This will be my last issue of Black Panther, Man Without Fear. I subscribed to the title for The Black Coat’s Francesco Francavilla, and he departed. This review, however, is not meant to disparage Jefte Palo and Jean-Francois Beaulieu. These artists give it their all, and they conceive a powerful interpretation of the Black Panther. Unfortunately, T’Challa isn’t all that potent in the writing.
I don’t believe David Liss is a bad writer. The very fact that he can create a character like the Panther’s enigmatic Balkan-born waitress Sofija from scratch is indicative of extraordinary skill. In the last few reviews I suggested he develop her more fully in a series of mystery novels, and I reiterate the suggestion. Sofija is the best character in Man Without Fear.
Liss writes Spider-Man extremely well. He captures the wall-crawler’s many facets. He snaps the web-spinner’s patter. He displays the character’s growth from lone wolf spider to Avenger and member of the FF. Liss generates chemistry between the Black Panther and Spidey that Daredevil and Black Panther never evolved. Their historical distance continues to make the premise of the book baffling.
Spider-Man alone could have cleaned house in Hell’s Kitchen, and the story would have been more entertaining. I would have preferred a team-up between him and Sofija, rather than him and the Black Panther. The Black Panther comes off as a extraneous baggage in his own book as he plays straight man to Spider-Man and bland to Sofija.
The concept of Black Panther, Man Without Fear was hamstrung from the very beginning. Could it have worked? Yes, but not as the Panther turning into a gritty, lone street fighter. You’re forcing the character to assume a role that’s the diametric opposite of his traditional persona.
Liss should have transplanted a Wakandan embassy into the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. Either that, or create a Little Wakanda in the district. Storm and the Panther should have jointly patrolled Daredevil’s territory as per request from Captain America, not out of a sudden, forced friendship. Dwayne McDuffie already laid the groundwork by giving Storm and T’Challa presence in Manhattan through their association with the Fantastic Four. Liss missed the opportunity to have a husband and wife team of crusaders, which would could have been very different in tone from Daredevil.
Regardless, separating the Panther from his wife was such a horrible idea, and the belief that fans would want to see the Panther stray or tempted to stray was ham-fisted. Liss addresses the problem of the smitten Iris this issue, but his solution comes out nowhere. A hint might have been nice. As is, the plot twist is merely part of the trainwreck.
I wasn’t attached to Daredevil, and I was looking forward to what the Black Panther would do in Hell’s Kitchen, but this series wasn’t what I had in mind. Even with Francesco Francavilla, Black Panther, Man Without Fear was doomed.