Writer Priest has a magical moment—or anti-magical—and artist Mark Texeira gets to do some great art, including shimmering pants, but the first thing to talk about with Black Panther #4 is the Everett Kenneth Ross photo reference.
It’s Michael J. Fox. At least twice.
The idea of Michael J. Fox playing Ross looms over the issue in a way. Especially if you imagine him in the movies instead of “Cracker” Freeman. Especially late nineties Fox (so post-Mars Attacks he’d be ready for it?). It’s such a strange idea.
Especially considering the nude banjo playing. Nude banjo playing is not a euphemism.
In other words, Priest’s back on this issue right from the start. Black Panther’s just had a Mephisto-trip and is running around the rooftops to clear his head when two White Panthers attack him. Now, Texeira has a great issue (shimmering pants), but he’s also got this sequence. It ends with the White Wolf of Wakanda (not Bucky, obviously, Bucky’s dead, Steve) turning into a White Panther, and it’s awful. And silly looking.
There’s a little catch-up with subplots in progress—the child murderer and the NYPD super-cop, the coup in Wakanda, Alex P. Keaton and his unlikely boss girlfriend (Tracy Pollan?)—before Mephisto reveals he knows all of Ross’s secrets, like when he was a bullied chubby redneck kid. Texeira draws the hell out of this traumatic kid memory flashback right before he draws the hell out of Black Panther saving the day.
It’s an awesome, confined action sequence. They’re confined to the apartment building, which Priest and Texeira play to comedic and dramatic effect. We’re finally getting to see that chemistry between Black Panther and Ross, and it’s delightful. And much more successful than Ross’s self-deprecating whining with his boss slash girlfriend; it’s like Back to the Future II Marty Jr.
Priest and Texeira play the absurd absolutely straight-faced to outstanding results. Even as the opening sort of confused me—the White Panthers look like ghost twins of Black Panther, so I maybe thought they weren’t real in last issue’s cliffhanger? They’re there; they just didn’t make a lasting impression. Regardless, it’s clear from the first few pages Priest’s back on with the book. The comic’s got a distinct wry, laconic sensibility (when it’s not Ross rambling, obviously). Priest has fun, but it’s controlled fun, which matches Texeira’s enthusiastic, thorough art.
It’s such a good series.
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