BLACK PANTHER: FOUR THE HARD WAY

bp4thehardway
Written by Reginald Hudlin
Drawn by Francis Portela
Published by Marvel Comics

PREVIOUSLY: BLACK PANTHER: CIVIL WAR

Following the events of Marvel’s Civil War, Black Panther and Storm remain in America overseeing the rebuilding of the Wakandan Embassy in New York and end up being invited by Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Woman to take their place in the Fantastic Four temporarily while those two go away on a 2nd honeymoon. So for the next year we got a monthly double-dose of Black Panther, as he and Storm also appeared in the ongoing Fantastic Four series which was being written by the Late Great Dwayne McDuffie (R.I.P.) in addition to the ongoing Black Panther title, which continued to be written by Reginald Hudlin (who, thankfully, was longtime friends with McDuffie so it was easy for those two writers to coordinate their stories).

Black Panther and Storm move into the Baxter Building, which becomes a temporary Wakandan Embassy while the new one is built, with The Human Torch and The Thing. This arc contains two main stories that run together. First, a giant Bug-like creature who is a member of an alien race that lives in the Negative Zone escapes to get revenge on the FF because his people are being inadvertently wiped out by the Americans who are building the special super-powered prison in the Negative Zone that Reed Richards and Tony Stark designed to hold unregistered superhumans. And then, thanks to a couple of magical frog-statues (that’s a long story, I’ll get to that when I review McDuffie’s FF next month), the new FF find themselves transported to the Skrull Homeworld in a parallel universe that is being invaded by Zombie-versions of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Giant Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine and The Hulk. And to make matters worse, these Marvel Zombies had already eaten the Galactus of this universe and therefor are infused with his cosmic energy, making them virtually unbeatable. So not only do the FF have to fight the Skrulls who initially believe them to be part of this invasion and have their own Skrull version of the Fantastic Four, with the powers of the original team, but also face off against the Marvel Zombies who want to eat them along with the Skrulls.

It’s an exciting storyline with almost non-stop action and lots of high concepts being thrown out. Hudlin continues to write Black Panther and Storm well as a married couple, and he also manages to capture the personalities of Ben Grimm The Thing and Johnny Storm The Human Torch. There’s a funny bit where Ben and Johnny are the first to figure out that they’re in a parallel universe, before Black Panther and Storm, and are somewhat blase about it, as inter-dimensional travel and facing aliens is a practically a regular event in the lives of the Fantastic Four. And even with all this cosmic action going on, Hudlin doesn’t ignore the effects of Panther’s absence back home. A running subplot shows Panther’s sister Shuri and counsin T’Shan back in Wakanda worried about a potential attack by America, which has warships stationed off the coast of Wakanda. We also see Panther’s old friend Everette K. Ross at the U.S. State Department, where his bosses are indeed preparing for the possibility of dealing with Wakanda. So it’s good to see that Hudlin doesn’t forget the political intrigue that this title features so well, even as he’s busying tying into events in the greater Marvel superhero Universe.

And the artist on this arc is Francis Portela who provides some beautiful illustrations here. I love his style and I have to say that, after John Romita Jr. in the first arc, I think Portela may be my 2nd favorite artist to work on this title. Together with Hudlin they’ve put together a great package.

This arc is collected in a printed trade paperback that you can get on Amazon, or you can download the individual issues, starting with Black Panther #26 through Black Panther #30 on Comixology

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