunter replies that there were lots of things going on in Wakanda that T'Chaka didn't want to know about and that's why he existed.

 

T'Challa runs to tell T'Chaka what's going on. T'Chaka sees him approaching and tells Zuri to protect the prince. At this point Klaw points his sound blaster at the king, killing T'Chaka while Zuri rescues T'Challa. Afterwards there was a massacre of the Wakandans present.

 

After the battle, T'Challa seizes the sound blaster and uses it on Klaw, destroying his hand. The blaster exploded uselessly afterwards, and Klaw's men were routed.

 

We then discover that all of this is one of Mephisto's illusions. T'Challa asks Mephisto why he's doing this, and Mephisto tells him that he's simply reminding him of what the stakes are. T'Challa then tells him that if he wants his soul, he can have it. They negotiate, and Mephisto agrees to leave Wakanda alone and remove his support from Achebe. During these negotiations, there's a physical altercation going on between the two of them, and Mephisto doesn't realize that he's been transported now. T'Challa tells him that he's bound to the Panther god and must take all of him. Mephisto scoffs at the idea of a Panther god, but T'Challa tells him of his ordeal to become king. He tells Mephisto that if he wants his soul, he has to take all of the souls.

 

Mephisto begins absorbing the souls, enjoying it immensely at first, then wanting to stop when he's had his fill, but T'Challa insists that he take them all or none of them. There's too much for Mephisto to handle, but T'Challa tells him that a deal is a deal. Mephisto begs him to release him from his oath, and T'Challa names his price.

 

Ross is sent back to the apartment, sans pants. Mephisto then shows up to reclaim his heart. Mephisto leaves.

 

Later, T'Challa is talking to Ramonda. She tells him that without Mephisto's support, Achebe's troops are no longer able to overpower the Wakandans, but now there's a stalemate. She tells T'Challa that if he stays away from the country, Achebe has agreeed to share ruling Wakanda with her. T'Challa agrees and signs off. We then see that Ramonda is working with Achebe.

 

My rating: 7/10

 

So this wraps up the first arc of Black Panther. To be honest, I really wasn't terribly happy with the ending. I'm not sure how else it could have gone, but it just seemed a little murky to me.

 

The art was better this issue, although still a little darker in places. Not entirely my cup of tea, but an improvement.

 

I have to wonder why Reginald Hudlin felt the need to rewrite the Black Panther's origin, as this one is perfectly acceptable, and I did enjoy the extra touches that Priest throws in.

Is this the first series to use that logo? It's my favorite.

Which logo are you referring to? The lettering of the title, or the black/white icon in the upper left?

Captain Comics said:

Is this the first series to use that logo? It's my favorite.

Black Panther #6 - "Hunted"

Published: April 1999

Writer: Christopher Priest

Artist: Joe Jusko

 

As we open, Nikki is rushing to the office of the President. Ross is already inside, and you can hear him smarting off to the President about how it's not his fault what's happening or that his political numbers are wavering all because of something T'Challa has done. Ross comes crashing out of the office, pursued by the President carrying a hockey stick. As Ross skates away (he had been rollerblading in the park when the Secret Service grabbed him), he attempts to bring Nikki up to speed over what's been happening. He recounts the events of a ball a few nights ago at the Hilton, where somehow the Black Panther ended up in a fight with Kraven the Hunter. Kraven wins the fight (there's a wordless 4-5 pages showing a fairly unexciting and difficult to follow fight) and drags T'Challa away.

 

Further back in time, Ross explains the event was the White House reception for T'Challa. Ross notes that the invitee list was missing anyone of color outside of T'Challa and his party. Ross notes that T'Challa mostly spent the night in the company of Nakia, one of the Dora Milaje, and the one he had kissed previously when under the influence of Mephisto. There's a flashback of how Nakia became one of the Dora Milaje, and also a reminiscence of T'Challa's romance with Monica Lynne, who he had once announced as his betrothed. Meanwhile, Nikki is there as well, and in a flashback that I really didn't like, we find out that she and T'Challa used to be lovers in college. She remembers an encounter at the time with another Black student named Kamal, who gets into a fight with T'Challa over the fact that he's dating a white woman. T'Challa wins the fight, but decides to return to Wakanda and break things off with Nikki, as he's disgusted by the racial politics.

 

Back in the current day, T'Challa meets Senator Rakim--also known as Kamal Rakim. Kamal apologizes to him for the ugliness in years past, and mentions that Nikki is there at the reception as well. He then leads T'Challa to a window and shows him that the streets outside are packed with Black people hoping to see him that the Senator invited to the party since the White House didn't invite any.

 

T'Challa puts on his Black Panther costume and goes out to address the people. He asks why they are there, and they tell him it's to see him. When he tells them that he's always been there for them, they respond with the implication that he's only there for the white people.

 

As they are arguing, Ross is attempting to ensure that everything runs smoothly and to avoid a riot. He's called in a SWAT team to make an appearance and put on a show for the crowd, but they also dress someone up in a Black Panther costume to address the crowd. However, the man they chose for the decoy doesn't look like T'Challa in any way (unless T'Challa spent a few months eating nothing but Krispy Kreme doughnuts). He attempts to pacify the crowd when a net drops over his head and he and Ross are taken away. During this time, T'Challa is distracted when he sees Monica Lynne in the crowd. He attacks the SWAT team around him to save their lives as knives appear where they were. Then he's attacked by Kraven.

 

My rating: 5/10

 

First, the big negative: the art. Different artist, same muddy, greasy hard to look at and overly inked artwork. Not sure who is to blame here, as the penciller and inker are the same person in this case. The fight with Kraven was pretty mediocre (it was screaming for Kirby or Ditko or someone who knows how to draw an exciting fight), and there was a lot of confusion towards the end with the Black Panther decoy as to what was happening and which Black Panther was doing what. I think I have to lay that at the feet of Joe Jusko.

 

There are some other things that bother me as well. I do not like the idea of Nikki having had a former relationship with T'Challa, primarily because I just think it's too neat. It's the same idea as the one where the Joker was the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents--it's just too pat and incestuous that it strains credibility. There are also some logical inconsistencies in the story, as I'm trying to figure out how tens of thousands of people were able to surround a hotel anywhere without people noticing well in advance.

 

It certainly wasn't all bad; Zuri was hilarious as always in his brief cameo, I liked the idea of Kamal as an ally/adversary for T'Challa (I wish more had been done with him in the series), and the story was pretty decent despite the drawbacks. That being said, very little really happened here, as this issue was primarily set-up for the issues to follow.

There are some other things that bother me as well. I do not like the idea of Nikki having had a former relationship with T'Challa, primarily because I just think it's too neat. It's the same idea as the one where the Joker was the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents--it's just too pat and incestuous that it strains credibility. There are also some logical inconsistencies in the story, as I'm trying to figure out how tens of thousands of people were able to surround a hotel anywhere without people noticing well in advance.

We share this disdain, Randy. Life isn't tidy, but writers are. So when a story is too tidy, it feels artificial -- because you sense the little man behind the curtain.

The first Hush story -- and the character itself -- was ruined for me because Bruce Wayne, a character who's been in existence for more than 70 years and that I've been reading about for more than 50 -- suddenly had a llfelong best friend never mentioned before. 

Oddly, at the same time Hush was introduced somebody was pulling the same trick over in Iron Man. Tellingly. I don't even remember the name of the "lifelong best friend" who turned up there and -- gasp! -- betrayed the hero.

Anyway, I also didn't care for the neat "coincidence" of Nikki and T'Challa's previous relationship -- a trick Chris Claremont repeated by having T'Challa and Ororo Munroe having had a previous relationship. I didn't care for it there, either.

And it misses a chance to have another major character reveal their take on T'Challa. Part of the joy of the Panther' coming-out party was the various flavors of WTF it inspired among (white) Western leaders and people. It would have been fun to see a State Department veteran like Nikki come around to understanding just what was in her "In" box, but that was cast away for a writer's crutch.

And wouldn't it have been more fun to see T'Challa and Ororo fall in love as competent, accomplished adults, rather than hormone-addled teens? It would have been a longer, better and more convincing story.

Also, what are the odds that the only two people with super-powers in Africa bump into each other on respective walkabouts? Oh, that's right, all black people know each other, right?

I was reading Iron Man at the time, and I want to say his name was Tiberius Stone. Yup, Google tells me I'm right.

Yeah, that ruined Hush for me as well. I've occasionally seen it work, but not with well established characters (the best example I can think of was the introduction of Barney Barton, because there were plenty of reasons why Hawkeye might never have mentioned him, plus there weren't--at that time--years and years of continuity for the character).

Captain Comics said:

Oddly, at the same time Hush was introduced somebody was pulling the same trick over in Iron Man. Tellingly. I don't even remember the name of the "lifelong best friend" who turned up there and -- gasp! -- betrayed the hero.

Who names their kid "Tiberius"? Tiberius Caesar was a violent, possibly demented, sadistic child rapist and killer. I wondered about that with Kirk, too.

"Who names their kid 'Tiberius'?"

Someone who served aboard a ship named Tiberius.

(That's the explanation I always liked best, anyway.)

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