Fresh off the heels of defeating Vlad, T'Challa has to face yet another dangerous foe. Can our potenially lethargic hero give us yet another thrilling adventure? The answer is just a click away.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Black Panther: Man Without Fear #519
Writer: David Liss
Artist: Jefte Palo
Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramangia
Assistant Editor: John Denning
Editor: Bill Rosemann
(Covers by Simone Bianchi and Simone Peruzzi)
Fresh off the heels of a battle that tested everything he had, T'Challa goes off to tie the one loose end from the aftermath of said conflict. But what happens when an unexpected interloper crashes the party? The answers will both shock you and leave a smile on your face.
When it comes to my pull list, I can easily tell you that "Black Panther: Man Without Fear" is the book that gives me the most conflict. On one side of the coin, you have a book that is not only drawn excellently, but written masterfully. In the past 7 months, this book has taken the meteoric rise from being a curiosity that I picked up to support the character, to a title that has become an essential part of my pull list thanks to the engaging and complex storyline that treats me like I have brain.
In Spite of all of the positives this work possesses, you have the one huge negative that not even the best of work can take this reviewer's mind off, and that is the whole premise of the book, which T'Challa moves from Wakanda to Hell's Kitchen to prove himself as a man. Even if I was to accept that this character wanted to see what he was made of without the advantages that his royal status gives him, I still can't wrap my head around T'Challa leaving Wakanda to twist in the wind, when it's in a State of Flux. Even with that giant misgiving looming over the proceedings, the amazing work on this title is hard to ignore, especially when this reviewer feels that the character needs all the support it can get. Does Issue #519 continue to warrant said support? The answer is most definitely yes, with a capital YES.
Issues with the premise notwithstanding, the title in question has featured one of (if not THE) strongest writing jobs in a Big 2 Mainline Book. In the previous 6 Issues, David Liss has not only given us some of most purposeful dialogue you'll see in any comic, but has given us a meaty story, with many different layers in plots and the characters they're centered around and Issue # 519 proves to be no exception to this rule in the slightest
The story in this issue begins almost immediately where the last issue left off, as T'Challa deals with the part of the aftermath of his recent battle that he feels most responsible for. From there, things move at a rapid pace, as his endeavor gets sidetracked by a contingency that he didn't plan for. Beyond the obvious strengths (crisp dialogue that makes most any story easy to read) that comes with a usual David Liss work, the latest installment in this story works on so many different levels. To give a better visual as to why this is so, I'm going to do this by the numbers.
1) On a surface level the story works because it has a simple premise that is expanded upon due the conditions the story is taking place. This not builds the urgency of the task at hand, but makes the reader get invested in the proceedings at hand.
2) On a meta plot level, the story works because the exposition helps to make the story feel like it is progressing, along with making the last story matter, because the leftover plot points are expanded upon in such a way that it makes the experience richer for those who have been following this for day 1, without sacrificing accessibility for new readers. (even with the recap)
3) On a character level, the story not only gives us a clear picture as to why each character is involved, but what makes each character tick. By getting the reader to understand these two characters, you understand how each moment happens and why each moment is important to the story.
Beyond those 3 very important things, the most important thing that David Liss does is that he writes T'Challa in a believable manner that not only exposes his flaws, but his strengths for everyone to see. Even if you don't like premise, this series will give fans Bulletin Board Material for years to come. In short, Issue #519 continues to work wonders in less than ideal circumstances.
With all the praise that David Liss gets for his writing, it's almost natural to forget that he has gotten more than his share of backup from the art team, as well. When this book debuted in December Francesco Francavilla gave anyone that followed him a lot to live up to, and while it has taken a while for the art team that succeeded him to do so, they are starting to show great promise. What really stands out for Palo and Beaulieu are how well laid out the fight scene is in this issue. Every panel is drawn to make every movement stand out in the best way possible and the atmospheric style of the work just gives more of a weight to world the two combatants are battling in. If these two continue to improve at this clip, then I can't wait to see what they do in the months to come.
The Wrap Up:
Despite the gushing praise that I have I given this Issue, the book itself and the creative team, this reviewer still worries about this book's future. The reason why I worry about this book's future has to do with everything Marvel hasn't done up to this point. When this book was announced, the working theory was that by putting him in New York, you put him where he'll be in a position to be used in the current Universal Meta-Plot. However, T'Challa has yet to play a major role (or any role) on the big stage, nor has any been announced. With each month that passes with no big announcement (or shift in tone), more and more fans are seemingly abandoning the book in droves. (Wholesale orders have gone down from 33,000 in December, to just above 20,000 in May) It'll be a shame that such an amazing title falls by the wayside due to Marvel's in action in raising the profile of a character that has such a passionate, yet rightfully wary fan base. I just continue to hope that David Liss continues to give fans reasons to tune in, and that Marvel gives the fan base a sign that T'Challa is not locked into slumming around in Hell's Kitchen for the foreseeable future.
Final Judgment: **** (Excellent)
Review by: Linwood Earl Knight