Black Panther hits the big number of 200 as the main story keeps adding deeper and deeper levels to T’Challa’s mistrust and the spy thriller world he’s become embroiled within. A handful of very relevant backup stories help add even more to Wakanda and the tale of the Black Panther.
If there is one thing that can be said about T’Challa, former King of Wakanda, it is that he is a man that wears many different hats and plays his cards very close to his chest always. Should one choose to say another thing, it might be that happiness is very much elusive to the man who chooses to carry the world upon his shoulders always to the point of misdirection and subterfuge aimed at allies and loved ones as well as others.
Seeing T’Challa trying to reconcile who he is and who he was and trying to keep being the leader he feels he must while trying to bury the regrets and pain he feels deeper, is providing a very good deep look into this character. Putting him within the plot of a spy thriller essentially has helped to really bring the character down to Earth even more in many ways. Dealing with intergalactic empires and the Avengers is some big stuff, but here we’re seeing more the man trying to deal with the fact that he very much is ‘human’ as Omolola reminds him.
John Ridley has a very good handle on the character and his world, but also on the variety of others that are coming in and out of the story. I love it when a character’s connections to others within the universe come up and we see familiar faces along the way. These are old characters with deep connections and seeing those played out is always welcome. Especially since we get to see him head to Arakko/Mars and come face to face with Storm and other X-Men.
While on the one hand how deep T’Challa’s mistrust is being shown to go makes me upset a bit with the character, how Ridley is presenting it and keeping even the audience on their toes makes it work. What seemed to be a genuinely human moment to find respite with a woman he loves in a place that should be safe turned out to be another calculated move that caught me off guard. Yet, it flipped things again because it ended with a very human-touching moment which bought T’Challa a bit more support in these trying moments.
The first two issues came with art from Juann Cabal with colors from Federico Blee and it was colorful and bright and fun with a lot of cinematic style quality to the proceedings. This issue has a bit of a change. Cabal is still there but Matt Milla takes over the colors and Ibrahim Moustafa comes in part way through to take over the art duties.
Artist jams can be a bit of a hard thing at times because often the styles are very different, and while the styles are different here it’s not a jarring change. Mostly because it happens once they get to Arakko which is at a point where there is a natural scene break type situation. It would have been awesome to get to see Cabal’s smooth and popping style get to bring Arakko to life but it was still a cool sight even with Moustafa’s somewhat rougher style to his work.
Milla’s colors are not as bright bright like what Blee was bringing to the book, as they are a bit toned down but heavy on shadows and flashes of color that fit the tone of this issue. What with the big spy battle at the start and then a lot of character/dialogue-heavy pages where folks are talking about heavy and weighty topics.
With the lettering, Joe Sabino keeps bringing the heat as it’s bright and bold and got the same energy as the rest of the book/series. When folks are struggling to get certain words out it can be seen and felt in their dialogue alongside flashes of character quirks in their words. Along with some SFX that feel natural to the proceedings and are colorful (sometimes even very ‘bloody’ in some sense). Sabino makes sure that there are differences applied to the font to differentiate between different types of vocalization rather than things all looking the same.
As this third issue is also the two-hundredth issue of Black Panther, it comes with two other stories to compliment the main one.
First, the trickster fable-style tale from Juni Ba, Chris O’Halloran, and Sabino is fun but a cautionary tale that at first seemed like just a one-off anniversary-type story. Yet the way it specifically ended seems to point to us seeing more of this realm and the trickster Sai-Sai making a return at some point. Ba handles the character and story wonderfully and provides such a fun style of artwork that I definitely need and want to see far more of. Matching that tone are the colors that O’Halloran provides which are bright and fun but still have a lot of darkness around the edges since there are darker undertones to this tale.
Lastly, there is another story from Ridley with German Peralta, Jesus Aburtov, and Sabino which focuses on a new Wakandan character. We’ve seen a lot of divisions in Wakanda before but this was a nice beat that really sets up not only this character but the offshoot tribe that he was part of and how they built their lives around embracing Vibranium. At the same time, it’s used to flash forward and speak to some of the issues that are on the way, connected to the political divisions and arguments growing out of Wakanda’s attempt to do Democracy.
Peralta and Aburtov have a very firm and muted but heavy style that gives more weight to this origin story and what this character sees from their different point of view. This is another type of story that could have the words taken away and it would still be able to be read pretty accurately, as the artwork here is visually dense and the storytelling work done is quite clear.
Black Panther #3 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.