BLACK PANTHER: THE CLIENT

Marvel Comics

1998

 

Look around you.

We live in a Golden Age of comics. Think about it: Superman t-shirts are sold at Old Navy stores. I have two. Superhero movies are guaranteed MEGA HITS every year! Guardians of the Galaxy just made 100 million on opening weekend. I say again: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Geek culture isn’t geek culture anymore; it’s just culture. Amazing, isn’t it?

I invite you to sit back and remember a time not that long ago, when comics were not king. Back in 1998, Marvel Comics were just coming out of the throes of bankruptcy. Looking for a way to regain that spark of something special, Marvel outsourced four of their titles to Event Comics, a comics publishing house founded and run by future Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti. I know, I know. Right now you’re thinking, “Marvel had to outsource their books?” It’s true.

The four titles were wrapped under the Marvel Knights banner. And you know what? They were damn good: Daredevil, The Punisher, The Inhumans, and Black Panther. Yeah. The Black Panther was special. Written by Christopher Priest, the book was blessed with amazing art by Mark Texeira. This Black Panther book felt like it was the anti-superhero book. The bad book. It was the book that the cool kids read. Well, I read it too. But still.

King T’Challa and the Dora Milaje, the king’s concomitants. Do yourself a favor: Don’t get in their way.

The trade collection includes a very informative introduction by Christopher Priest. He says how challenging he found it to make a king of an African country who doesn’t talk very much relatable to the average comic book reader. His solution? Tell the stories from the perspective of a white guy who talks too much. Everett K. Ross of the US State Department was based on Chandler from FRIENDS, but in fact is drawn more like Michael J. Fox. And while it’s true that much of what Everett says isn’t exactly politically correct, his rambling snark serves to push the story ahead at lightning speed.

The story, what’s it about? You know. It’s a murder mystery. A story about burgeoning geo-political tensions in Africa. It’s got under-aged six-foot tall royal concomitants. And the Black Panther fights the Devil.

A truly unique footnote in the publication history of Marvel Comics, my only complaint is that the trade only collects the first five issues of the run, so it ends rather abruptly. But still. BLACK PANTHER: THE CLIENT more than holds up after I read it this week for the first time since in came out in 1998. Do yourself a favor and track it down for yourself.