Black Panther continues his battle against the electrically powered Vlad the Impaler, a little fish in Kingpin’s big lake.
Black Panther wasn’t horrible. The book still hasn’t a reason to exist, but David Liss actually bothers to distinguish the Panther from every other generic crime fighter. Huntress comes to mind.
After losing the life of a hostage, the Panther finally wakes up and remembers that he was a science-based champion. The former ruler of Wakanda is an extended family member of the Fantastic Four, and during Civil War he reformed the team with Ben, Johnny and his wife Storm. Anyways. T’Challa was just as likely to use robots as stealth in his fight against evil. Liss even injects humor in the Panther’s dialogue when our scientist hero purchases parts for his Mr. Wizard project.
Despite Black Panther’s escalation of the game, Man Without Fear still feels like a hollow exercise. The two female characters for instance add little to the story. Iris the social worker comes off as a libidinous Gladys Kravitz: “Abner! Abner! What’s that hunk of chocolate up to now!” He’s married lady. Back off. Sophia, on the other hand, is wasted as the Panther’s third tier woman-friend. She should be developed as the star of a mystery or thriller series. In Black Panther, she undermines the power the main character is supposed to resonate, but she doesn’t do anything productive. She catches your attention because she puts together the facts.
Vlad the Impaler impressed me in his premiere, but Liss decays him to standard villainy. I can’t understand why the Panther doesn’t just purchase a .45 revolver and a bunch of rubber bullets. Vlad’s powers are electrically based. If Elektra had inherited Hell’s Kitchen, she would have skewered him with insulated sais during their first encounter. The Panther just looks like he’s dragging his paws.
Breaking the repetition, Liss incorporates a plot twist that makes little sense. First, he taints a potentially bona fide good character. I suppose his point is that in Hell’s Kitchen, every higher strata has been eaten away by corruption. The exemplar of this rot crafts ludicrous pseudoscience that lowers Black Panther to Z-Grade Mystery Science Theater experiment.
Rumor has it that Francesco Francavilla will soon be leaving Man Without Fear, and I say good for him. He deserves so much more than being the swim bladder of a dying shark. The art’s so damn impressive that that you can almost forget just how bad Black Panther is. Almost.