Not Quite Rock Bottom: Reviewing ‘Black Panther’ #13
by Scott Redmond
Everything thread from the previous issues is starting to come together as ‘Black Panther’ begins the countdown to its very near final issue, putting the former King of Wakanda into a tight spot with former allies & former enemies. An action-packed yet powerfully emotional issue rife with great character beats and some very slick artwork that moves around the page easily.
A head that wears the crown is inherently heavy from the nature of power, but often the heaviness is self-created. T’Challa can speak to that notion, having dug the massive hole that he is now within all by himself to a point. Jhai came along and made it even bigger, putting T’Challa further away from allies and the kingdom he loves, but it was only because of the former King’s own digging that they are where they are now.
Much of this run has been things piling up over T’Challa in that hole, putting him further from being able to climb out, but with just a few issues left John Ridley has begun to dangle a possible escape rope before the character. On the outs with the Avengers, T’Challa has turned to a collection of characters that Jhai is unlikely to expect him to bring because they aren’t people that T’Challa had originally gathered files on during his time building the sleeper cell network. Lucky them and him.
I’ve spoken previously about how I wish this series had a bit more wiggle room to fully dive into a T’Challa that is outside of Wakanda having to build himself back up and deal with his sins. That being said, putting him in this position to try and correct his wrongs in the time that they have left before the series end is an acceptable substitute. In fact, this issue was so engaging that it flew by as a reading experience. It’s one of those things that feels like not a ton happened, but quite a bit went down here.
We got a solid flashback setting up the moment that Jhai, Omolola, and T’Challa broke apart to begin the whole sleeper agent plan, solid character beats between the three teams of T’Challa racing to stop Jhai, the Avengers coming down hard on the jets, Captain America versus an “I could do this all day” T’Challa, oh and the arrival of a surprising (outside of those that look at solicits) new ally for T’Challa in his time of need. We’re now in the final act of this overall story, and it’s moving fast while tying up a lot of things and bringing all the players onto the board together.
Germán Peralta has such a beautiful style of art as it’s so emotive and full of motion, but it really brings such depth to the world and characters within. One of the coolest things is how the background and sometimes other elements, have an almost watercolor sort of appearance to them that will play so well with the colors once they are added. It makes the variety of settings, from wide open spaces to cities like Wakanda, just pop and feel otherworldly even more than they already are in many cases.
Even with all that mention of detail in the work, Peralta knows when to pull back on the surrounding detail in order to focus the eye on the most important moment on the page. Also, there are a lot of really solid uses of the paneling in order to showcase emotion, there is a cool one early on where we could have gotten a full panel of T’Challa instead it’s split into an upper face and lower face one in order to focus on his eyes before we see his bit of a smirk. That’s the good stuff right there.
We have a new colorist in this issue from the last, as Sebastian Cheng steps in to color Peralta’s work. As noted before the colors mix very well with the texture of Peralta’s artwork and really play up those aforementioned watercolor-like effects. One of the really neat things that Cheng and Peralta achieved together is the effects on the opening pages. While the overall quality of their art is the same, they made slight changes to tone things down and create a different vibe to make it visually clear that these were flashback pages that stood apart from the present-day set pages.
Most of the art does a lot of the overall ‘talking’ and showcasing of things like emotion, but the lettering is always so important not only because of dialogue but it helps set and enhance the issue tone. Joe Sabino is really good at being able to navigate the lettering through an issue, creating a clean flow through the pages, alongside adding just enough alterations to allow volume and tone to clearly be heard. Changes in size or style or the addition of bold or even just the use of ellipses can instantly tell the reader how the character says something and whether it should be heard loud or quietly within our head. We can’t hear comics like we do other mediums, but we ‘hear’ the character’s voices in our head (either of our own creation or similar to whoever plays/voices them in other mediums) and great lettering work helps us to make the voices accurate in many ways.
Black Panther #13 is now available from Marvel Comics.