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Movies Review

Movie Review – Black Panther

Just when you think Marvel’s formula is getting stale, they shatter your expectations.  Their last movie was a family drama-buddy-action-comedy, Thor: Ragnarok.  There were a few truly serious moments when you stopped to think, but you didn’t have long as you’d be laughing your ass off 30 seconds later.  It’s a big contrast to Black Panther.  Not to spoil too much, at it’s core Black Panther is also filled with family drama, but also powerful political statements.  From the drop this movie has something to say to you about the inequality that drives our modern world.

Sympathetic Villainy

Note:  from here on out, there are spoilers.

The first time we meet Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, we don’t even realize it.  He’s being told the story of Wakanda’s origin by his father, N’Jobu.  N’Jobu is undercover in Oakland, but is disturbed by what he sees happening to people of African descent across the country and world.  N’Jobu assists Ulysses Klaue (last seen in Age of Ultron) in stealing some vibranium, in order to arm oppressed African.  It’s a stark contrast to Wakanda’s isolationist ways, and brings him into conflict with T’Chaka, his brother.  T’Chaka is forced to kill N’Jobu.  Erik is left behind, and the seeds for his rage are sown.  It’s not hard to feel something for Killmonger when you see the tragedy.  Especially later in the film where you get the full picture of just what happened.

Black Panther(s)

I thought Black Panther did a great job of balancing the mystical aspects of the Black Panther mythos with the high-tech.  This far into the MCU, you don’t need to explain the mystical, it can just exist.  We’ve met gods (small G, son) and sorcerers.  It’s okay for T’Challa to go on a spiritual journey and see his ancestors.  It was a fantastic way to keep John Kani’s T’Chaka relevant for one more movie.

Killer Cast

One of Marvel’s biggest advantages has been their casting.  Black Panther might be the best example of this.  We already knew Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, as well as Martin Freeman as Everett Ross and Andy Serkis as Klaue.  Add to that the delightful Letitia Wright as Shuri, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, it’s amazing.  Michael B. Jordan OWNS the Killmonger role, to the point where it’s difficult to look away when he’s on screen.

If you missed Black Panther in theaters (it’s still in many of the larger ones, at least as of now), you owe it to yourself to check it out.  Especially if you haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War yet.  The digital copy unlocks May 8th.

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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Black Panther #1

Creative Team:

  • Writer:  Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Art:  Brian Stelfreeze
  • Colors:  Laura Martin
  • Letters:  Joe Sabino

Over the years with my sporadic obsession with comics, I mostly missed comics featuring Black Panther.  It was the same way with a lot of important characters – I think they only exposure to Hank Pym was in his ‘Dr. Pym’ days with the West Coast Avengers.  I became a big fan of T’Challa via the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, and have sought out comics he’s been in since then.  He had one of the better arcs during the whole Time Runs Out/Secret Wars thing with Doom and Namor, for instance.  So I was interested from the start when I heard about a new series, but when I saw Ta-Nehisi Coates was writing?  HAD to be a day one purchase.

Coates is National Correspondent for The Atlantic, an author with multiple awards, a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.  But before all that, he was a comic book fan, and was excited to take on T’Challa’s new series.  I don’t want to spoil it, but if his literary credentials give you pause, don’t worry – this is a comic book story through and through, but with the added depth of someone who’s thought long and hard about topics of race and belonging.  But who better to flesh out and update a character that was created in the 60s by white men?  Issue 1 features a main story that picks up threads from recent Panther history, including Dr. Doom and Namor both attacking Wakanda, and a populace that begins to doubt their returned King (after the death of Shuri, his sister who had been ruling), along with an external threat capable of fanning those doubts and fears into hatred and chaos.

No comic is complete without great artists, and that’s no different here.  Brian Stelfreeze (with Laura Martin’s colors) has not just tweaked T’Challa’s look but has created a coherent design across all of Wakanda.  Real life African influences are combined with the fantastic and it sings.  I like that they did away with the cape and some of the extra bits that have come and gone on BP’s costume over time and now have a clean, muscled, panther-like look.

There’s a lot of story threads started here, but I have a feeling Coates and company will be able to balance them effectively.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.