Saturday, February 5, 2011

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513

When I heard Marvel was canceling Daredevil, I was outraged. It’s been a consistently good title for over a decade in the hands of only a few creators (Kevin Smith, David Mack, Brian Michael Bendis, and Ed Brubaker). Even Andy Diggle's concept of Matt Murdock leading a ninja assassin clan known as The Hand was pretty cool. So what urged Marvel to drop the title?

In the last issue of Daredevil, Matt Murdock was oppressing Hell's Kitchen through martial law. Controlling the city in his huge fortress called Shadowland, Daredevil was eradicating crime, but in the process imprisoning police officers and terrifying the local citizens. Since Daredevil was taking a lethal viewpoint against those deemed guilty, the other street-level heroes took a stance against him. After a lengthy battle, they defeated Daredevil, discovering he was possessed by an ancient evil demon. Even though Murdock was not himself, he personally exiled himself so he could revive who he once was.

Since Murdock is leaving for his personal journey, he asked Black Panther to be Hell’s Kitchen’s protector. So, with the passing of the torch, the name of the comic title changed, but the numbering of Daredevil continued (Marvel has previously done this with Incredible Hulk to the Incredible Hercules). So in Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513, we discover T’Challa relinquished his power in Wakanda so he too can rediscover himself on the streets.

Written by David Liss, the groundwork for a great storyline is being established. T’Challa is going under a secret identify and running a diner so he can meet the local people and hear the latest gossip. Using the information he obtains while running the food joint, Black Panther goes on the prowl to fight crime in the city. In addition to the loss of his powers, T’Challa has the challenge of battling criminals who are not holding their punches since they have no fear in a “knock-off” vigilante.

To counteract Black Panther, Liss is also creating a new villain: Vlad the Impaler. Vlad is a Romanian crimelord who has the strength of Captain America. It is fun to read Vlad’s dialog since Liss writes his language like a hitman from “Eastern Promises.” Gaining a reputation through fear, Vlad has his sights on becoming the Kingpin and destroying the new guardian of Hell’s Kitchen.

To compliment this astounding story, Francesco Francavilla’s artwork is fantastic. With black and red overtones, Francesco was born to draw this story. Capturing the grittiness of Hell's Kitchen, Francesco also maintains the superhero element of comic books. I’ve met Francesco at comic cons and he is a great guy who knows Pulp (he also drew Black Beetle in my Pulp Themed Sketchbook). Check out Francesco’s blog Pulp Sunday, where he posts artwork harkening back to older movies, stories, and comics:

Although Daredevil is my favorite Marvel character, I am truly excited for this story to unfold. With an intriguing story that is remarkably illustrated, I give Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513 – 5 out of 5 stars.

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