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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Secret Invasion: Black Panther

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jefte Palo
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Virtual Calligraphy's Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What's it about?
In 2008 Marvel Comics did a big 'event' called:
How pulpy.

Secret Invasion's premise is that a group of shape shifting aliens - the skrulls - have been infiltrating Earth society and are now poised to launch a full scale (secret) invasion.  The skrulls can replicate powers so have replaced key superheroes on earth:
N.B: This is a teaser image and is not necessarily the actual heroes the skrulls replaced (no spoilers here, Jimmy).

The skrulls are undetectable and so it's very hard to know whom to fight.  Whilst the main mini series was a bit dull, a few of the tie-ins were great fun. The 3 Black Panther issues are some of the more enjoyable ones.

The Black Panther, also known as T'Challa, is the King of Wakanda.  Wakanda is a small African country that has never been defeated, not once in 1,500 years.
The Wakandans have always had far superior technology to the rest of the world.  They retain their African identity, culture and dress.  It is unusual to read about a culture with better tech than the Western capitalist world, who dress in both tribal and business clothing, and revere an animal god (in this case the Panther God who gives T'Challa his abilities).  The Wakandans are pretty darn intelligent but not greedy.  They are nationalistic but do not seek out conflict.  They do aggressively defend their borders should anyone seek to invade.

Now, the skrulls have infiltrated the Avengers and the Fantastic 4 and replaced many earth heroes and villains.  They decide to go for Wakanda.  What do you reckon the chances of them claiming control are?

What's good about it?
Ahh, everything about this is good.  Reading the story, seeing it unfold, is utterly delicious.  We know that the Wakandans have never been conquered, we know how good T'Challa is, but the skrulls don't know it. They think that it will be easy to conquer this small nation of puny humans.  They are wrong, so so wrong.
There is mayhem and big battle scenes, thunder and lightning (due to T'Challa's then wife, Storm of the X-Men).  One massive skrull takes on T'Challa, one on one.  It's dramatic and it's glorious.  The pacing is superb.  The Storm and T'Challa scenes feel real and romantic (insofar as you can be romantic while skewering your enemies), unlike other issues in this series where their relationship feels forced.
The story is narrated by one particular skrull, a general of sorts, who has served in the skrull army for many many years.  He wants to get home to his wife but he has this one last battle to serve.  Sadly for him, it doesn't end well - but his viewpoint serves to add pathos and humility to the story.

What's bad about it?
At just 3 issues long, it is a pretty short story.  However, the pacing is superb and three issues is the right length for this short story arc.  The back of my trade includes a historical overview of the character and interviews with previous writers.  This isn't something I'm particularly interested in, but others may like it.  The character and in-progress sketches at the back are great though.

What's the art like?
There's a danger when I write about books for this site that I describe the art as just 'beautiful'.  That's not very helpful to readers as it's just my opinion - I tend to think something more objective is helpful.  But for this book I do get stuck on adjectives like mesmerising, beautiful and glorious.
I can drag out descriptions like the pencils, colours and letters work in harmony together.  Nothing is too heavy.  The art complements and strengthens the script.  The characters are treated with dignity and grace - even the skrulls.  All of this is true.  Yet still I just want to describe the art as inspiring awe.  If you like the panels I've shown, you'll like the art.
More information
Price: £9.99
ISBN: 0785133976

So what's next?  Although this trade is good, this particular series of Black Panther is not great overall.  The first trade, 'Who is the Black Panther' is bloody glorious, politically and storywise. Black Panther: Bad Mutha creates a black superhero team who go to New Orleans and deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.  Black Panther: Four the Hard Way deals with the Civil War, and is pretty shoddy.   Little Green Men is forgettable.  The trades where Storm marries T'Challa and the two directly after (The Bride, Black Panther: Civil War and Back to Africa) are awful.

Black Panther: The Deadliest of the Species and Black Panther: Power see T'Challa's sister Shuri take on the Panther mantle.  These trades are great. She's a very different leader to T'Challa and the stories play out very differently when she's in charge.

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