Thursday, July 31, 2008

Black Panther #39 Review

BLACK PANTHER #39
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jefte Palo

Jason Aaron and Jefte Palo have taken over Black Panther's title for a short Secret Invasion tie-in and you owe it to yourself to read this comic, even if you aren't enjoying the current Skrull infestation permeating the Marvel Universe in Brian Bendis' Secret Invasion event. Heck, even if you've never read a Black Panther comic in your life or are disappointed with Hudlin's run on the title, this is a story you should enjoy and I can't recommend this tie in enough..

Jefte Palo, who's art was last seen on X-Force: Ain't No Dog, is a perfect fit for this story and the dark, moody artwork ads a lot to the tight plot and script that Aaron has delivered.

Before anyone starts asking how Wakanda can stand up to the Skrulls when they have all of these Super Skrulls and an armada in space that could wipe them out in an instance, Aaron actually addresses this with the simple logic that the Skrulls have committed the bulk of their army to the destruction of the super heroes in America, super heroes which Wakanda has barely any outside of Storm and Black Panther, and the fact the Skrulls want the Wakandan people alive to use as slaves to mine the vibranium for them. Furthermore, Wakanda doesn't use the Starknet plot device computer system, which allowed a simple virus from the Skrulls to cripple the rest of the world, leaving them with a means to fight back against the Skrulls or, at least, even the odds a little.

The basic plot of the story is the Skrulls have sent a small detachment to pacify the small, super hero-less African nation of Wakanda and secure the vibranium deposits. They have their sleeper agents already in place and figure it will be a cake walk. Unfortunately for them, upon arrival, they are greeted by the gruesome sight of their sleeper agents' decapitated heads propped up on pikes at the gate.

This issue combined the epic scope of an alien invasion, the dire straits of a people battling back against insurmountable odds and the alien shape shifting, "Who do you trust?", nature of the Skrulls into one storythat has managed to upstage the entirety of Bendis' event.
What follows is a gripping back and forth battle between the two that sees each one upping the other in their pre-battle tactics. For example, the Skrulls easily hack the Wakandan computers, even without the Starknet virus. However, while slower, barely making it thanks to the help of some back up systems and with the aid of the information gleaned from the Skrull sleeper, the Wakandans manage to take out the bulk of the Skrull systems before their systems completely shut down.

This results in a ground based war between the Skrulls and Wakanda. The Skrulls, unable and unwilling to call for backup, as this would be seen as failure on their part losing several ships and requiring aid against one human level super hero, begin their ground assault on the gates of Wakanda.

Standing in their way is the Black Panther, who looks amazing thanks to Palo, and the rest of the Wakandan army. I loved Storm's "Panther" outfit and T'Challa seems to have a plan that requires Storm to refrain from using her powers or moving to the frontline here.

One of my favourite scenes in the issue was when the Super Skrull, who looks like a cross with Wolverine, Bullseye and maybe the Hulk, tells T'Challa that he has trained his entire life to face him and BP simply replies with the line, "Then you have already lost. For I have trained my whole life to face the unknown.". It was just a perfectly scripted line and plays up the Batman-like character of Black Panther without going over the top like Hudlin and other writers seem to do.

Finally, the issue of the Skrull sleeper agents comes back to the forefront with the Skrull commander telling his lieutenant that he said those decapitated heads were his agents, but he did not say they were all of them either.

Verdict - Must Read. This issue combined the epic scope of an alien invasion, the dire straits of a people battling back against insurmountable odds and the alien shape shifting, "Who do you trust?", nature of the Skrulls into one story that has managed to upstage the entirety of Bendis' event. Take a bow Aaron and Palo, you deserve it.


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