So T’Challa’s in Hell’s Kitchen helping out his friend Matt Murdock.  What’s the big deal?  Isn’t he just a stand in so Shadowland can mean something to the Marvel U and the fans?  I mean after all, if there are no repercussions from a huge crossover event spanning two titles and nine mini-series, what is it good for?

Well, I’m taking a stand to say that Black Panther: The Man Without Fear! #513 is one of Black Panther’s and the entire title’s pinnacle issues–and I’ll give you three reasons why.

Reason 1:  It’s a Perfect Fit

First and foremost, this book fits perfectly within current continuity.  T’Challa finds himself as a king without a country.  He has no one to rule and no one to be responsible for.  He is searching for himself, just as much as Matt searches for his own soul.  Now Hell’s Kitchen is his domain.  Now he has a kingdom.

Furthermore, even though no one knows what to call this book, the title is perfect.  Daredevil is no longer the Man Without Fear, but it is still a book dedicated to overcoming the fear of being lost in this world.  Blind—not knowing how to respond to the violence and hurt around you.  The book is the same, only now Black Panther is the main character.

T'Challa Suiting Up

T'Challa Suiting Up

Reason 2:  Black Panther Matters Now

My second reason:  FINALLY Black Panther matters.  If anyone listens to the Marvel 616 Politics podcast you already know my frustration with this character.  Why in the world would Marvel have a black hero fighting in Africa?  Sure, on the surface it seems reasonable, but upon closer examination it minimizes the character and an entire people group by playing with percentages (of minority characters).

I’ll be the first to stand up and say that the Marvel U could stand to have a few more African (or African-American) heroes, but not when that means that he or she will be separate from the rest of the action.  Let’s face it—not much goes on in Africa that pertains to the 616 at large.  Sure there is Vibranium…hmmm…WAS Vibranium, but now even that is taken away.  Putting a title character there automatically limits his or her interaction with the rest of the world thereby limiting the draw of the character.  The same could be said for Ka-Zar and Shanna. How much play do they have with the rest of the catalog?

It’s about time Marvel took one of their strongest roles and put him where the action is—where the readership is.  I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

Reason 3:  There is an Actual Villain
Black Panther in Hell's Kitchen

Black Panther in Hell's Kitchen

Lastly, even though T’Challa was a king, he can still kick some serious booty.  He has all the makings of a street-level hero with the means and ability to take the fight offensive instead of reactively sitting behind fictional borders.  It’s time to let him loose.

Black Panther could use a villain, and now he has one.  Vlad the Impaler may not be your run of the mill demigod supervillain, but he certainly has

something.  He stands as a challenge to T’Challa on a personal level.  No armies, no diplomacy, no plots to take over the world.  It is Vlad vs. the Man Without Fear.

Should the Black Panther fear this baddie?  Nope, absolutely not.  But that’s not the point.  Vlad will test the Black Panther to find out how much personal responsibility he can stand.  Again, this is the essence of this book.  When no one else can help, when you are the only one that stands in the way of individual violence and vice, when the rubber meets the road how will you stand?

On that day, how will you stand?

And the Black Panther will pass this test.  And that is why he is cool…again.