Necropolis - Not the hottest spot for tourists in Wakanda
Last issue’s part one of the story saw Reed, Sue and the Future Foundation invited to Wakanda and an invading undead army attack. In the second part, Reed and T’Challa travel to the Necropolis, the City of the Dead to gain knowledge whilst Sue, Shuri and Storm travel the Celestial Path to find and confront Anubis.
· As per usual, Hickman writes the characters in his story excellently. Reed and T’Challa share some interesting discussions about this new area of Wakanda and it was great seeing how their two personalities mixed, Reed being the ever empirical logical one “I assume there was some reason... a catalyst” whilst T’Challa is all the more willing to mix science and sorcery “I had a dream.” The Panther goddess Bast displays a regal manner and drops some prophetic foreshadowing about a certain Marvel event and about Reed and T’Challa’s future. It’s a nice way of setting up future stories, particularly if rumour’s about Hickman writing a Black Panther series turn out to be true
· As well as both their characters being written well, Reed and T’Challa’s friendship is excellently highlighted by Hickman. When Bast asks why Reed deserves to be in the Wakandan Hall of heroes, instead of saying “Well I have saved the Earth, other planets, dimensions and sometimes the universe on a regular basis” Reed instead elects to remain T’Challa’s loyal second in this quest. There is a great mutual respect between Reed and T’Challa which Hickman expands upon in some great moments in this issue.
· Although typically the FF are more fitting in a sci fi setting, Hickman moulds his story to fit the Fantastic Four in more mystical surroundings as well. Additionally, Hickman adds more layers to Wakanda’s history and backstory through Reed and T’Challa’s journey through Necropolis, the burial ground of past Black Panthers of Wakanda. It’s a nice reminder of T’Challa’s heritage that he is one in a line of past rulers and predecessors to the Black Panther mantle.
· Hickman really delivers on great story moments and big developments. The conversation between T’Challa and Bast revealing T’Challa’s desire to be a Black Panther and King again made me wonder about whether T’Challa would succumb to his desires and allow his sister to perish in battle against Anubis all so he could have what he wanted? Hickman writes these scenes in such a way that although they don’t come to fruition, they’re still damn compelling. And when T’Challa does choose the self sacrificing option, he’s given a reward that will set his new status quo. I warned about spoilers so now I’m gonna talk about it. It’s an awesome move by Hickman making T’Challa King of all Black Panthers. It gives T’Challa an awesome new role in the Marvel Universe whilst keeping Shuri as the Black Panther and not sidelining her in favour of T’Challa. Not to mention the power boost is badass. Now T’Challa has the ability to draw on all the knowledge of past Black Panthers. Hickman doesn’t define this completely but I’m pretty sure T’Challa can now draw upon all the knowledge of past Black Panthers along with all their moves. This is a great step forwards for T’Challa and is the highlight of this issue for me.
· The cover by Frank Cho and Jason Keith is just gorgeous. Even though the ladies didn’t drive the story in this issue, the jungle setting coupled with the deep colours and glare off of Susan’s hair along with little touches like Storm’s eyes glowing and Sue turning invisible make this cover all the more lovely to behold.
· Bast’s foreshadowing of the events in Avengers vs X-Men #8 was sort of ridiculous. I mean why didn’t she tell T’Challa the whole picture instead of letting him find out for himself that a Phoenix empowered Namor was going to attack Wakanda to find Hope and capture the Avengers. And when the Avengers took up residence in Wakanda, surely this should have rung some bells for T’Challa? And why didn’t Storm take any heed of this warning? This little allusion made no sense whatsoever for the plot in Avengers vs X-Men.
· Also, whilst Hickman allowed the ladies’ story to progress amicably, it was nothing remarkable. Despite featuring prominently on the cover, the females of this issue don’t spend much time in the limelight fighting Anubis and his minions. Their motives and Anubis’ motives were unclear and that sucked not knowing what the heck their story was about.
· The art still isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The bright sunny colours of Paul Mounts redeem the art but Kesel’s finishing touches ruin Camuncoli’s superior layouts. There are moments when the pencils look rough and scratchy and unfinished outlines are nothing remarkable. More could have been done to display the sacredness of Necropolis or the awesome spectacle of Anubis emerging but it’s not terrible. It’s just average, maybe above average at best.
All in all, Hickman delivers on the second part of this story and sets the Black Panther in a promising new direction. A definite success in this case on Hickman’s part!