In 1998, Marvel Comics started the Marvel Knights imprint, intended to focus on standalone stories. MK went on the be a success and injected new life into many characters. One of the initial series to be released was Black Panther.
It seems like a crazy thing to say today, but there was a time when Black Panther was not all that interesting. Sure, he was the King of Wakanda and an Avenger in good standing, but he never seemed to really stand out from the pack. The MK run by Christopher Priest and Mark Texeria is widely seen as one of the best portrayals in the character’s history. Some comic fans state that without the Priest run, there would never have been a Black Panther movie. The first five issues have been collected in a trade paperback called ‘The Client.’
Priest’s characterization of T’Challa is unique and instantly makes him interesting. He is no longer just the king of an African country and an Avenger — Priest has Panther transcend all notions of royalty and super heroism. Instead, he possesses an intangible quality that attracts people. Each movement is calculated, every word is the correct one, and each decision in the best. Priest’s Black Panther can be described in one word: cool.
Panther never really comes off as the untouchable superhero. What makes Priest’s handling of the Wakandan king so great is the character still comes off as out of the realm of normal humans. He still makes kingly statements, and still has his highly advanced abilities. But where other heroes come across as better than us normal people, Priest writes Panther differently. Panther comes off as a naturally heroic person which makes him more likable.
Another great addition to the series was the character of Everett K. Ross. Ross is an employee of the United States government who worked with foreign ambassadors and was assigned to Panther. More importantly, Ross serves as a narrator to the story and adds a mystique to the hero while also serving as his quasi mouthpiece. Priest’s use of Ross is excellent as readers first see him wearing no pants and pointing a gun at a rat. It is a unique start that engages the reader.
Texeria’s art is fantastic as he makes Panther look royal and heroic while adding to the cool factor written by Priest. Battles have a natural flow to them and all the characters looks great. There is great variety throughout the issues as beautiful splash pages will be followed by multi paneled ones. Vince Evans is the guest artist for the fifth issue of the story arc and does an excellent job in Texeria’s place.
The impressive character work and handsome art balance out a basic story. There are some great action sequences in ‘The Client’ and the story never gets boring. The book is also surprisingly funny. Panther has many great moments just being himself while the commentary by Ross is a standout in the book. The plot itself is your run-of-the-mill comic book story filled with twists, turns, and surprises. The characters and art will leave an impression long after the story has been forgotten.
Marvel Knights Black Panther: The Client is a wonderful collection for any Black Panther fan. While the story may not be memorable, the art is fantastic and Priest’s handling of Black Panther reintroduced the character to a new generation of fans.