Black Panther: The Man Without Fear
Read like bit of a strange title? Well that’s because it is sort of strange, but I’m going to go ahead and start this review off by telling you that this new book is absolutely great.
Following the events of Doomwar, King T’Challa’s empire in Wakanda has been reduced to poverty and has lost their vibranium, the very source of what their kingdom was once built upon. This has no doubt left the Black Panther shattered, seeing his people suffer, and though he had to do what had to be done, he wasn’t able to come out of the battle with Von Doom unscathed. Fast forward a few months to Shadowland; Matt Murdock attempts to manipulate the Hand for the greater good, and loses his soul in the process. Now we’re back to square one. Daredevil has some soul searching to do (quite literally) but doesn’t want to leave his territory to crumble amongst the criminal rabble: Cue T’Challa. Both men are searching for something that they have lost and both men need to search for it elsewhere, so Daredevil enlists Black Panther to look over his city. The concept may seem a bit trite, (the soul searching) and perhaps so, but the idea of Black Panther looking over Hell’s Kitchen? That’s just too cool.
David Liss is the writer, who I never recognized before, but let me tell you he does a marvellous job. The “Daredevil-out, Panther-in” scene in the comic’s first few pages seems a rushed passing-of-the-torch for a territory so entrenched in Murdock’s history, but it actually works. Liss doesn’t delve too deep into the self-loathing or melodrama; he just sets the scene and setting and then gets right into the story.
After the events of Shadowland, and the subsequent crumbling and dissipating of the Hand presence, crime has risen again and with it a new Gang threat. The disappearance of Daredevil is apparently well known, and those on the seedy side of the law are taking advantage. A Romanian family, lead by a man called Vlad the Impaler (who reveals a secret of his past), is trying to make an impression in Hell’s Kitchen, and the Black Panther wants to nip it in the bud. T’Challa quickly finds out that ruling Hell’s Kitchen isn’t quite like ruling a kingdom: nothing is off limits.
Liss weaves a sort of noir-ish tale, which works really well in the dark and gritty confines of Hell’s Kitchen, and the new villain is a welcome face as well. It would have been hard to swallow T’Challa going up against Fisk or the like, but this keeps the setting familiar but the people and events fresh.
I’m definitely looking forward to the unfolding of T’Challa vs. Vlad. Give it a read if you enjoy the darker streets of Marvel’s heroes.