Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive! #526 - 'The Kingpin Of Wakanda' - Liss, Martinbrough and Serrano
Story - I was never a big fan of the Black Panther as a solo proposition, I liked him as a member of the Avengers, but on his own... he was kind of boring, too perfect, not really a Marvel character as I perceive them. But then he lost his extra-abilities, lost his country and sought to replace Daredevil. Suddenly I liked him a lot more, he was fallible, he could get his ass mightily kicked, and the threats he was facing were just a little bit more interesting than bloody Man-Ape.
This issue continue's the Panther's struggle against perhaps the most iconic of Marvel's street-level villains in the Kingpin, and really does showcase that T'Challa is very much deserving of his new sub-title as 'The Most Dangerous Man Alive'. The action sequences in this issue were brilliant. You could tell they were well thought-out, and it was fantastic to get a running play-by-play of what's going on from Black Panther's perspective, you really understand how great a fighter he is. Even when things go wrong for him (which they do frequently in this book), he manages to think up a way out of it. It's way more interesting to see a character use his brains rather than relying on a magical metal like Vibranium or on his wife Storm as he used to. I mean, when was the last time the Black Panther ran away from a fight? Well, he does it in this issue, and it makes perfect sense. This is a hero refreshingly aware of his new limitations.
But that doesn't mean that Black Panther is now a coward or something, in a scene that even the new, half-crazy Matt Murdock would probably balk at, T'Challa breaks into the Kingpin's fortress and confronts him. This exchange is probably the best thing David Liss has written, and it really was wonderfully tense (even with the cutaway gag of Typhoid Mary and Lady Bullseye eating ice cream, which was damn funny), and with Martinbrough's excellent use of shadows, very cinematic. What makes this sequence even better is that both Black Panther and Kingpin believe they are manipulating the other, believe they are pulling the strings. Who actually is, well that's anyone's guess, but it insures that the conclusion of this arc is going to brilliant. Which is good, because whilst it's sad that this book is getting cancelled, at least it's going out with a bang.
And what a bang it's going to be, with Black Panther calling in a cavalry that consists of Luke Cage, Power Man and The Falcon. Yes, these characters are all black, and some readers may read something dodgy into that, but I think it's done for one reason only, and that's because Liss is really trying to hearken back to the 1970s with this book at the moment, look at Francavilla's awesome covers, they are the very essence of Bronze Age Marvel. So what better way to celebrate that, than bringing in the Blaxpoitation Hero that is Luke Cage, and Captain America's 70s Sidekick Sam Wilson? It is unfortunate however that, given the season, Liss didn't have Luke say his famous catchphrase. Altogether now... 'Sweet Christmas'.
Art - I mentioned Shawn Martinbrough's use of shadows in the main body of the review, but it bares repeating, the man is a master of using darkness and shadow in his work, and he's ably assisted by colourising Felix Serrano. This comes in very handy for a book set entirely at night. Martinbrough's art really comes across like a mix between this series' two previous artists, Francesco Francavilla and Jefte Palo, and that means it's pretty much perfect. I particularly loved the interrogation sequence, where T'Challa is reduced to nothing more than an outline and two demonic yellow eyes, brilliant technique there.
Best Line - 'It will be less nurturing than that'