The issue begins with an Everett K. Ross scene; he’s debriefing the President about his latest adventure with Black Panther, only to quickly offend and have to roller-blade his way out of there. Writer Priest knows how to play Ross for comedy—I guess they couldn’t do the whitest white boy in the world in the MCU because Chris Pratt was already playing Starlord—but Priest continues to have problems with Ross professionally. He’s got a wacky reaction to the finale, but also, it was 1999, and maybe even the wokest CIA (sorry, OCP… OmniConsumer What?) agent is going to call armed response at a crowd of Black people.
Minor quibbles, it turns out, because Priest’s got the plotting down for Black Panther business, and Joe Jusko is doing the art. After the Ross bookend, which will presumably continue through the arc like last time, there’s a five-page fight between Kraven the Hunter and Black Panther. Jusko tracks the successes and fails from panel to panel (except cuts to Ross cowering) so the reader can see how Kraven gets the upper hand or how Black Panther reacts. It’s beautiful stuff. And it’s just the beginning.
The story then backs up to the White House reception for Black Panther, decades late, with the President still too busy to attend and no Black folks on the guest list except T’Challa and his guests. Great comedy beat for Zuri, T’Challa’s bodyguard, who’s otherwise mostly out of the action this issue. Priest is still doing his distant third-person perspective when it comes to T’Challa. He spends most of the issue dancing with Doja Milaje warrior Nakia. At the same time, the story flashes back to her hiring (and T’Challa promising he isn’t going to be creepy with her, especially because she’s a teenager, while Ross narrates about how he would be creepy with her and go to jail… ah, the 1990s, though also perfect for Chris Pratt). We also get flashbacks to T’Challa’s college days and the white girl who occupied his romantic attention (who may be Ross’s present-day boss and girlfriend; Jusko draws her like Gwen Stacy anyway, I can’t keep track).
The finale has the Black people of New York City (“all of them, I think”) arriving outside the hotel to ask Black Panther why he’s not their hero. At this point, Ross calls in the OCP SWAT team (no ED-209s, come on, Marvel, lean into it) and tells the crowd to disperse while escorting Black Panther away from the dangerous crowd. Then, in comes Kraven, but before the fight scene earlier, so there’s more fighting on the way. More glorious Jusko fighting, I should hope.
In addition to the fight scenes being so good, anything with motion is delightful. Jusko captures the enthusiasm and energy of a seventies Marvel comic but with far more detail. But you look at how Kraven’s expressions work throughout, and it’s just old school.
I knew I was in for a treat with this Black Panther run. Even with Priest’s occasional character bumps, it’s such a delight.
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