By COMIC BOOKS REVIEWS
T’Challa faces off an alien invasion and Killmonger while his sister, Shuri, learns the cost of power. Is it good?
The final volume in the set, Black Panther: The Complete Collection Vol. 3 is probably the one that fans have been waiting for, as it contains two of the best stories in the mythos: “See Wakanda and Die” and the mini “Flags of Our Fathers” which co-stars Captain America. These two stories have been collected in their own volumes before, but are now largely out of print, leaving fans to search the longboxes for the single issues. No longer.
The collection opens, however, with the story, “Back to Africa,” which sees T’Challa, Shuri, and Monica Rambeau face off against Erik Killmonger. Seeing that Killmonger is the villain in the upcoming film, it’s a nice coincidence that this collection opens with this arc. While not quite a multi-part epic like Don McGregor’s “Panther’s Rage” or Priest’s Killmonger story in the first part of his run, Reginald Hudlin’s take on T’Challa’s archnemesis is still a thrilling one and it marks the first time the two have fought while both wearing armor.
The second story is undoubtedly one of the best stories in the entire Black Panther mythos: “See Wakanda and Die.” A part of the “Secret Invasion” crossover, this story can stand isolated on its own and features an action-packed sequence where T’Challa faces a Super-Skrull on his own. This story is penned by Jason Aaron, and his take on T’Challa and Storm plays to both of their strengths in battle, while giving them a worthy opponent in a Skrull general who is looking to retire after one last mission. The art by Jefte Palo and Lee Loughridge in this story is truly beautiful, with stormy greens and heavy shadows creating heavy drama for the climactic battle between the armies of the Skrulls and Wakanda.
Feeling a bit out of place is the third story in the collection, the “Deadliest of the Species” story that began the fifth publishing volume of Black Panther. While written by Reginald Hudlin, this story – which sees Shuri take on the mantle of Black Panther after her brother sustains heavy injuries – really does feel like the start of a new era and may have been a better fit with the Black Panther: Doomwar collection that was released last year.
The final story is the miniseries Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers. Revisiting and expanding the story of Captain America’s first encounter with Wakanda, Reginald Hudlin uses this opportunity to explore the relationship between African-Americans and Africa. While Captain America and Azzuri, T’Challa’s grandfather, take up most of the action, the heart of the story is Howling Commando Gabe Jones, who finds himself confronted with an ideal home that he has only dreamed of. Capturing his longing is artist Denys Cowan, who gives the World War II story a frenetic energy. Colorist Pete Pantazis gives the story a hallowed feel, using paler tones that make the story feel like the untold epic it is.
Is It Good?
Black Panther: The Complete Collection Vol. 3 may be the best of the series. Talented art teams make sure that each story bursts with drama and excitement. While the “Deadliest of the Species” arc feels out of place, the collection doesn’t drag at any point. Having “See Wakanda and Die” and “Flags of Our Fathers” will make this a must buy for any Black Panther fan, especially as those out of print collections creep up in price.
Hudlin’s run ends on a high point as Black Panther: The Complete Collection Vol. 3 contains some of the best Black Panther stories out there.
RATING: 9 GREAT
‘Black Panther’ is a superhero — not a sidekick — worth holding out for
Chadwick Boseman, left, and Michael B. Jordan in “Black Panther.” MUST CREDIT: Matt Kennedy, Marvel Studios-Walt Disney
The cover to Black Panther # 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze. MUST CREDIT: Marvel
The crown for the world’s greatest black superhero has always been worn by the Black Panther.
He was also the world’s first. And for more than 50 years, Marvel Comics’ African legend has been hurling a black-gloved fist to the stereotypical notion that superheroesof coloronly work as side characters.
T’Challa, the man under the mask, is a king who rules an African nation that has never been invaded, one that’s the most technologically advanced society in the Marvel universe. He’s been an Avenger, married and divorced a member of the X-Men, and helped fend off aliens. Few Marvel characters come close to matching his intelligence, and he’s traded punches with some of the greatest heroes and villains around and stood tall in the end. Heck, even his grandfather punched Captain America once.
Speaking of the Captain, that indestructible star-spangled shield? It’s made of vibranium, a metal mined only in T’Challa’s Wakanda.
The Black Panther has allowed comic book fans of color to look past the medium’s lack of diversity and take solace in an undeniable fact: He’s simply one of the coolest superheroes around. The rest of the world will probably catch up Feb. 16, when Marvel Studios releases the hotly anticipated, ecstatically reviewed “Black Panther” movie, which is expected to make at least $120 million over its opening four-day weekend.
“Sometimes the first character of a category is perfect,” said former “Black Panther” comic book writer Reginald Hudlin. “Superman is like that. Batman is like that. Wonder Woman is like that. They are perfect. And Black Panther is like that.”
In 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character to correct the lack of superhero representation – just months before the founding of the Black Panther Party. (To avoid controversy, Marvel briefly changed the name to Black Leopard but later realized that just didn’t have the same oomph.)
The pair – both white – had brought an awareness of civil rights to their work before. In 1963, they created X-Men, who, while drawn as white, faced discrimination for being mutants. Professor Xavier was seen as a Martin Luther King figure, while his friend-turned-enemy Magneto took a by-any-means-necessary, Malcolm X-like approach to prejudice.
In Black Panther’s first appearance, he defeated the Fantastic Four in their own comic. In the years since, fan-favorite runs of three black writers have come to define the character. Christopher Priest in the 1990s made him a no-nonsense hero with an elite all-female bodyguard squad, the Dora Milaje. Hudlin established Wakanda as an unrivaled kingdom in 2005. Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “Between the World and Me,” took over in 2016 by having the character confront a revolution that questions the legitimacy of Wakanda’s monarchy.
Many of the black superheroes who followed Black Panther beat him to the screen. Robert Townsend directed and starred in “Meteor Man,” a comedic superhero take in 1993. In 1998,the three-film “Blade” franchise, starring Wesley Snipes as a half-human/half-vampire, was perhaps the movie that helped Hollywood realize the box office possibilities for a Marvel character. Eartha Kitt took on the role of the villain Catwoman on the “Batman” TV show in 1967. Catwoman got her own dreadfully reviewed movie starring Halle Berry in 2004.
In recent years, more black superheroes have populated Marvel and DC films, but all in secondary parts, including Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in “Justice League,” the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in “Capain America: Civil War,” Storm (Berry) in the X-Men movies and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in “The Avengers.” As TV has gotten more superhero shows with more diverse casts, Luke Cage and Black Lightning have gotten self-titled series on Netflix and the CW, respectively.
Black Panther’s path to the screen has been rocky. There were rumors of a John Singleton- directed version starring Snipes in the ‘90s, but it stalled because of Marvel’s bankruptcy issues, its horrible box-office track record at the time, executives unable to separate the hero from the same-name political movement and a lack of modern CGI.
At one point,Hudlin – director of “Marshall” and producer of “Django Unchained” – envisioned making the film. He even read a stack of scripts. One had T’Challa growing up in the projects in America, unaware that he was African royalty.
“They were all awful,” Hudlin said. “I just read (them) and said, ‘God, this is everything the movie should not be.’ “
But after Marvel Studios cinematic universe started a decade ago and launched successful series such as “Iron Man” and “The Avengers” – while casting a bunch of white blond guys named Chris – fans knew it was bound to use its rights to the top black superhero.
Chadwick Boseman was cast in 2014, and the character made his first cinematic appearance in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) was in talks to direct his first solo film, but she and the studio had differences of opinion on the story. Marvel hired Ryan Coogler, acclaimed director of “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed,” and cast the star of those films, Michael B. Jordan, as the villain, Erik Killmonger.
Hudlin said he met Boseman shortly after the actor was cast, at an awards event in Los Angeles. The two caught each other’s eye, smiled, and Boseman said, “I know you want to talk about it.” Hudlin walked away from that conversation so impressed that he cast Boseman as Thurgood Marshall in his biopic.
The most important thing, Hudlin said, is that Marvel got the movie right. “Ultimately, this movie is going to be so huge, it’s going to change Hollywood. It’s going to change the perception of black films.”
If it is indeed successful, one reason will be that the Black Panther’s ethos goes beyond superheroics and offers a deeper meaning. Salim Akil, co-creator of the”Black Lightning” TV show, said that the character gets at “the connection that a lot of African-Americans want to have with Africa. We lost that part of us, so it’s great to be able to see that in the context of a superhero.”
Evan Narcisse, a writer for Io9 who also co-writes “The Rise of the Black Panther” miniseries with Coates, said T’Challa and his homeland channel a lot of unspoken desire that black readers have for how they want their collective paths to be represented.
“Wakanda represents this unbroken chain of achievement of black excellence that never got interrupted by colonialism,” Narcisse said.
Narcisse, who’s Haitian-American, writes a Black Panther series that is “filtered through my own Haitian identity.”When writing about the Wakandans’ pride in their homeland, he’s able to bring in the pride Haitians feel about achieving independence from France.
“We’re in a political moment where the president of the United States calls people from Haiti and Africa, he calls those countries ‘s—holes,’ “ Narcisse said. “If you’re a young person hearing that … you need to see a superhero that’s smart, cunning and noble who also looks like you. Granted, it’s fiction, but superheroes have always had an aspirational aspect to them.”
Another writer, Roye Okupe, grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and after graduating from George Washington University in 2009, he created YouNeek Studios, a self-published line of African superhero graphic novels, including “E.X.O.” and “Malika: Warrior Queen.” Okupe said “Black Panther” has an opportunity to show mainstream viewers that there are ways Africa can be portrayed aside from the usual war and corruption. He said he hopes that after its success, “people around the world writing stories like this about Afro-futurism, high- concept fantasy stories based on African culture and African mythology, can be given an opportunity to pitch to movie studios, pitch to TV networks.
“It’s not just about shoving African-ness into your face. It’s showing the different side of a culture that you don’t necessarily get to see all the time.”
As for hardcore fans on Black Twitter, they made the hashtag #blackpanthersolit trend before the movie was even in production. In recent months, many have tweeted GIFs and viewed trailers repeatedly, and watched as the cast – which also includes Angela Bassett, Sterling K. Brown, Lupita Nyong’o and Forest Whitaker – tweet images of their characters.
Marvel sees “the impact of Black Twitter, and they’re using that to their advantage by creating this mass marketing machine around it,” said Jamie Broadnax, founder of the geek culture site Black Girl Nerds.
“Black Panther” is on pace to sell more advance tickets than any superhero film in Fandango’s 18-year history. Actress Octavia Spencer is planning to buy out a theater in Mississippi for kids of color, and ESPN journalist Jemele Hill is organizing a screening for 200 students in Detroit.
Broadnax said the reason for the hype is simple.
“I truly believe that most people in this world want to see diversity in their entertainment,” she says. “I think there’s a large contingent of folks out there that actually want to see a different kind of superhero.”
‘Black Panther’ fully embraces its blackness — and that’s what makes it unforgettable
By David Betancourt
Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa, King of Wakanda, in “Black Panther.” (Marvel Studios)
“Black Panther” is a stunning visual and cultural achievement that takes superhero cinema where it’s never gone before by not being afraid to embrace its blackness.
That may seem like stating the obvious for a movie that features an all-black cast and tells the tale of an African king ruling over a never-conquered nation, but it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the film’s layers.
It could have been easy to embrace the “super” aspects of this world. This is a Marvel Studios movie after all, and the primary objective of each tale in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is to continue the ongoing, connected narrative. The film could have just been all panther suits and bad guys with cannons for arms, fighting over a rare metal that is the most indestructible element on earth. That would have been the “Hollywood” thing to do. But “Black Panther” had a much bigger responsibility than that. “Black Panther” had to do it for the culture.
At the heart of the story is Africa, and specifically Wakanda, the fictional Marvel Comics-created land, and its relationship with the world. Wakanda and the Black Panther/King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves if keeping their existence a secret has kept the world safer (it keeps the nation’s technological advancements out of the hands of those who would use them for harm), or if they are guilty of ignoring the black suffering that has been endured across the planet by those who descend from the African motherland.
Black rage is front and center in the film, and exuded in a spellbinding performance by Michael B. Jordan as classic comics villain Erik Killmonger. Jordan’s Killmonger uses the pain of a tragedy from his childhood as fuel as he embarks on a mission to become a one-man killing machine, powerful enough to challenge the legendary Black Panther in direct combat. As seen in the trailers for the film, Jordan eventually becomes a gold-plated Black Panther of his own, hellbent on collecting reparations from a world that hasn’t been fair to those who look like him.
Michael B. Jordan stars as “Black Panther” villain Erik Killmonger. (Marvel Studios)
Standing in his way is a heroic stand by Boseman as the titular hero.
Boseman is a prince turned king who learns the hard way that weary is the head that wears the crown. With his royal ascension, T’Challa is given access to Wakanda’s secrets — the good, the bad and the ugly — and puts it upon himself to try to find the best path forward for his people’s future and their connection to the world from which they hide.
Boseman takes command of the role. No longer a supporting character as he was in his debut in “Captain America: Civil War,” he is instead a charismatic leading man who clenches his fist when he must and inspires always. Boseman has handled portraying real-life black legends before: Jackie Robinson. James Brown. Thurgood Marshall. And while the Black Panther is fictional, his influence on black, geek-culture fandom knows no bounds and his followers are fanboyishly passionate. This isn’t just any black superhero. He’s the black superhero. And Boseman makes the part his own.
At his side is Lupita Nyong’o, who is more than convincing as the Black Panther’s ex-girlfriend, Nakia, and the one person who can make him “freeze,” or stop in his tracks. One can only hope this is the beginning of more roles like this for the Academy Award-winning actress, a beyond-talented performer who deserves a shot at action, romance, comedy and whatever else Hollywood can throw at her. For too long, dark-skinned black actresses like Nyong’o have been limited in the types of roles they play because they don’t fit the one-dimensional template of what Hollywood thinks a leading lady should look like. Nyong’o throws punches, shoots guns and steals hearts in a role she seems born for. Sure, she’s no stranger to major pop-culture movie events — she’s a part of the “Star Wars” franchise and she’s been in “Jungle Book” — but the announcements of her casting in those movies were often dulled in the eyes of her fans because she played CGI characters. Part of the black girl magic of her performance in “Black Panther” is that we can actually see her the way she was meant to be seen.
Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia must balance duty for country with what she feels is truly best for her native Wakanda. (Marvel Studios)
In creating a new kind of superhero movie, “Black Panther” also loyally embraces its own heritage — specifically the three black writers who have left an indelible mark on the character in the pages of the comic books. The Dora Milaje, the Black Panther’s elite all-female bodyguards, are movingly led by actress Danai Gurira (who plays Okoye) and breathtaking in their dominance when protecting their king, a nod to the ’90s run of writer Christopher Priest. Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s little sister, created by Reginald Hudlin and artist John Romita Jr., is a scene-stealer. (If Hudlin’s writing has any influence in the future, she might become a Black Panther herself.) And the revolutionary uprising that questions Wakanda’s monarchy, recently written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is on full display and led by Jordan’s unforgettable role.
Even the Black Panther’s purple-energy, kinetically charged suit is a nod to the recent illustrations of artist Brian Stelfreeze.
It’s all there in a movie that is a one-of-a-kind experience: undeniably bold, black and beautiful.