Reviews of this week’s Marvel titles, including Black Panther #3 (legacy #200), plus a few issues from the Rapid Rundown!
Welcome to this week’s edition of the Marvel Rundown! This week, we’re covering Black Panther #3 (#200 in legacy numbering) by John Ridley, Juann Cabal, and others. I’ve been relatively lukewarm on this series since its delayed debut, but will the anniversary issue drum up enough excitement in me to finally get on board? Find out below, and check out the Rapid Rundown section, all ahead on this week’s Marvel Rundown!
Written by John Ridley and Juni Ba
Art by Juann Cabal, Ibrahim Moustafa, Juni Ba, and German Peralta
Colouring by Matt Milla, Chris O’Halloran, and Jesus Aburtov
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Cover by Alex Ross
It’s funny how the value of any one series or character suddenly shifts, isn’t it? There are certain Marvel books out there that definitely qualify as being a “premiere” title for instance, such that they feature an incredibly popular character or is a title with an amazing pedigree of creators. Some books check both categories. Did anyone really think Thor was a premiere title until Jason Aaron took over? It’s now a book where a top-tier writer and artist must be attached lest the book falls by the wayside. Venom counts too, I think. Written by Donny Cates and drawn by Ryan Stegman, that book didn’t garner much critical reception before their run changed the character forever. Now it’s a premiere title with Al Ewing and Ram V sharing co-writing duties, with legend Bryan Hitch drawing it.
Now… what about Black Panther? His Marvel film is inarguably one of the most important blockbusters of the last twenty years, and Marvel capitalized on his introduction to the MCU by hiring Ta-Nehisi Coates to write the character, with amazing artist Brian Stelfreeze drawing and designing the book. Coates’ run lasted five years and left an indelible mark on the character, transforming the Wakandan political landscape and placing T’Challa in a role that he was never ready for: the role of emperor. Great! Now, let’s hand the title off to what seems like on paper to be capable hands: John Ridley and Juann Cabal. Ridley’s screenplay for the Steve McQueen film 12 Years a Slave got him an Oscar, so he’s got the credibility there. He’s been making a name for himself in comics, writing some DC work that’s generated plenty of conversation but didn’t exactly make any waves. Cabal is one of the most exciting artists to work at Marvel in years, blowing readers away with his incentives layouts and amazingly-rendered characters, using sound effects to tell a story in a way that few artists have.
All this to say, this run is such a downer so far. It’s a really middling, boring story that doesn’t really move T’Challa into any sort of interesting direction after the conclusion of Coates’ run. It’s not exciting, it’s not fun, it’s not well-written in the slightest, and is frankly already feeling derivative. Ridley’s scripts are so rote and unimaginative that Cabal, the aforementioned most exciting artist I’ve read in a while, comes across as bland and stiff. Saddling him with boring fight scenes and even more boring conversations, Cabal isn’t given the chance to express himself in a way that I know he can, given that he’s already shown me many times that he can create one hell of a dynamic page.
The plot continues to follow T’Challa’s mission to save as many of his sleeper agents that he has planted across the globe (and beyond) as possible. After getting ambushed by the assassin’s responsible for one of the agent’s deaths, T’Challa decides to lay low for a minute and visit Storm on Arrako (formerly Mars), but as is usually the case with T’Challa, he’s got something else up his sleeve. Dipping into the Storm pot this early in the run is a little bit of a bad sign; I already feel like the story is meandering a little when this happens so early. Coates waited quite a while to bring Storm into his story and, sure, he used her pretty heavily when he did, but the anticipation leading up to her appearance was a positive. Here, the interaction is really nothing more than a simple reminder that they’re together, not in the traditional sense but in the sense that they’re always there for each other despite their distance. They’re both leaders of their respective peoples now which is a nice touch in their years-long relationship.
Cabal’s portion of the story features a pretty confusing action scene, one where his Black Panther is rendered pretty similarly to his ally Omolola which made for a lot more backtracking than necessary when it comes to an intense fight scene. His art remains beautiful, though it doesn’t pop quite as well as it used to under Matt Milla’s colouring. Ibrahim Moustafa draws the Arrako portion of the story, and it was… fine. It didn’t gel at all with the previous section of the story so the transition was very jarring since both art styles are very different, but Moustafa’s characters looked cool and were expressive enough, and Storm looked awesome.
It’s not an anniversary issue without some back-up stories! The first one is written and drawn by Juni Ba, an African artist I’ve known of for quite some time and am glad to see getting some Big Two work. His story reads like a mythical story, and has all the hallmarks: a trickster entity, sneaking around to find an object, a neat little twist at the end… this was gorgeous and a lot of fun.
Next up was another story by Ridley drawn by German Peralta, one that teases a character yet to appear in his run. It was definitely a lot more engaging than his main story, showing a side of Wakanda we don’t get to see, but it does read very closely to what Coates did in his run with the political and cultural rift happening inside Wakanda. Obviously it’s too early to tell if the comparison will run parallel to each other in the future, but for now I’m eager to see where it goes.
Final Verdict: SKIP. It’s harsh, but I really don’t think this is a comic worth wasting your time on. It’s gorgeous but boring. Hell, Saga’s back this week. Spend your money wisely.
Next week, the debuts of Sabretooth and X-Cellent!
"Fame is whack," reads the tagline of Cypher, a groundbreaking new film about Grammy-nominated rapper Tierra Whack from writer-director Chris Moukarbel. The adjective "whack" here