Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artist: Scot Eaton
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So, T’Challa and Storm are married. Now what? In the follow-up to the engaging, if mildly anti-climactic “Wedding of the Century,” the newlywed couple is off to Latveria to meet with a certain iron-fisted potentate for what Marvel tells us will be the first in a series of diplomatic visits through the Marvel universe. And I thought my honeymoon to Disneyworld would never be topped.
The royal couple’s trip to Doom’s realm was foreshadowed at the end of issue #18, with Doom extending an invitation to discuss the ongoing events of the Civil War in the United States. Talk, they do, which inevitably leads to insults, rebuffs, and, of course, a battle involving Doombots and, because Storm is there, lots of lightning. So much for diplomacy.
Admittedly, I started worrying about this series ever since the decision to marry off T’Challa was made. I mean, we were just twelve or so issues into this Marvel icon’s successful series and Hudlin decides it’s time for a wife? When it became apparent that Storm would be the bride, my worries were confirmed, as I could see the series changing from The Black Panther to The Black Panther and Storm. Storm is not a character that can be shuffled off to the side (nor deserves to be), but, dammit, this is T’Challa’s comic. How this will affect the storylines of future arcs after the “newness” of the marriage wears off is anyone’s guess.
The writing is a mixed bag. There are some nice lines (particularly between Doom and T’Challa as they trade barbs), but Hudlin’s characterization of Doom straddles the line between arrogant (accurate) and racist (inaccurate – he’s not the Red Skull). Which leads me to a larger snipe: Hudlin plays the race card entirely too often. At times it is more easily justified (his commentary in an earlier issue on the lack of federal response after Katrina, though a bit heavy-handed, reflected common sentiment, for instance), but then T’Challa and Storm will comment on how they’re being stared at in Latveria because there are no blacks in Latveria. I don’t know, but maybe they’re being stared at because they’re in full superhero costume and superheroes of any color don’t visit very often. And Storm’s last line will have readers groaning and rolling their eyes for days. It’s terrible.
Eaton’s art is fantastic, and has consistently been a strength of this series, even as the writing has not kept pace. The cover alone is worth a bullet, and the issue keeps the reader’s eyes moving along, even during the scenes heavy with dialogue.
Overall, the issue only earns because of the inaccurate portrayal of Doom (he’s much too intelligent to subscribe to the eugenics beliefs he espouses here) and the mind-numbingly bad ending. I hope the series regains the sharp writing from the first couple arcs and re-establishes the promise Black Panther holds, but I see little hope that the current “tour with the newlyweds” will permit this.
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