Shadowland has fallen, Daredevil is gone, and Hell’s Kitchen thinks it has no protector. It is wrong because T’Challa is removed from his kingdom and ready to prove himself as the new ‘Man Without Fear.’ It’s certainly an interesting premise and this week brings us the debut issue of “Black Panther” in an “Urban Jungle.”
A massive point of contention has been the motivation of Black Panther to leave his country and step in to Daredevil’s old role. This character point is addressed, but the explanation feels a little thin. Just because the words have been put into T’Challa’s mouth doesn’t mean they necessarily make sense. Having him live in Hell’s Kitchen under an assumed identity is one aspect of this series that will have to be interesting, well written, and made to count. There are hints of this so far but it isn’t nailed completely.
Much of the issue is spent in setting up a new nemesis for Black Panther to face. Vlad Dinu might speak in a very forced Romanian accent but he is actually a decent foil for our lead. His secret origin connected to the Romanian Super Soldier Project elevates him from the usual crime kingpin. He purposefully doesn’t want to create an arch-enemy for himself and that’s pretty shrewd characterization. He’s addressing the situation realistically and he certainly seems to have enough ability to stand up to the new protector of Hell’s Kitchen. Having a villain to build up, and a credible and dangerous one, is one of the greatest aspects of this issue.
Isolating Black Panther seems odd considering he is such a connected character in the Marvel Universe. This point is also covered, especially how he is going to be away from his wife Storm, but the scenes do not completely resonate. It’s addressed but needs to be slightly more believable. I do like that he’s a hero who uses his brain in his planning of all things, both personal and in his business. You can expect T’Challa to think outside the square and offer up creative solutions to the problems he will face. It is also a smart ploy to have T’Challa quickly realise the bleakness of his new role; it shows exactly the sort of futility Daredevil was fighting against.
Francavilla’s art is a very good match for this title. He makes everything feel like a colour soaked print of your favorite noir flick, but that’s a skill he brings to most stories. The writing might not completely live up to the challenge of the art but it is close. Francavilla is a superstar in the making in that he designs each page to feel a certain way. The action is dynamic, the streets are hollow, and the colors are constantly emotive.
This first issue of a new status quo is an interesting slice. Some feels like flat exposition, but when it gets a moment right -- like the superb fighting set pieces and the secret of Vlad -- it does so very well. We can see that Black Panther is doing his best to serve the community but still be his own new man in the shadow of Daredevil. The hook is baited and you’ll want to bite, but over the coming months this title will need to avoid cliché if it is to land you. The set up is forced on us and out of the way, now all Liss and Francavilla have to do is capitalize on it. There’s promise in these pages, let’s hope the coming months deliver.