The first arc of “Black Panther: The Man Without Fear” finished and, overall, the tale felt a little safe. The acts and plot beats were compartmentalized, the overall scope of it all toothless. This single issue does more for this book than six previous issues managed. This is a wild and wacky ride of a hunt through the city that exposes David Liss’ ability to make a story a little bit crazy in some cool ways and satisfying on many levels.
This tale, ‘Storm Hunter,’ which sees both T’Challa’s wife, Storm, and Kraven the Hunter appear, is only two issues long and so there is no room to pad out the panels. This is the entire first half of the story and we get plenty for our $2.99. The events here are kick-started by the conclusion of the previous arc, but they quickly take on a life of their own. Black Panther is out to find a young kid with powers who is lost in the city. He does his best urban vigilante role of acquiring enough information from a variety of questionable individuals, then the chase is afoot.
Dr Holman steps up as the first adversary and her animal-genetic mutations are horrific and sad in all the right doses. The piranha-boy in the tank is a scary proposition and the simian soldiers are the type of thing only comics, weird cartoons, and maybe a Joe Dante film could do well. Liss is having as much fun here as he was introducing Vlad in his first issues. Then we get Kraven and he’s straight into the hunt, as you would hope.
The quest for dominance between our muscle-clad leads is a kinetic ride through the city that’s the ultimate comic action movie sequence. The players punch and kick, glass is broken, and it’s set a hundred miles a minute. It is then incredibly laughable when Kraven takes a moment on top of a moving bus to lay out his motivations for being involved. That scene really doesn’t make sense and is not as good as the rest of the book.
Jefte Palo is an artist who doesn’t get enough work and this issue should help him out a little. He paces the action well and he knows how to deliver a cheeky look in the quiet moments. His animal-hybrids are creepy and violent and exactly as they should be. These figures of scientific sadness are the highlight of the issue, even though too shortly used. Perhaps Palo’s greatest effort on the title, however, is his portrayal of Black Panther. His accoutrements have depth and volume but the man in the suit is mostly rendered as a silhouette. It’s a smart, sleek, and perfect design for the character. He’s nothing but a feline shadow going about his business, and the simplicity is what makes it work against detailed backgrounds. The only time he has internal lines is to show the effort of stopping one of Kraven’s weapons from killing him.
This issue might not be heavy on plot mechanics but it is high on having a great time. If the last arc was about being close to the perception of a “Daredevil” comic, thus the adopted sub-heading, then this issue is closer to “Crank.” There are some cool fights and a few warped ideas, and not too many places to draw breath. Sometimes you just need a comic that will kick your ass; here it is. Sit back, enjoy the show, and have a ball. You won’t need too much of your brain, but you’ll have to take out a loan for adrenaline.