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You Are NOT the Black Panther

August 26, 2010

Age of Heroes #4 wraps up the Heroic Age anthology with a look at Shuri, the current Black Panther, one of the Eskimos from the tribe that found Captain America all that time ago, the new Zodiac, and Cloud 9.  The Black Panther story features her country under siege from A.I.M. and every vile group that sees how damaged Wakanda is after having lost all of its vibranium to defeat Dr. Doom.  Including some of its own people, like a distant relative of Man-Ape.  He challenges her reign, both because of her past as a party princess and because her title is supposed to be temporary.  He then challenges her to a duel for the right to rule.  He is tough, but she manages to beat him, swearing she will save her weakened country.  In the next story, an old Eskimo man tells his great-granddaughter of how finding Captain America frozen in the ice changed his life, making him a better person and getting him his wife.  He now worships Steve Rogers as a god, as do many of his tribe, but his grandson thinks he’s crazy.  However, he doesn’t care, as Steve is “all the good he needs.”  Then, in the solo Zodiac story, Zodiac brings the head of a ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. intelligence officer to his girlfriend.  They muse about how easy it’ll be to topple this new regime while getting sexy and kinky.  Then, in the last story, Steve Rogers asks Cloud 9 to help the training at Avengers Academy, as she had the highest ranks of anyone to make it through the Initiative.  When he informs her that the Superhuman Registration Act was revoked, she tears up her license and flies off to do anything she wants.

Oh good.  Another absolutely snoozy issue.  For one, this new Black Panther (okay, so she’s been Black Panther for a while now) is nowhere near as interesting as the original.  T’Challa is one of the smartest people in the world, and he’s more than a bit paranoid and cautious.  That made him a really compelling character, especially when played off against nicer people in the Avengers.  Shuri’s just another young superhero, only she doesn’t really deserve to be the Black Panther.  The whole story was just boring, especially since A.I.M. wouldn’t be fighting hand-to-hand.  That made that whole action scene just invalid.  The Captain America story was mildly inspiring, but I’m not quite sure why anyone decided it would be interesting to revisit that random Eskimo tribe.  That wasn’t exactly the most glorious chapter in Captain America or Namor’s histories, and I think it would have been better left alone.  The Zodiac story was the worst of all, as all Zodiac seems to be is violent, sexual, and power-hungry for their own sakes.  Villains are supposed to be compelling and occasionally sympathetic, but he’s just gross in a “why did they come up with him” kind of way.  And his girlfriend is spectacularly creepy.  The best story was the quick, one-page Dan Slott and Ty Templeton tale with Cloud 9.  It’s giving that sweet girl back her charm.  You can’t quite take away all of the dark times she’s gone through, but it’s filled with that sense of hope that’s pervading the Heroic Age.  And not in as forced a way as some of the other stories.  Aside from Templeton, the art in this issue is generally bad.  Shawn Moll and Walden Wong, Brendan McCarthy, and Nathan Fox all drew things at least a bit grotesquely.  I’m glad this series is over, as it didn’t much end up justifying the cover price.

Plot: 5.5      Art: 6.0      Dialogue: 7.0      Overall: 4.8

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