Welcome back to the Marvel Rundown! This week, D. Morris, Tim Rooney, George Carmona 3rd, and Cy Beltran convene for another classic Marvel Roundtable, with the spotlight on Ultimate Black Panther #1. This review contains MILD SPOILERS, so if you’re looking to jump into the book fresh, head to the end for the team’s verdicts on the issue!

What did you think of this week’s batch of fresh Marvel Comics, True Believers? The Beat wants to hear from you! Give us a shout-out, here in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat, and let us know what you’re thinking.

Ultimate Black Panther #1

Ultimate Black Panther #1

Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Stefano Caselli & David Curiel

Cy Beltran: Hey team! Continuing from last month’s dive into the new Ultimate Universe, we’ll be digging into Ultimate Black Panther #1 for this roundtable discussion. What’d everyone think?

D. Morris: I’ll be the one to say it; after the highs of the first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, this was disappointing especially for a character like Black Panther. I expected more from it.

George Carmona 3rd: It had the hard task of following such a hot issue. But it was still a solid issue and had some Bars.  

Tim Rooney: One of those strange issues of comics that is technically great but doesn’t accomplish what it specifically sets out to do. It had incredible art and layouts from Caselli and Curiel’s colors were stunning but it just didn’t offer an interesting new perspective on the character or his world. It felt like the MCU films, which are good but also the most well known version of the character. I wanted something new. 

DM: I was a little disappointed in the art honestly. Stefano Caselli was..fine but he’s in that Post-Stuart Immonen school of comics. So many Marvel books look like that right now and this is Ultimate Marvel. I expect something fresh especially with a book like Peach Momoko’s Ultimate X-Men coming out next month. It’s not bad but with a visual legacy like the Black Panther movies and past artists like Brian Stelfreeze and Denys Cowan, I would like more from a Black Panther book.    

GC3: I disagree, the artwork was great. Caselli’s characterization of T’Challa was on point, the first time we see him, he’s getting out of bed in his underwear, looking over his nation and you know he’s not just a king but a Hero. As for his technique, I would say he was more influenced by the movies than Immonen, they needed to stay consistent with Panther’s fade.   

TR: Oh that’s interesting, D. I can see where you’re coming from in wanting something distinctly “Wakanda”. What I thought Caselli did well was to give the issue a sense of grandeur. Big wide shots of cavernous royal throne rooms and the scope of the city of Wakanda, made T’Challa himself seem small in comparison. I thought it was smart visual storytelling to emphasize how much the burden of the throne weighed on him. But the approach to the characters is very much in the visual language of Marvel’s house style.

CB: Outside of the art, what did you think of the story and characterizations?

TR: The story was pretty unremarkable, I thought. And confused the mission of the Ultimate Universe. Isn’t this a world without heroes? But Black Panther is a thing. It just felt like it could be any issue of Black Panther from any era. There were a few interesting wrinkles—the mystic side of Wakanda and the tension there piqued my curiosity, as did the introduction of Killmonger and his “mysterious” ally. There are echoes of the first movie’s argument between Killmonger and Panther but this T’Challa is a bit more sure of himself and calculating than the movies so I think it’ll go somewhere new. I want more of the political intrigue because Bryan Hill introduces a ton of competing powers that the Black Panther has to deal with. 

DM: The biggest draw of this current Ultimate line is that we’re living in a world where The Maker made specific decisions to prevent superheroes from appearing. I spent most of the issue wondering why The Maker didn’t erase Wakanda from the planet because Wakanda no matter the universe is generally a threat. I’m guessing that’s why he upped the importance of Ra and Khonshu here? Really though this issue read more like the original Ultimate line of books where it simply updated the origin to take place in 2024 and not 1966. I will say it does some interesting things with the dynamics between T’Challa, Okoye, and Shuri. I really liked the relationship between T’Challa and Okoye here. Seeing Shuri be positioned as an aggressor is certainly different and I’m intrigued by that. 

GC3: I agree that the story was pretty close to the standard Panther mythos but what I do like is that this Wakanda isn’t the super top dog. Wakanda seems to be hiding because the world of the Maker is too much to go head to head. I also like that his villain lineup has been shifted a little with Khonshu and Ra being the big bads. 

TR: I hadn’t thought about your point about Wakanda being less of the shining beacon on the hill like it is usually presented. There’s definitely a sense that the kingdom is in hiding and not as dominant, which does reshape some of my initial feelings about this retreading past stories. 

GC3: And I want to give Hill a special nod because of T’Chaka’s line “One should know they are an enemy to the king after they have been destroyed.” this is what I’m here for. If they ever remake The Godfather, they have to figure out a way to incorporate that line. 

DM: That line was really great. I’m eager to see more of the Vodu-Khan. Something I did like here is that the T’Challa we see here is not the brash, confident leader but a cautious, plotting individual unsure of themselves. Bryan Hill has said that he was inspired by Dune and all of the factions and political maneuvering in that classic novel. When you hear that and think back on the issue, you can really see that influence. I’m really intrigued by what he will do with all of these various factions of political intrigue. Especially the duo we see at the end. 

TR: Agreed with you guys, Hill writes a dope superhero story and cool action. That final image of him standing in the flames naming his nation’s enemy is a killer moment.  What we get here that works is the kind of storytelling that makes a big blockbuster political thriller. I just don’t know if it’s what I was expecting or wanted out of the book. 

GC3: Yes, there were a few foreshadowing moments that I thought were going to go one way but surprisingly went askew enough for me to appreciate it. 

CB: Alright, there was a lot to discuss on this opening salvo, so let’s hear some verdicts on this first issue! 

TR: My final opinion on this book probably won’t be formed until we get through this full story arc. This issue has a few standout moments but it just doesn’t feel fully formed yet. I think there’s a lot boiling under the surface though, so I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that there are more surprises to come. It was solid, but doesn’t come out of the gate with a bold new vision like I wanted to see. I’m giving this a STRONG BROWSE—not bad by any means, but I think this is a trade waiter for me. 

DM: Same, this opening issue isn’t as tight or bold as Ultimate Spider-Man #1. It kind of retells a story we all know from so many classic stories. However, talking it out with all of you changed my mind on my enthusiasm for this issue. It’s certainly a different flavor of storytelling from the  Spider-Man book. I think this series will be a slow burn or I hope that it will be. I like the political intrigue here and I’m really eager to see that build out. I wish the art did a little more for me but I know that’s my taste. This is a weak BUY for me because I’m not wildly enthused but I think this book will really grow on me.     

GC3: I think we have a bit of the apples and oranges thing here because we are definitely judging this book against Spidey’s and that book is a different fruit altogether. This book is a great starting point for readers, especially if they’re new and come to the comics from the movies. This book has its strengths, solid storytelling and visual language give us what we need. For a new Panther origin, remixed characters, and a slightly different status quo, I’m excited to see what’s next. – STRONG BUY.

CB: Great chat everyone, thanks for stopping by!

NEXT WEEK: It’s another big launch week, with the debuts of Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver #1 and Night Thrasher #1!