Thursday, April 21, 2011

Black Panther

Black Panther is a character is a long history in comics.  One of the first black superheroes, he was unique in that he wasn't from an urban environment.  Instead, he was the king of his own nation.  Wakanda was a mysterious and isolationist African kingdom that had both high technology and a strange element known as Vibranium.  The Blank Panther did more than fight crime as he also had to protect his nation from threats both within and without.  It was pretty heady stuff, specially when illustrated by Jack Kirby.  Since the Kirby days the character has gone in and out of focus and definitely is in the "B" string of Marvel heroes.

It was a joy then to see him reach the screen.  It was very interesting that it was the Black Entertainment Network (BET) that did it.  The results are entertaining and fascinating.  Set in Wakanda the story tells the history of both nation and protector.  It also tells of the plot of one assassin (Klaw) who is backed by shadowy players in world politics to take over Wakanda. 

Klaw is an old villain in the Marvel grab bag.  In Marvel lore he was made of pure sound with an antenna for a hand.  Here is he is a cyborg who's family have a history of annoying the royal family of Wakanda.  His own personal contribution was in killing Black Panther's father.  So there's definitely a grudge match at work here.  Klaw's plan, unlike most super psycho loonies, is multilateral and has some subtlty here and there.  On the other hand, he also hires the like the Juggernaut and Black Knight to engage the Wakandan army.  It's worth the dvd to hear a guy in a jet plane saying, "There's a guy on a flying horse attacking me."

The Panther is a serious fellow, but doesn't come off like a Bruce Wayne cause he has his family still and they humanize him.  He has issues of course, but he doesn't obsess over them too much, though at one point someone dubs him the "Hamlet" of Africa.  Wakanda is serious fascinating place.  It's like what Tibet would be with super technology and led a warrior cult. 

The animation is limited, but the designs are so good it doesn't matter.  It comes off more like an old book come to life.  The sound track is great and the Black Panther theme gets right in your brain in a good way.  Some folks might be put off by the antiamerican spin on some things.  I think though that given the point of view a small African nation that just wants to be left alone that it all makes sense.

Definitely worth a watch, and the first really good animated show to come from Marvel who lag behind DC in their animation depart.  Watch it!

1 comment:

  1. 'Hamlet of Africa,' that really suits T'Challa. We've been meaning to check this animated series out. Just never have found the time. Might have to make some later tonight...