blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Black Panther (1998) #3

Black Panther  3Black Panther is from just before the “writing for the trade” concept, which then led to the “waiting for the trade” purchasing decisions. But this issue very much feels like it’s meant to be read in the middle of a trade, not as the single Panther released in a four-week period. It’s not a bridging issue but a (brief) exposition issue.

Writer Priest does the backstory on the main villain—Achebe—who has taken over Wakanda in T’Challa’s absence, and how he sold his soul to the devil (Mephisto) to get revenge on his wife. She betrayed him to invaders, running off with them as they stabbed him thirty-two times. So he made a deal to come back and avenge himself on everyone who ever knew her, stabbing them thirty-two times. It’d be a much more compelling story if it wasn’t Ross telling it to his boss over a sandwich in the CIA commissary.

But there’s also T’Challa tracking down the little girl’s killer, which Achebe engineered from afar. It leads to Mephisto tempting T’Challa through a series of flashbacks to Black Panther appearances in other Marvel comics. They’re single-panel action shots for Mark Texeira to illustrate quite well; there’s no story to them. Except for the implication T’Challa can pick whatever ex-girlfriend he wants back so long as he bends the knee to Mephisto.

Now, he hasn’t met up with Mephisto yet; Mephisto and Ross are still chilling back at the apartment or whatever. All of Priest’s careful fracturing—out Pulp Fictioning Pulp Fiction—is lost here. It’s willy-nilly, like editors Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti were done with the gimmick. Quesada’s storytelling credit this issue shows up as being part of the writing process, not the art process like before. Panther was one of the first Marvel Knights series and all, but it shouldn’t be losing momentum so fast.

And it doesn’t lose all of it. It just stalls. There’s still a bunch of good art and compelling sequences. It’s just Priest goes from Ross telling the story to Mephisto (presumably) narrating it while focusing on T’Challa for events Ross doesn’t witness. Did we break away from the existing narrative structure? Does it matter?

I’m hoping—and assuming—Priest recovers next issue.

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