Super Types

September 21, 2010

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear or The Man Without a Title?

By now you may or may not have heard that T’Challa, the former Black Panther, will be taking over as protector of Hell’s Kitchen after Shadowland ends. Daredevil will officially end with issue #512, and with December’s issue #513 the series will be re-titled Black Panther: Man Without Fear. The series will be written by novelist David Liss and drawn by Francesco Francavilla. Each may be a new name to some of the comic fans, but both come with a background that Marvel feels makes them suitable to take this series in its new direction.

Cover to Black Panther: Man Without Fear by Simone Bianchi

The news has drawn a wide array of mixed fan reactions stemming from optimism, to disgust, to confusion, to pure excitement about the character change. I for one really haven’t made up my mind about the news. The premise is a pretty flimsy one in my opinion, and so far it just shows me that Marvel doesn’t know what to do with T’Challa since DoomWar ended.  A character that in his beginning tested himself by picking a fight with the greatest heroes at the time, The Fantastic Four, and won. He joined the Avengers to spy on them, bested Captain America, outsmarted some of the most brilliant minds on the  planet, and was able to stop the Skrulls from taking over his homeland during Secret Invasion without the aid of super powered weapons and tech. Not to mention that he just recently stopped Dr. Doom by making a pretty big sacrifice. Now he wants to find himself by protecting Hell’s Kitchen? It just seems like a stretch if you ask me.

This isn’t the first time T’Challa has been used as a “place holder” for a super hero, as he and his wife Storm took over for Reed and Sue Richards after the superhero Civil War and briefly joined the Fantastic Four. That particular arc wasn’t a step in the right direction, and to keep it afloat Marvel interjected the Marvel Zombies into the story since they were still pretty popular at the time, but just as fast as they departed, Reed and Sue were back in action and T’Challa and Storm were out.

The most recent Black Panther series saw T’Challa and the whole of Wakanda attacked and manipulated by Dr. Doom, which led to him being replaced by his sister Shuri as Wakanda’s protector, the Black Panther. Now that he no longer carries the official title and is no longer King, it makes sense that he needs to do some soul searching and figure some things out. Going to Hell’s Kitchen just doesn’t seem to make sense right now when his country is in chaos, and I’m hoping that David Liss is able to fix that and have it make sense. Mainly because over the years we’ve come to know that T’Challa is fiercely dedicated to Wakanda and her people, and that kind of dedication was there before he wore the crown or became the Black Panther.

There are several things that give me pause about this “bold new adventure” for T’Challa. One being the attitude that T’Challa is coming into an “alien culture” and not being able to rely on his “tech” and “trade mark gadgets.” I for one would love to see these “trade mark gadgets,” because the Black Panther toys are usually packaged with a spear. Yeah a spear, but that’s a topic for another discussion. I also think that it’s been established over the years that he’s spent enough time living in America that our culture isn’t so foreign to him, and his chief weapon against any of his opponents is his intellect. It’s with this intellect, when written well (DoomWar), he shows that even without the title of the Black Panther or the strength enhancing herb, that T’Challa is still very much a force to be reckoned with.

Francisco Francavilla’s Black Panther

On the other hand, I am happy to see T’Challa in a monthly series as the Black Panther, even if it’s the same type of formula we saw when Incredible Hulk became Incredible Hercules. The costume adjustment is also a practical one, since all of the Wakandan Vibranium on Earth has been destroyed he’ll need body armor that’s a bit more rooted in the “real world.” David Liss is also giving him a new villain to fight in the form of Vlad the Impaler, who is a Romanian killer trying to make a name for himself in Hell’s Kitchen. That is also a relief that T’Challa won’t be getting Daredevil’s leftover rogues gallery to fight in the beginning. Though I’m sure his interference in Hell’s Kitchen won’t sit well with the Kingpin, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Maybe all of this fan worrying is for nothing, and this will be the series that propels T’Challa and the Black Panther to the levels the character deserves. Since Jack Kirby and Stan Lee introduced the character, he’s had the potential to run with the big boys, but due to very inconsistent stories, lack of effort, and let’s face it, a pretty weak rogues gallery, Black Panther has only been great in spurts. A hero is only as great as the villain he’s facing, and a guy in a white gorilla suit along with Klaw are pretty much his consistent pains in the ass. Marvel has consistently made him go up against the other heroes because they’re the only ones who actually posed a threat. In the past five years his stories have been great when going up against the overwhelming odds of the Skrulls, and then again with Jonathan Maberry’s DoomWar.

Now, of course I’m going to give Black Panther: The Man Without Fear a try and see if David Liss and Francesco Francavilla help bring some credibility to one of Marvel’s greatest characters. I think that Marvel does have the perfect timing in doing this since T’Challa and Wakanda are trying to adjust after DoomWar. I’m just hoping that the execution of their plan doesn’t sink the Black Panther back into comic obscurity for several more years. And for all of the Daredevil fans out there, you will be happy to know that in January Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice will bring you Daredevil: Reborn, so maybe Matt will be back sooner than we thought. In the mean time, enjoy some preview pages by Francesco Francavilla from Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513!


Infinite Speech


  1. Eli

    I’m not so sure about this either. It would be the right time for the Panther to do something different, but take over for Daredevil in Hell’s Kitchen? I’m not seeing at all how thats gonna make any sense. Perhaps we’ll become privy to some long forgotten history between Matt and T’Challa that we never knew about. Some connection that will only now come to light. Nah… probably not.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful analysis and open-mindedness. I understand why some fans are a bit skeptical about this new direction, but I see it as a great opportunity to expand upon and challenge the character. I’m a firm believer that in comics, like in any kind of story-telling, things work when we care about the characters and when the difficulties they face seem real and urgent. Black Panther has never been a first tier hero for all the reasons you mention, but there is another important reason – so many writers have presented him as a secondary character in his own stories, more of an unknowable force of nature than a real person. T’Challa with tech and powers and vibranium is very cool – no doubt about it. In Priest’s run we saw him as a mesmerizing scary-bad good guy, but not as a sympathetic human being. Now we’re going to get a different side of the character – in over his head, operating without a net, facing new, gritty and urgent challenges. I know I’m excited.

  3. David Liss- that was an awesome response.

    I’ll admit, I was skeptical about this new direction for BP. I thought DoomWar was great, and after reading your response, I realize that he probably isn’t really welcomed in Wakanda after all that went on there.

    Looking forward to your run!!

  4. Billy

    Great insight Speech. I think all will go well if the story behind BP being in Hells Kitchen is a strong one. He’s a great character and should be featured in an ongoing.

  5. Thanks for the reply David and you actually put a couple of my worries to rest. For everything else I’ll have to wait until December and the months after to see how the story unfolds.

    Can’t wait!

  6. Aron

    I’m not at all happy with the “replacing” of Daredevil. I’m not at all happy about the “shelving” of Daredevil. BUT…the preview pages look like it would be a cool story and I don’t think T’Challa has had a cool ongoing since the Priest run. I may have to check it out.

  7. You’ll get Matt back in January of next year though Aron! Plus I think Bullseye is coming back pretty soon as well so smile big guy! 🙂

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by billy dunleavy, billy dunleavy, Comic Attack, Cosmic Book News, Comic Attack and others. Comic Attack said: Black Panther: The Man Without Fear or The Man Without a Title? #comics #marvel #BlackPanther […]

  9. […] sister and the current Black Panther (to find out what’s in store for T’Challa, click here), is out to stop the master of sound, Klaw. Remember, in the conclusion of DoomWar, all Wakandan […]

  10. […] I commented in my article that Black Panther has potential, but has only been great in small spurts. What is your take on the […]

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