The new title of this book calls to mind imagery of Jonathan Goldsmith pulling off the Panther mask and throwing back a Dos Equis. The story inside is less ridiculous and plays a straightforward thriller plot from start to finish. Kingpin is using the Hand to make a statement that the Black Panther simply cannot ignore.
David Liss writes a mob story that involves ninjas taking out Wakandan business owners all over Hell’s Kitchen. Naturally, that kind of action is going to draw the attention of the Black Panther. Working with his gal Friday, Sofija, Panther learns of one survivor and spends the rest of the issue trying to protect that business owner. In doing so, Panther has to fight Hand ninjas in a hospital that is wired with explosives and set in the middle of a turf war.
Liss’ story is less a Black Panther-specific tale and more of a “fill-in for Daredevil” story, which I suppose is the point, but there isn’t a whole lot here to sell me on the Panther. The story could easily have been a generic version of Daredevil (complete with a white costume with a bar code on it) and I would have found the same level of entertainment and enjoyment. Panther isn’t Daredevil and shouldn’t be played like Daredevil. I’ve always thought of T’Challa as one of the most intelligent men in the Marvel Universe, like Reed Richards-level smart. Why he’s being goaded by the Kingpin escapes me.
It makes for a comic full of action for Shawn Martinbrough to draw, though. I haven’t seen Martinbrough’s work since his stint on “Creeper” more than a decade ago, and in lieu of Francesco Francavilla, Martinbrough’s work is a fine, moody substitute. Many of Martinbrough’s storytelling choices smack of thinly veiled attempts to replicate the camera work of “The Matrix”; some of those scenes work much better than others. Martinbrough’s figures are photo-realistically based, but as such they tend to float on the backgrounds rather than live in them. Overall, Martinbrough’s work is a nice fit for the story, but there are spots that can be polished up a little brighter.
I keep dipping in and out of this book and I keep finding myself disappointed. I love the Black Panther character and I wholeheartedly support him carrying his own book, but his book needs to feel like more than a placeholder. So far with the issues I’ve sampled, I just haven’t found anything compelling, and this issue is less so, with Panther now officially facing a complete collection of Daredevil foes. Daredevil’s adventures against Panther’s foe, Klaw, is more engaging and much more defined as a Daredevil story. Hopefully this book will pay attention and follow suit.