Marvel really should not have cancelled this book so soon. Giving it a pitifully low runtime of the very week the second issue came out, this book was killed essentially the second it came out of the womb. What's more baffling is that this is a spinoff book to one of their best-selling comics with the same writer and a veteran artist. What were they thinking?
This showed itself to be a smart and pensive book from the first issue. It's very politically charged, and it's very deliberate with every move it makes.
For those who didn't read the first two issues, the comic follows the story of Ezra Keith, an activist who had recently died in police custody. This has led to a resurgence of protests in Harlem and the intervention of the Americops. Misty Knight and Storm (not in her X-Men uniform) follow up on the investigation at the beginning. This leads to a discovery of his activities in the 1950s, wherein he led a team of super hero activists with ties to Wakanda. Naturally, the Black Panther meets up with Ororo to aid in the investigation. This is also somehow connected to the ongoing gentrification of Harlem.
In this issue, Ororo continues her excavation of the life of Ezra Keith with T'Challa. They discover the connection between his death and a company erecting luxury condos in South Harlem. The two begin to look into this company, and, in flashbacks, we see how far Ezra's plans for fighting global imperialism and oppression spread through the African American superhero community of the time.
This may be the best issue of this now-miniseries thus far. The development of the story of Ezra Keith remains interesting, with him having somehow created a network of black superheroes with the help of Wakanda. The book's lambasting of the what has become, in part, a fad of caring about the underprivileged minorities in inner cities is sharp and deserved. The fact that this same fad is responsible for gentrifying their communities and driving them out of the homes they do have is all the more disturbing and all too real.
There is a particularly unnerving and subtle scene of a two white hipsters staring at Harlemites, Ororo, and T'Challa in the same way that one looks at an animal in a zoo. This is depicted with skill, and it might make the reader a bit queasy.
If one is looking for action, this book will not deliver. It's very much a slow-boil title. However, it's done so well, and the story is so enthralling, that I was never bored. I doubt many could be bored by this book. It also handles the pained romantic history of T'Challa and Ororo very well. It touches on it a few times, and you can't help but feel bad for them and the circumstances that led to their split.
If this is all sounding a bit too heavy and depressing for you, well, the book is supposed to be exactly that. It's the heavy and slow Yin to the similarly-plotted and more upbeat Yang that Matt Fraction's superb Hawkeye provided years ago (also, this book is obviously more oriented on the subject of race than Hawkeye).
However, there is one particularly funny and comic-booky moment where Black Panther gleans who is backing this building firm by the blueprints of their condo. The blueprints take the shape of a very certain skull and tentacles. That's right: Black Panther discovers Hydra is behind this because they couldn't resist making the layout of their condo their very own logo. That's just fantastic. I found myself delighted and laughing out loud at this.
Before anyone makes the inevitable accusation of "SJW's" ruining your comic books, stop for multiple reasons. Firstly, that insult is more tired than the word "cuck." Secondly, this comic is excellently written, so shut up. Thirdly, if you've been paying attention, you would notice that this comic is actually slamming a portion of white liberals for the shallowness at the core of their beliefs. I, as a white liberal, am up for the deserved criticism this comic levels at my demographic.
It also talks about how destructive unrestrained capitalism can really be, especially when said liberals allow it to manipulate them so easily. It does that too.
Also, T'Challa sings, which is great.
Butch Guice and Mack Chater's penciling work adds a great noir touch to this series. It fits the slow pacing well, and it's very atmospheric. The inking of Scott Hanna and Chater helps add depth, and the coloring of Dan Brown completes the hard-bitten aesthetic.
Anyway, everyone should be reading Black Panther & The Crew. If you haven't been on board since the beginning, I can't blame you for wanting to wait for the trade, since the hangman has already called for this series. That being said, with a brilliant script, a smart story, and great art, I can't help but recommend this book. It tells an important story and centers on a great cast of characters.
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