Saturday, February 15, 2014

I Reads You Review: BLACK PANTHER (1998) #1

BLACK PANTHER (1998), VOL. 2 #1

WRITER: Christopher Priest with Joe Quesada
ARTIST: Mark Texeira with Alitha Martinez
COLORS: Brian Haberlin
LETTERS: RS, Comicraft’s Siobhan Hanna
COVER: Mark Texeira
EDITORS: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
EiC: Bob Harras
32pp, Color, $2.50 US, $3.50 CAN (November 1998)

The Black Panther, also known as T’Challa, is a Marvel Comics character and was the first black superhero in mainstream American comics.  Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, the Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 (cover dated July 1966).

The Black Panther received his first starring feature in the comic book series, Jungle Action, beginning with #5 (cover dated July 1973).  The character would eventually star in an eponymous series, Black Panther, which ran for 15 issues in the late 1970s.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were two Black Panther miniseries and a feature in the anthology series, Marvel Comics Presents.

Changes at Marvel Comics brought on by the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy gave Black Panther new life and his longest running series to date.  In 1998, Marvel Comics asked Joe Quesada to work for Marvel in an exclusive capacity.  Marvel contracted Quesada and his partners at Event Comics, including inker, Jimmy Palmiotti, to produce a line of Marvel comic books dubbed “Marvel Knights.”  Quesada edited the Marvel Knights line and worked on a number of low-profile characters, which included Black Panther.

Writer Christopher Priest and penciller Mark Texeira helped launch Marvel Knight’s Black Panther Vol. 2.  Priest used characters from the 1990-91 miniseries, Black Panther: Panther’s Rage, and introduced new characters, in particularly Everett K. Ross, an attorney in the Office of the Chief of Protocol at the U.S. State Department.

Black Panther Vol. 2 #1 opens with Ross, dressed only in his underwear and holding a pistol, perched atop a toilet.  How did he get there?  It’s a long story, and we get to read about it as he explains how he ended up in that predicament to his boss.

Ross is assigned by the State Department to keep an eye on T’Challa a/k/a The Black Panther, the king of the African nation of Wakanda.  The Black Panther is also an Avenger, and he is in the United States to investigate The Tomorrow Fund.  This is a program funded with money from Wakanda to help inner city American youth, but now the fund is tied to the death of a child.

For Ross, it is a misadventure that begins in the Leslie N. Hill Housing Project where he is to meet a king.  It hits a high low point when Ross meets the devil.

Writer Christopher Priest stated that he used the character Everett K. Ross to bridge a gap between the African culture in which much of the Black Panther mythos is based and Marvel Comics’ predominantly white readership.  I can’t speak to that.  I think comic books have maintained a “predominantly white readership” for a number of reasons.  That includes substandard marketing, advertising, and public relations, to say nothing of the publishing and editorial policies regarding who is hired and assigned to create comics.

I think that Black Panther Vol. 2 #1 is a good comic book because Priest simply delivers some exceptional character writing with Everett K. Ross.  He uses Ross both as the point of view and as the character through which Black Panther’s background and activities are seen and filtered.  It is a fresh and novel way of conveying the weird fiction that is superhero adventure comics.

I am currently rereading Priest’s Black Panther from the beginning.  I don’t know how long he maintains Ross as a storytelling vehicle, nor do I remember if this story maintains the level quality with which it begins.  But Black Panther Vol. 2 #1 remains one of the more unique re-launches that I have ever read.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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