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Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513

Posted: Friday, December 17, 2010
By: Ray Tate

David Liss
Francesco Francavilla. Simone Bianchi & Simone Peruzzi (c)
Marvel Comics
T'Challa establishes himself in Hell's Kitchen and attracts a new enemy, a Romanian Kingpin wannabe named Vlad Dinu.

Hell's Kitchen has a high rate of crime and poverty, which translates into an artsy, banal color scheme. Simone Bianchi's and Simone Peruzzi's hues subdue the atmosphere in sepia. I suppose their rusty tones mean to reflect a noir where the only tints that peek through the sheen of despair still end up being drab and dark. The overall effect just suggests pretentiousness. I would have preferred cold, crisp blues or film style black and white over this inadequate attempt to be edgy. Fortunately, Francesco Francavilla's artwork cannot be hampered by self-important shading.

When the Panther kicks ass, Francavilla's Toth-like sense of dynamism rivets your attention. Francavilla demonstrates that bright spots still beam in Black Panther's protectorate. For example, a naturally attractive woman's smile lights up a panel. A domestic scene presenting the Panther at rest, holding a hot beverage as he looks out upon his territory suggests contentment. Marvel had better keep Francavilla happy because this book lives and dies at his pleasure.

Don't misread. David Liss' writing is perfectly competent, and his characterization for Vlad is actually interesting. He and Francavilla appear to be on the same wavelength. Both men desire to work with optimistic themes. Liss builds a foundation of redemption. For example, a waitress from another country seeks a second chance. Steeped in verisimilitude, she possesses a powerful rationale for staying in Hell's Kitchen, more so than the Black Panther.

Liss' version of the Black Panther cannot be fairly judged because editorial edict taints his treatment. I can remember...oh...four team-ups between Daredevil and Black Panther, yet a torch handover scenario between the Panther and Matt Murdock implies a deeper friendship. Foggy Nelson shows up to hand Black Panther his identity papers, but as an Avenger the Black Panther could have simply called Steve Rogers for immaculate forgeries. Foggy appears only as an artificial tie to the previous Man Without Fear series.

A hilarious summary page highlights the massive divide between Daredevil and the Panther. The editors summarize Shadowland and also the Dr. Doom vs. Black Panther storyline, but never do the two arcs meet. The Powers That Be hope that you'll see "obvious" parallels between the two heroes. Instead, their emphasis reveals the shallowness of the whole exercise. These heroes have nothing in common except fighting the good fight. If you need further proof, observe how the Powers and Liss sweep T'Challa's marriage to Storm under the rug. Still, it's promising that Mephisto didn't want their love. Since the book lacks a less permanent dissolution, the Powers at Marvel may not have any faith in this trade of title characters.

The Marvel editors and Liss never should have haunted this book with the memory of Matt Murdock. Instead, they should have let the Panther take over with a simpler explanation or no explanation at all. Here's two. With Daredevil gone, Hell's Kitchen needs a hero. The Black Panther aims to fill the void. They could have even tied Man Without Fear into the Heroic Age direction. Realizing Daredevil's importance, Steve Rogers requests the Black Panther guard a defenseless Hell's Kitchen. Both are superior to what's given--some tommyrot about testing himself.



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