Comics / Spotlight

Immigrant Song: David Liss' Black Panther

By Dan Horn
March 10, 2011 - 11:50

Shadowland may have been somewhat of a commercial and critical dud, but if books like Black Panther: The Man without Fear are the result, I'll forego judgment of a poorly handled crossover to read David Liss' take on T'Challa, former king of Wakanda.

The premise of what is actually still the Daredevil ongoing, just sporting an interim title to reflect the events following Doom War and Shadowland, is simple: Matt Murdock and T'Challa both need to rediscover themselves after their previous falls from grace. Murdock, for whatever reason, can't stay in Hell's Kitchen to mend his wounds, and T'Challa is no longer welcome in his homeland, so a switcheroo ensues. This could easily have turned into a hackneyed, trite hero-swapping stunt, but in the capable hands of David Liss, Black Panther has transcended any possible folly this book could so easily have become. It's not just a book about Black Panther filling Daredevil's shoes. It's a book about immigration, the hardships of urban life, the importance of community, and the steep climb to redemption.

I keep using the word "book" to describe this comic, and I mean it in almost a literal sense. Liss' writing reads like a good crime novel. The text is dense and full of imagination. Sure Francesco Francavilla's art is breathtaking, but David Liss' words conjure up their own rich imagery just by virtue their very literary nature. The combined experience of Liss and Francavilla's efforts is very mentally involving, sometimes even fatiguing.

I sometimes find myself kind of jarred when reading Black Panther and seeing certain things unravel in a fantastical manner, realizing I'm not reading a real world crime story, but a comic book, and perhaps it's that uneven magic realism that keeps Black Panther from being absolute perfection, but it is nonetheless still very close to achieving it.

It's exciting to see Francavilla's work on a Marvel book after enjoying his art in Detective Comics for the past few months. He's really carving himself a nice niche in the noir comics community, and Black Panther is raising his stock in my book at least.

All in all, Black Panther is a fantastic journey into the heart of street-level Hell's Kitchen, and it's a great value at $2.99 an issue.

Rating: 9 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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