Welcome to this week’s edition of the Marvel Rundown! This week, we’re covering Black Panther #3 (#200 in legacy numbering) by John RidleyJuann Cabal, and others. I’ve been relatively lukewarm on this series since its delayed debut, but will the anniversary issue drum up enough excitement in me to finally get on board? Find out below, and check out the Rapid Rundown section, all ahead on this week’s Marvel Rundown!

Black Panther #3

Black Panther
From Black Panther #3

Written by John Ridley and Juni Ba 
Art by Juann Cabal, Ibrahim MoustafaJuni Ba, and German Peralta 
Colouring by Matt MillaChris O’Halloran, and Jesus Aburtov 
Lettering by Joe Sabino 
Cover by Alex Ross 

It’s funny how the value of any one series or character suddenly shifts, isn’t it? There are certain Marvel books out there that definitely qualify as being a “premiere” title for instance, such that they feature an incredibly popular character or is a title with an amazing pedigree of creators. Some books check both categories. Did anyone really think Thor was a premiere title until Jason Aaron took over? It’s now a book where a top-tier writer and artist must be attached lest the book falls by the wayside. Venom counts too, I think. Written by Donny Cates and drawn by Ryan Stegman, that book didn’t garner much critical reception before their run changed the character forever. Now it’s a premiere title with Al Ewing and Ram V sharing co-writing duties, with legend Bryan Hitch drawing it.

Black Panther
From Black Panther #3

Now… what about Black Panther? His Marvel film is inarguably one of the most important blockbusters of the last twenty years, and Marvel capitalized on his introduction to the MCU by hiring Ta-Nehisi Coates to write the character, with amazing artist Brian Stelfreeze drawing and designing the book. Coates’ run lasted five years and left an indelible mark on the character, transforming the Wakandan political landscape and placing T’Challa in a role that he was never ready for: the role of emperor. Great! Now, let’s hand the title off to what seems like on paper to be capable hands: John Ridley and Juann Cabal. Ridley’s screenplay for the Steve McQueen film 12 Years a Slave got him an Oscar, so he’s got the credibility there. He’s been making a name for himself in comics, writing some DC work that’s generated plenty of conversation but didn’t exactly make any waves. Cabal is one of the most exciting artists to work at Marvel in years, blowing readers away with his incentives layouts and amazingly-rendered characters, using sound effects to tell a story in a way that few artists have.

All this to say, this run is such a downer so far. It’s a really middling, boring story that doesn’t really move T’Challa into any sort of interesting direction after the conclusion of Coates’ run. It’s not exciting, it’s not fun, it’s not well-written in the slightest, and is frankly already feeling derivative. Ridley’s scripts are so rote and unimaginative that Cabal, the aforementioned most exciting artist I’ve read in a while, comes across as bland and stiff. Saddling him with boring fight scenes and even more boring conversations, Cabal isn’t given the chance to express himself in a way that I know he can, given that he’s already shown me many times that he can create one hell of a dynamic page.

Black Panther
From Black Panther #3

The plot continues to follow T’Challa’s mission to save as many of his sleeper agents that he has planted across the globe (and beyond) as possible. After getting ambushed by the assassin’s responsible for one of the agent’s deaths, T’Challa decides to lay low for a minute and visit Storm on Arrako (formerly Mars), but as is usually the case with T’Challa, he’s got something else up his sleeve. Dipping into the Storm pot this early in the run is a little bit of a bad sign; I already feel like the story is meandering a little when this happens so early. Coates waited quite a while to bring Storm into his story and, sure, he used her pretty heavily when he did, but the anticipation leading up to her appearance was a positive. Here, the interaction is really nothing more than a simple reminder that they’re together, not in the traditional sense but in the sense that they’re always there for each other despite their distance. They’re both leaders of their respective peoples now which is a nice touch in their years-long relationship.

Cabal’s portion of the story features a pretty confusing action scene, one where his Black Panther is rendered pretty similarly to his ally Omolola which made for a lot more backtracking than necessary when it comes to an intense fight scene. His art remains beautiful, though it doesn’t pop quite as well as it used to under Matt Milla’s colouring. Ibrahim Moustafa draws the Arrako portion of the story, and it was… fine. It didn’t gel at all with the previous section of the story so the transition was very jarring since both art styles are very different, but Moustafa’s characters looked cool and were expressive enough, and Storm looked awesome.

It’s not an anniversary issue without some back-up stories! The first one is written and drawn by Juni Ba, an African artist I’ve known of for quite some time and am glad to see getting some Big Two work. His story reads like a mythical story, and has all the hallmarks: a trickster entity, sneaking around to find an object, a neat little twist at the end… this was gorgeous and a lot of fun.

Next up was another story by Ridley drawn by German Peralta, one that teases a character yet to appear in his run. It was definitely a lot more engaging than his main story, showing a side of Wakanda we don’t get to see, but it does read very closely to what Coates did in his run with the political and cultural rift happening inside Wakanda. Obviously it’s too early to tell if the comparison will run parallel to each other in the future, but for now I’m eager to see where it goes.

Final Verdict: SKIP. It’s harsh, but I really don’t think this is a comic worth wasting your time on. It’s gorgeous but boring. Hell, Saga’s back this week. Spend your money wisely.

From Black Panther #3

Rapid Rundown! 

  • Devil’s Reign #3
    • After a really great start, this issue feels incomplete. I don’t think it’s due to anything Chip Zdarsky or Marco Checchetto have done wrong, but there are beats that feel brushed over due to the nature of big event crossovers and Marvel’s love of tie-ins. Don’t get me wrong: the plot is solid, the characters under Zdarsky are consistently well-written, and the art by Checchetto and Marcio Menyz is stunning to look at. But there are so many moving parts to this story that it’s like we’re missing something. I almost wish that this had stayed as a long arc in Daredevil and slowly spread out to the rest of the line, as I think it would’ve been more interesting to see some of these things happen on the page, rather than being told about them. —CB
  • Marauders Annual #1
    • This issue by Steve Orlando, Creees Lee, Rain Beredo, Cory Petit, and Tom Muller opens with Daken discovering an unmarked mutant grave in suburbia, before being captured…  A fact Kate Pryde, Captain of the Marauder, discovers when she attempts to recruit him for her new crew. This adds an element of urgency to this interesting tale of “getting the band together” for a new mission under Captain Pryde’s command (to be continued in an ongoing series beginning in April). Orlando understands the potency of images like wealthy suburbanites indifferently using the site of a mutant potter’s grave for their privileged revelry, and the machinations of Brimstone Love make for an engaging conflict. And as an opener for the forthcoming series, the new team’s interesting assortment of power sets has plenty of potential (especially when it comes to the relatively-new character Somnus)… I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when they get to hit the sea sailing in Marauders #1 a few months from now! (After Darkhold Omega, I’m hoping for a Scarlet Witch guest spot.) —AJK
  • Mary Jane & Black Cat: Beyond #1
    • So I’ve been riding hard on the Spider-Man universe lately and the happenings of one Peter Parker or in this case two of his lady loves. While recovering from injuries, Parker Robbins aka the Hood takes advantage of Peter’s condition to force the Black Cat into getting his magical hood back. Writer Jed MacKay and artist C.F. Villa take us on a quick scavenger hunt of the New York underworld as Black Cat and MJ hunt down the missing hood. If you can get past the super sexualized cover art, it is a fast-paced, fun story with great action and interesting character exploration as the two women bond during the events of the night. —GC3

Next week, the debuts of Sabretooth and X-Cellent!