Writer Priest gets a guest artist—Vince Evans—to help him finish out the arc. At first it seems like Evans is going to be more action-oriented, but then he starts coming through with the comedy. He’s pretty bland with Ross (still) telling the story to his boss (slash girlfriend). It’s an even more Michael J. Fox Ross.
The issue opens with Black Panther and Ross in Hell, drug there by Mephisto, who’s got a deal for T’Challa. If he agrees to sell his soul, he can have Wakanda back. Meanwhile, in between cut scenes to Ross not wanting to tell his girlfriend what happened—which ends up being a red herring since the end of the issue’s incredibly abrupt, and there’s actually nothing more for Ross—there’s a flashback to Black Panther’s origin. Ulysses Klaw comes to Wakanda, ready to strip mine it, only young—then prince—T’Challa saves the day.
It’s an okay origin recap, with Priest and Evans moving fluidly through the flashback events, but it’s got no narrative purpose. Other than for Ross to tell his girlfriend the Black Panther’s origin story like she couldn’t just pick up an Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and get the recap. It’s stranger still to have a guest artist do it (though the end of the issue promises Joe Jusko arrives as the new regular artist… but then why not have him do it next time?).
The flashback’s engaging enough to distract from there really not being any story and Priest punting the Wakandan coup plot down the line. As part of the series’s setup, Black Panther can’t deal with it now, plus there’s a significant twist reveal on the last page, which should have more of a kick.
Between the flashback, the Ross bookends, Mephisto being talky, and the final reveal, Priest has managed to get five issues into Black Panther without ever letting Black Panther be the protagonist. It’ll be interesting to see if Priest keeps up with the Ross narration—it starts stalling out this issue like they were desperate to make their pages but also unwilling to do a straight resolution to the arc.
The Mephisto bit isn’t a swing and a miss, but there’s nowhere near the payoff initially implied. It definitely seems like something happened between issues one and five, editorially speaking.
Anyway. Can’t wait for more. Bring on the Jusko.
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