In the midst of the events of Fear Itself, a bigoted, down-and-out U.S. nationalist receives the astral spirit of the vanquished Hate Monger, and starts his own movement, complete with a star-spangled converse to T'Challa's Black Panther. First order of business? Kick those damn immigrants out of Hell's Kitchen!
I have to say I was surprised by this issue, not because of how good it was, as I've already come to expect solid stories from David Liss and fantastic artwork from Francesco Francavilla, but because I was shocked that an issue starring the newly incarnate Hate Monger, a sort of Grand Wizard of the super-villain KKK, could have me smirking at its sheer irreverence throughout. It's obvious Liss had a few things to get off his chest here, and he had a lot of fun doing it. His message is so cognizant of its own heavy-handed agenda that it's practically satire, lampooning nationalism and bigotry in a way that really startled me with its clarity and single-mindedness. Liss also has just as much fun riffing on comic book tropes, commingling cynical real-world relevance with graphical farce.
It's an issue that's not without its fair share of shortcomings, but coupled with Francavilla's noir stylings Liss's Black Panther #521 is uncommonly amusing and a thrilling tie-in to Fear Itself. And, not to spoil anything here, but thank god it's not T'Challa donning the American Panther suit! I was pretty worried about that when I'd seen the press releases for the red, white, and blue costume designs. Every purist can now breathe a sigh of relief, and if that statement's not ironic then I'm not sure what is.