Usually we here in Australia get things last, but for some reason we got this first, in January 2010 and the DVD release in December, although the series was originally supposed to air on iTunes. Well, it did, but was pulled off after 3 episodes for some reason but has now been released on DVD in America too. Created in conjunction with America’s BET network, it stars Djimon Hounsou as the titular hero, Kerry Washington as his sister (and future Panther) Princess Shuri, Alfre Woodard as U.S government agent Dondi Reece and Jill Scott as Storm from the X-Men (and his future wife).
I’ve never been a huge fan of the classic character, but his comic series lately has been great, as he’s taken over protecting Daredevil’s old haunt of Hell’s Kitchen in New York. Written by novelsit David Liss, it’s the only Marvel title I’m buying regularly.
This DVD is broken down into 6 chapters, for about 2 hours of fluid motion comic animation goodness. Marvel also have motion comics based on Iron Man: Extremis, Astonishing X-Menand Spider-Woman available.
This series is based on the Who Is Black Panther? arc form a few years ago by writer Reginald Hudlin and artist John Romita Jr.
It begins in 5B.C when invaders try, and fail, to get in to Wakanda and we are introduced to their never say die attitude and advanced technology.
Taking things to the present, we see Stan Lee (well, hear) as an arrogant general in the White House and learn that Wakanda has never been invaded, and have a flashback to 1941 as a fresh faced and oddly voiced Captain America tries to do so.
Classic Panther baddie Klaw is the main antagonist here. He soon recruits Batroc the Leaper, here reimagined as a less lame and agile French hitman, and Cannibal, an imprisoned man who becomes a woman (yep) to get revenge. Klaw wants T’Challa, the current Black Panther dead, as Klaw killed T’Challa’s father 15 years earlier, but was left with one less hand. Igor, otherwise known as the Radioactive Man also shows up and causes earthquakes. Klaw also gets help from the Black Knight (who is loaned from the church) and his handy Pegasus who leads the troops with a speech about a “holy crusade.” Hudlin does a great job with these villains, and not having them show up in their whacky costumes (well apart from Juggernaut, who’s stuck in his) and not really using their codenames, keeps it all more grounded than a traditional superhero story would be.
The animation is generally fluid and doesn’t look stilted, like you may imagine for a motion comic. The colours work well, from the dust and dirt of Wakanda’s past to its hi-tech gizmos, and New York streets. At times the faces resemble the work of cover artist Dave Johnson, and that’s good.
Adding to the cameos, Cyclops, Wolverine and Nightcrawler show up as they battle Juggernaut, before Klaw recruits him. If surviving an assassination attempt/invasion from warlord Mbutu wasn’t enough, the Queen Mother keeps pressuring him to get married and provide a royal heir, prodding him to get together with “that nice, mutant girl.” Classic. That’d be Storm by the way, and we also see how they first met as children. An army of Dethloks made from dead U.S soldiers also show up in the midst of the chaos.
Yes, there’s a lot happening, but the story starts small and builds to a great final battle and Hudlin never allows the burgeoning cast to get out of his control. Really, all most people will know about Black Panther is that he rules Wakanda and it’s the only place in the world that has the powerful mineral, vibranium. Hudlin builds the world here though, giving depth to the nation’s culture and politics, but not in a dreary way. If you’re new to the character, or the Marvel Universe at large, this is an entertaining entry, and does well to present some usually goofy villains in a more streamlined, modern way.
It also has a pretty cool theme song and Juggernaut colliding head on with a rhino, and throwing a cow at a jet, to boot.
There are no extras on this Oz DVD release, besides trailers for the Astonishing X-Men, and Iron Man: Extremis motion comics which both look visually dazzling. Below is the opening credits sequence.