Black Panther #529: Reign’s End

The final issue of David Liss' series is all the more tragic because it's finally going where we wanted it to go.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Black Panther #529

Oddly enough, among the many responses I had to Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #529, the final issue in the David Liss series, was that I kinda wished Lady Bullseye was a Van Halen fan.  Then, she could've complemented Typhoid Mary's "Hot For Teacher" blurb. 

Aside from that, I'm also left with a sense of sadness.  When this series first started, appropriating Daredevil's numbering and setting T'Challa into The Man Without Fear mold by confining him to Hell's Kitchen after hitting the lowest point of his life following the events of Doomwar, I was staunchly critical of it.  More the idea of it than the execution of it, anyway.  However, seeing as how Black Panther is one of my favorite characters – and one I couldn't bear to follow while Reginald Hudlin was writing he book – I stuck with it.  As it unfolded, I was slowly but surely rewarded for my patience by Liss.

There was always enough in each issue to let me believe that Liss got where people like me were coming from – the notion that stifling a world-stage player like T'Challa wasn't the best of situations for the character to be in, but there was always a modicum of sense made by it as a temporary thing.  But at the beginning, it felt like he was going to be stuffed into New York City indefinitely, as if that was the only way Marvel could see to making T'Challa "relatable."  Now, however, Liss has built up his hero to the point where he's ready to go back to Wakanda and help it rebuild (despite how unpopular he might be there for his reluctant choice to destroy all Wakandan vibranium in order to keep Doom from ruling the world), and this last arc, where Wilson Fisk has tried to exploit Wakanda's economic difficulties for his own gain, has galvanized the direction I've wanted out of this series from the get-go. 

Unfortunately, it's been cancelled.  #529 is the last issue.  Is it possible that this direction I'm so happy with wouldn't have congealed if there wasn't a definite end-point to work up to?  Yes.  If this book was more popular, the T'Challa Just Lives In New York Now So Deal With It setting might've dragged on and on with the thinking that 'hey, this is what works, so ride it out.'  In that respect, maybe it was sort of a no-win situation in the long run.

Or, perhaps, the title change from The Man Without Fear to The Most Dangerous Man Alive was meant to signal a break from that too-narrow focus, and T'Challa could've retaken the world stage and gone onto much more compelling stories, as the Kingpin's incursion into Wakanda was the perfect last rung in T'Challa's ladder back to that world stage he is meant to play upon.  Thus, we were on the right track and the rug's been pulled out from under us all.  Or, maybe there's some huge crazy plan for him to be involved with Avengers vs. X-Men, considering he's an Avenger and his wife's an X-Man, and this whole series would be radically changed by it, so best to end it and see what's what after Blockbuster Event Time shakes out.

Anyway, enough of the post-mortem speculation.  #529 is a slam-bang fun way for Liss to go out.  T'Challa's been back in classic master strategist mode, the way longtime fans loved to see him during the Christopher Priest run.  He's circled the wagons against Fisk's strong-arm methods and taken the fight directly to The Hand and their Shadowland stronghold, having put aside his need to be alone and prove himself and recruited Luke Cage and Falcon into the effort, as well as his sniper-rifle wielding sidekick Sofija and, as it turns out, his sister Shuri, who's been posing as Fisk's trusted aid Miyu for days – long enough to get access to Fisk's files.  It does feel like Kingpin and The Hand have been chumped out just a bit, but seeing as how this is a triumphant return to form for the Black Panther, it's completely forgivable.  Like they say about ninjas – one of them is awesome.  A bunch of them are losers.

The art from Shawn Martinbrough and Jefte Palo is also solid, approximating the earlier work on the book by Francesco Francavilla without aping it outright. The coda with Daredevil at the end feels a little bittersweet as well, as it's T'Challa bowing out of his duties as the neighborhood's protector to pursue more relevant interests – and THAT'S the book we'd want to see.  No idea if we're ever getting it, though – even if it had to be a joint title with Storm, we'd take it.  But in The Liss Era, we've gotten a very interesting electrically-powered Romanian crimelord, the crazy-ass return of the Hatemonger from outer space, and a battle of hard-minded wills between the Black Panther and the Kingpin of Crime.  In retrospect, it's quite the solid run.  Liss definitely has a pretty good sense of the character.  Maybe he'll get another chance with him somewhere down the line.

Hell, let's just hope we as comic fans get another chance with him, too.