Infinity is coming to the Marvel Universe, but in what capacity and under what circumstances? The publisher is coming closer to showing readers what exactly they have up their sleeves with Infinity Countdown: Prime #1! Elsewhere, legendary Marvel writers Christopher Priest, Reggie Hudlin and Don McGregor return to the land of Wakanda with Black Panther Annual #1! The House of the Mouse has a lot of ideas up in the air this week in The Marvel Rundown!
Black Panther Annual #1
Written by Priest, Don McGregor and Reggie Hudlin
Illustrated by Mike Perkins, Ken Lashley and Daniel Acuna
Colored by Andy Troy and Matt Milla
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Alexander Jones: AJ, three generations of incredible Black Panther talent are returning with new stories in this brand new annual. What was your take on the three separate narratives of Black Panther Annual #1?
AJ Frost Alex! Great to have you back this week. Thanks for letting me take over for ya! Yeah, the three stories contained within this annual really show off the variety and depth of the Black Panther mythos. Each creator displays great reverence for the character and all his iterations throughout the decades, while also giving readers old and new something to appreciate. It is heartening to know the zeitgeist of Black Panther is being capitalized with such reverence in this anthology of tales.
Jones: It could be because of my past exposure to the series, but the winner for me was clearly Christopher Priest’s work! Nobody writes Everett K. Ross quite like him and the humor and pathos for the story felt like such a cathartic release for me. As much as I enjoyed the straight action and regal elements of the Black Panther film, I sure did miss Priest’s staggeringly bold interpretation of the formula.
Frost: Priest and Mike Perkin’s chapter was my second choice! [Laughs]. Yeah, the Priest story is an instant classic. It contains all the elements we know and love of a Black Panther story: political intrigue, vapid bureaucratic jargon, and an ethical center to it. And to your latter point: the film conveyed a broad sense of the Wakandan landscape and relationship in the world. What is always great about the Priest interpretation of Black Panther is that he makes him an active contrast to the fecklessness of governments and world diplomacy. The regal nature is the perfect contrast to the 9-5 mentality of Ross. What was your take on the McGregor portion of the comic?
Jones: I definitely appreciated what McGregor brought to the issue and saw what he was trying to do. From a technical standpoint… I thought his part of the narrative was slammed with prose and a sort of obvious payoff. On the other hand, Priest does a great job slicing through T’Challa’s colder and more reserved demeanor thanks to Ross’ point-of-view take on the situation. Is this too reductive a take for what he McGregor accomplished in your opinion, AJ?
Frost: Perhaps a bit too reductive. The prose narration is something a lot of contemporary comics seem to toss aside in favor of more splash pages and big action pieces. What is most appreciated about McGregor’s process is how he establishes meaningful character interiority. With Priest, Black Panther’s role in the comic book is external, right? With McGregor, it is all about T’Challa’s perspective; his hopes and aspirations. The break in dialogue is a respite from normal superhero duties and it allows readers a chance to understand the why of the character, rather than the how, you know? Not saying it’s superior or better than any other mode of storytelling, but it’s the one I enjoyed the most out of the three.
Jones: I appreciate your opposing viewpoint. When it comes to T’Challa, his overall characterization can be a little cold and it helps for writers to ease his viewpoint in ever-so-slightly. McGregor’s script dives straight into T’Challa and explores a more thoughtful and somber narrative than some of the aspects of what Priest brings to the table. It is certainly interesting to pick up the issue and consider how malleable T’Challa can be as a character–especially when considering some of the places Reginald Hudlin and Ken Lashley go to in the final story. Which was pleasant but not substantial for me–what was your take on this?
Frost: I’ll agree with you on this one. Hudlin’s story rounds out the comic and presents an interesting alternate future of the character. The inclusion of other parts of the Marvel pantheon was nice (mild spoiler: the integration of X-Men elements was surprising and pretty cool). There were a lot of fun moments in it.
Jones: I enjoyed the fact his story mixed up those elements and brought out those ideas but was disappointed in how sort of pedestrian it was. Something I wasn’t disappointed in was how each artistic contribution brought something wholly unique and different here. Daniel Acuna’s work was majestic and wonderful while Perkins was able to really dig into the finer aspects of Priest’s script and Lashley brought out the regal elements of T’Challa in his contributions.
Frost: The art throughout the book is superb. Perkins’ pencils were moody; Acuna honored the legacy of Billy Graham and Rich Buckler beautifully, and Ken Lashley went all out with the Afro-Futurist elements that make Wakanda a wonderful place to visit. And, lest it is overlooked, the coloring work is top-notch!
Jones: The last point I wanted to make was just how subtle the art and writing were in Priest’s story as a whole. I feel like he was executing pretty complicated ideas while also inverting the Dora Milaje concept. He was using ideas like this in his regular run as well, but the creative team does a fantastic job bringing these elements back and showing how they all tie into each other for new readers. I’m not sure if you noticed any of those aspects and wondered if you had any final thoughts at this point?
Frost: All the contributors have taken the Black Panther and remolded him in their imagination. The familiarity and willingness to play with the character while also subverting familiar tropes are one of the many reasons that this annual issue is special. And taking a broader view, there is so much to play around with and so many great stories that have been told and many yet to be told.
Jones: I’m going with a BUY! What say you?
Frost: By the power vested in me by ritual combat, I say BUY!
Final Verdict: AJ and Alex both say BUY!
Infinity Countdown: Prime #1
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Mike Deodato
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
If you were worried Infinity Countdown wasn’t going to reference what came before in the saga of the Marvel Universe boy have I got good news for you!
Plus, the story continues the fascinating plot threads set forth by Marvel Legacy #1 and feels like the next step of the line as a whole. The issue is filled with violence deep in the wilds of Canada, intrigue at the edge of space and a couple massive revelations about the Infinity Gems/Stones to please every kind of Marvel fan. In fact, the only point which even could potentially turn readers away is just how deep the comic book digs into the continuity elements from the past couple years.
Somehow, throughout the twisting and turning elements of writer Gerry Duggan’s Marvel work, the writer has managed to keep a beautiful, cohesive voice which largely carries over from All-New Guardians of the Galaxy and it certainly helps the cast of the series makes a great cameo appearance in this event prologue as well. From a strictly metatextual level, it feels as though there are so many elements and layers to this issue which Duggan threads with a fine needle. For instance, Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña’s Rage of Ultron original graphic novel is followed up on here with the aforementioned Marvel Legacy one-shot which is laced with work from All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, past one-shots leading up to the event and more. If you were trying to make a case for The Marvel Universe being one cohesive, shared Universe this is the issue you would hand someone. Even with so many different elements and aspects of the comic, I have to hand it to Duggan from a writing standpoint. Even with an incredibly dark twist taking place early on in the book the writer has this cheery sense of humor making the story a pleasant space to occupy. The Guardians of the Galaxy also do a great job diffusing some of the tension even if it is just for a few fleeting moments.
Traditionally, I am not a fan of Mike Deodato’s work but seeing the creator tow the line between violence and humor really worked for me on this narrative. The scenes with Wolverine and a familiar Marvel character bring out so many aspects of his artwork. Deodato’s chilling horror sequences in space also serve to bring out the bleakest aspects of what he directly leads to the page. It helps that during these sequences there are usually a variety of supernatural aspects which also bring out the full extent of what Deodato has to offer as a penciller. The artist also gets extremely creative with the layouts towards the book when it comes to the huge, violent moments seeded throughout the work. While I did enjoy the plot as a whole, the blocky figures and distorted anatomy were off-putting towards the overall scope of what the issue serves to offer here. There are also a couple points where the ambitious page layout can be a stumbling point for readers who just want to enjoy a more traditional book like the Guardians of the Galaxy scene which has excellent comedic timing but too many lines and complicated panel arrangements.
There are so many different surprises and a vast array of characters in this chapter where each page was a joy to read. If you really have been invested in the Marvel Universe for a long time, this installment, in particular, carries some huge payoff for a bunch of lingering threads. If you are one of the few readers actively digesting Marvel content or if you if you have been enjoying Duggan’s Guardians space opera from the beginning, this installment is not to be missed. Every single comic leading up to Infinity Countdown thus far has been a joy to read and Infinity Countdown: Prime is no exception even if it is an incredibly dense and involved issue of comics.
Final Verdict: BUY–Infinity Countdown: Prime #1 is a humorous, yet bleak and epic entry that will defy all of your expectations for the upcoming Marvel event!
Next week Marvel is gearing up for the #300-issue anniversary of The Amazing Spider-Man sister title, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man–come celebrate with us next week in The Marvel Rundown!