Review: Black Panther: Man Without Fear #520

The former king of a small African nation continues to be crammed into Daredevil's mold. At least he's got guest stars to shake things up a bit.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Black Panther 520

Black Panther: Man Without Fear has, for the most part, been an exercise in taking everything cool and unique about T'Challa away and trying to make him more normal and accessible (read: "America-centric"), which has only served to make him sort of boring and kind of annoying.  T'Challa's insistence on proving himself capable without any assistance now that he's lost his resources and access to the heart-shaped herb that granted him enhanced senses and reflexes makes a certain amount sense, but every issue is drenched with him whining when people help him accomplish anything and it's gotten old fast.

In #520, however, T'Challa's wife Ororo Munroe has dropped in to save his bacon and bust his chops for trying to isolate himself so much, which makes for a somewhat refreshing change of pace, even though T'Challa is STILL whining about it through most of the issue.  "How can I terrify the city's criminals if my wife is constantly appearing to save my life?"  Uh, criminals might be scared of the fact that you're married to someone who can strike them dead with lightning with barely a blink, sir.  Use that.  Use your resources, T'Challa, and that includes your friends.  You can't stop trying to be Daredevil soon enough.  With any luck, he'll be bounding back into his Man Without Fear title any day now, leaving T'Challa free to go back to being T'Challa.

Oh, and by the way, apparently X-Men: Schism is going to be a big deal.  Maybe your wife could use YOUR help for once, you selfish prick.

Ugh.  This whole series is making me dislike T'Challa as a character, which I do not.  I worship him as envisioned by Christopher Priest, so I'd hoped the appearance of Kraven the Hunter would maybe hearken back to that era, as back then, T'Challa had a pretty memorable knife fight in a New York hotel kitchen with Aloysha Kravinoff.  Now, David Liss is touting this as "the first time ever" that these two characters have met.  Yes, in a technical sense, Sergei was dead at the time of Priest's run, so the original Kraven couldn't be there, but he was written and rendered exactly like Sergei, so it feels like an empty boast.  Jefte Palo's art is disconcerting, too.  It looks like maybe he's trying to fit in to the style of the book by imitating the previous work of Francesco Francavilla, but for some reason, he seems compelled to make everyone look as though they have detachable noses.

To be fair, Kraven is pretty awesome here as well, and while I don't know why he's alive, the idea that for some reason he can't die and that's the only thing he actually wants is kind of a cool hook.  The interplay between T'Challa and Storm is also kind of fun at times, mostly when she's mocking him for how annoying he's been.  Unfortunately, even when the Panther has some badass moments, saying things like "If you allow me to strike back, you have already lost" before dropping a flying elbow on the Hunter, it just doesn't feel cool. 

T'Challa isn't Daredevil and we shouldn't want him to be, and the sooner he stops trying to be, the better. 

He also shouldn't try to be Captain America either, but next, we've got the American Panther to "look forward" to.  Given the fact that the A.P. seems to carry a gun, I'm leaning now towards the fact that this is somebody else in a different costume, even though the preview linked above implies that perhaps it could also be some fear-induced hallucination and an aspect of T'Challa's perception of himself within his own mind.  If either of those are the case, it's possible the idea could have some legs. 

It will be given a chance, but only one.  Black Panther: Man Without Fear has been given many more than that, and it continues to underwhelm.  I want to like this book.  I really do.  But this whole take is just not very intriguing, it's not compelling and it doesn't feel any different from the eight hundred billion other "big city vigilante" books out there today, and that's what Black Panther should always be.  Different.  Unique.