Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Enemy Of The State

During the early issues of the Black Panther title which launched in late 1998, the Panther once more finds himself in the United States, in what becomes mostly a focus by writer Christopher Priest on Wakanda's sovereignty and the political conflicts that have been ongoing with the U.S.--disagreements which have been coming to a head due to Wakanda's policy of not sharing its technology with other nations as well as remaining mum on its strategic and tactical capabilities, while keeping a tight rein on sales of its highly-sought vibranium ore. But the Panther has also had to deal with internal struggles. While T'Challa has been occupied stateside, a man named Achebe stages a coup that allows him to usurp the throne of Wakanda--though eventually a compromise is reached where Achebe is allowed the role of Prime Minister while sharing power with the Panther's stepmother, under the condition that the Panther remains in the U.S.

There's little doubt that Achebe, whose hold on sanity is tenous (he once sold his soul to Mephisto, which should tell you something), will eventually move to be crowned King--and as he prepares to do just that, he makes an assassination attempt on the Panther during a night of civil unrest and rioting in New York, which the Avengers help to quell. But while the Panther exchanges words with Achebe, who contributed to the carnage by also placing bombs among the crowds, an open comm link with his teammates results in secret information being disclosed regarding the Panther's original motives for joining the Avengers--information that will put his relationship with his friends and allies on shaky ground.

The final panels of that story segue into Priest's four-part "Enemy Of The State" arc, where the Panther discovers Achebe's ties to Spectrum Dynamics, a corporation run by a man named Jack Taylor whose self-interests had him working with the U.S. intelligence community in an intricate plot to effectively bring down the Wakandan government. In following the trail of covert operations and deals, the Panther meets with Captain America to get some answers--a meeting that comes on the heels of the Panther's "open mic" moment, and one that is bound to be tense, especially considering that Cap was the man who had recommended T'Challa for membership in the Avengers.

(The narrative is courtesy of Everett Ross, a green State Department envoy who was assigned as a liaison to T'Challa during his stay in the states. Ross, who gives these stories an unexpectedly enjoyable perspective and who is implicitly trusted by T'Challa, often refers to his client as, well, "the client" while sifting through these flashbacks.)

Where T'Challa has already gone is to, ah, take custody of Taylor, into whose plush penthouse he rams that very expensive ice cream truck and subsequently paints for Taylor a picture that makes it clear that, as far as the Panther is concerned, all roads lead back to Spectrum.

In this new title, Priest has obviously given the Panther a much higher profile than he enjoyed either in Jungle Action or as a member of the Avengers, while also giving more attention to his efforts on behalf of Wakanda as well as putting that African nation on the map, so to speak. Priest's look at the character in this series may be well worth your time.

As for the "bombshell" that might have led to increased tensions with the Avengers, very little came of that other than some equally tense dialog with Cap and the rest of the team while the Panther puts into place his course of action vis-à-vis the U.S. government.

Earlier, T'Challa raises a fair point about why a conversation with Cap--and, by extension, the Avengers--about subjects of national security would prove to be fruitless given the Avengers' ties to the N.S.C., just as Cap was correct in withholding any information that he wasn't free to discuss. It's to the Panther's credit that he realizes how the Avengers' hands are tied, though it doesn't ease the frustration he must feel at not being able to confide in his friends.

Now that he has unraveled the tendrils of deceit which have snaked their way through this entire affair, T'Challa is ready to blow the whistle--and when he uses the pulpit of the United Nations Security Council to do so, he makes it clear that no stone will go unturned in his efforts to expose the guilty parties for all to see.

As for his relationship with the Avengers, it remains intact, with the only fallout being mainly harsh words. And when the Panther later joins forces with the team to battle Ultron, it's that fallout that the Avengers' more seasoned members put into perspective for the benefit of the youngest in their ranks.


Jared said...

I had forgotten how good Priest's Black Panther run is. I might put it on my list to reread on Marvel Unlimited. A great run from a very down era of Marvel Comics.

I have always been surprised Marvel ever let Priest back in the building after he ran Tom Defalco off of Spider Man and then ruined years of subplots with the way he bungled the Hobgoblin reveal.

Comicsfan said...

Well, Jared, at that point, the Hobgoblin saga had gone on for so long and there had been so many hands in it that Marvel was probably glad to be done with it!

Jared said...

True. I have always just heard Priest had burned pretty much every bridge at Marvel in the 80s. Writers hated him for the meddling he did as an editor. The higher ups blamed him for declaring Leeds the Hobgoblin and killing Iron Fist. I know he was brought in by Joe Quesada for the Marvel Knights imprint, but I was still very surprised to see him back with Marvel.

Priest is a great writer when he sets the whole agenda like on this outstanding Black Panther run. But he may be the worst writer ever at taking over for someone else.