"Who is the Black Panther?"
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Klaus Janson (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Klaw continues to pull together his group of super-powered allies in his bid to successfully invade Wakanda and kill the Black Panther. He takes a moment to share a previous encounter that he had with T'Challa's father, and Klaw's version of the story is decidedly different from the one presented in the past. In this version Klaw is a highly trained assassin, rather than a man who killed the Wakandan leader with an attack that was decidedly more cowardly in nature.
Comments: After I put this issue down I was initially a little disappointed that Reginald Hudlin made such a noticeable departure from the established back-story of the conflict between Klaw and the Black Panther. However, as I went over the issue a second time for this review I couldn't help notice that this new version was being narrated by Klaw himself, and as such it makes sense that the story would be altered to paint Klaw in a more favourable light. In fact, this clever storytelling trick allows Reginald Hudlin to offer up his own version of the story, while at the same time the original story isn't dismissed outright. In addition, since I'm already quite familiar with the original version, I rather enjoyed this new spin on the encounter, as it's rather interesting to see how Klaw has altered the story so that he comes across as a far more impressive figure. In turn, the more modern take on the encounter also removes some of the more dated elements of the original story, such as Klaw being the brave white hunter. The issue also continues to build a pretty impressive collection of villains who are being brought together to take down the Black Panther, as the Rhino gets a very amusing introduction, and there's a cute little exchange between the Rhino and Batroc as the two discuss the revisionist history that many Americans like to throw in the face of the French. My only quibble with this issue is that the attitude that the Wakandans have taken toward the rest of the world is rather condescending, and the scene where they debate whether to release the cure for cancer doesn't exactly paint them in a sympathetic light. I mean it's all well and good to claim to have the moral high ground, but actions speak louder than words, and using the cure for cancer as a bargaining chip paints them in a decidedly bad light.
While I miss his work over on Spider-Man, John Romita Jr. is an extremely good match for this title as the Black Panther is a character who is very similar to Spider-Man when it comes to his fighting style, and John Romita Jr. has more than proven he's capable of delivering visually arresting battle sequences where the lead character is in constant motion, and I can't wait for the Black Panther to step out of the background, as the players that are being arrayed against him promise to deliver a very exciting battle. Now this issue opens with a great little sequence where the Rhino pits himself against his counterpart in the animal kingdom, and the art also compellingly sells the intensity of the assassination later in this issue. The nation of Wakanda is also full of some lovely bits of Kirby-tech which is another area that John Romita Jr. has proven to be quite adept at delivering. There's also a hilarious if somewhat crude bit of humour, as the Black Knight's steed expresses its feelings toward its master's newest employer.
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