Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review: Black Panther The Complete Collection Vol. 1 by C. Priest et al.

Black Panther: The Complete Collection Volume 1 written by Christopher Priest and art by Joe Quesada, Mark Texeira, Vince Evans, Joe Jusko, Mike Manley, and others

Wakanda is an African kingdom about the size of New Jersey and is also the home of the only known deposit of vibranium, the metal from which Captain America's shield is made. The country is a mix of extreme wealth and technology along with tribal customs and social structures. The king, T'Challa, is head of the Panther Clan and thereby the Black Panther. His leadership abilities are enhanced by an herbal concoction that increases his strength and his senses. His outfit uses vibranium to make him more invulnerable and he has some high tech gadgets (like the Kimoyo Card that lets him access other technologies) too. His body guard, the Dora Milaje, are two young women taken from Wakandan tribes and are being groomed as potential spouses as well as providing sidekick action support.

Set in the 1990s, this new series (at least it was new in 1998) features Black Panther in some challenging adventures. He's come back to New York from Wakanda to fix a bad situation--the poster child of a charity he supports has been killed. His absence from Wakanda was orchestrated by forces determined to take his throne. The situation is further complicated by his U.S. handler, Everett K. Ross, a young white guy who narrates most of the story to his American boss. Ross is full of pop culture references and tells the most exciting parts of the story first, frustrating his boss, who is secretly in love with the Black Panther ever since their college days. Ross gets tangled up in the story and has adventures of his own while he supports his client, Black Panther, to get America's interests advanced.

The story itself is interesting and has plenty of action. The deliberately choppy narrative I found annoying even as I saw its purpose in an issue-by-issue story arc (this book contains 17 comic-books' worth of issues, so almost a year and half in publishing time). The pop culture references are twenty years old and they have not aged well. Most of the comic relief is based on those references, so the book is not as fun as it once was. The political situation is interesting. T'Challa plenty to do resolving conflicts with the United States and with factions at home. Other superheroes make appearances that fit naturally into the story (except for the two issues with the Hulk) and give a sense of the bigger picture within which Black Panther is operating.

Black Panther is an interesting character. He's no-nonsense and direct in his actions. His honesty is refreshing, even when it doesn't necessarily help him. I also like that he's just as likely to outthink or outscheme an opponent as he his to outfight one. He makes a fine hero.


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