Monday, July 16, 2018

There's A New Power Couple In Town

The royal marriage between the Sub-Mariner and the lady Dorma might have been tragically brief, but two other weddings of note were carried out with happier prospects--one taking place thirteen years later (our time) between Black Bolt and Medusa, and another a staggering 22 years later between the Black Panther and Storm, which unfortunately endured only six years before Marvel pulled the plug on it.  The break-up happened  some time after I'd stopped collecting new comics--but from what I understand, the formal end for the pair took place in a scene during the Avengers vs. X-Men "event" in 2012, a story that saw Storm deciding to throw in with the X-Men for the duration.  The scene in question occurs after Namor, with the power of the Phoenix force (because, sure), lays waste to Wakanda.

But in 2006, the joining between Storm and the Panther was the wedding of the decade in comics terms--and as celebrated as it was within the pages of Black Panther, writer Reginald Hudlin and artist Scot Eaton also seemed to have the "blessing" of Marvel itself, the event full of pomp and carefully crafted to be fitted into the retconned history and foundation of Wakanda. This would be a joining not only in terms of causing ripples through the Marvel universe of the day, but one with political ramifications, as well--and as such, it would raise the profile of Black Panther, as well as T'Challa himself, considerably.

Hudlin seems fully invested in not only the Panther, but in the traditions and evolution of Wakanda itself, embracing the nation's status as a force to be reckoned with and fiercely protective of its borders as well as its independence. The book's introductory synopsis gives the reader an idea of the unique and proud world that writer Don McGregor, in his "Panther's Rage" series, had only begun to establish.

"Since the dawn of time, the African warrior nation of Wakanda has been sending would-be conquerors home in body bags. While the rest of Africa got carved up like a Christmas turkey by the rest of the world, Wakanda's cultural evolution has gone unchecked for centuries, unfettered by the yoke of colonization. The result: a high-tech, resource-rich, ecologically-sound paradise that makes the rest of the world seem primitive by comparison.

"The Black Panther is more than just the embodiment of a warrior cult that's served as Wakanda's religious, political and military head since its inception. The Black Panther is the embodiment of the ideals of a people."

Hudlin could probably have made his point without indulging in hyperbole, since "the dawn of time" obviously would cover far more scope than is indicated here. If you want to restrict the phrase simply to Earth history, for instance, only the Inhumans and certainly the Eternals could lay claim to that sort of descriptive application of a time frame. The only real factor in Wakanda that Hudlin might draw such a connection to is the Vibranium mound that may have been present well before Wakanda was habitable and could have arguably been the catalyst for Wakanda's evolution and growth.

Suffice to say that Wakanda has been at work charting its course and making advancements well ahead of the encroachments of so-called civilized man--a fact that is made mention of by the Panther and others during the course of the book, when the opportunity arises. And by extension, that would include the rituals of the Panther cult, as well.

In the case of the approaching wedding, it's almost a certainty that no bride has been asked to undergo the ritual that Storm learns of--though it's delightful to see that, with her acquiescence, she establishes a condition of her own.

As for the guest list, it encompasses far more than the usual turnout of super-beings that is almost a given at these gatherings; and as we also note from the issue's striking wrap-around cover by Frank Cho, the wedding invitations have been issued under the shadow of the Civil War conflict that has erupted due to the Superhero Registration Act being passed into law in the States, which makes for a bit of tension on this otherwise happy occasion. One prominent guest attending, of course, would be Charles Xavier, who sees his relationship with his X-Man come full circle; and as he makes clear, Storm's role in this affair goes beyond that of a bride, while perhaps providing hope for the fulfillment of his own dream.

But on the other end of the spectrum, in the backdrop of extensive (and, by all appearances, exclusive) media coverage which contributes to the overall anticipation and excitement, we see a number of dignitaries, heads of state, family members of both the bride and groom, and other figures of note (such as Isaiah Bradley, a nod to his ill-fated story in Truth: Red, White and Black). One such guest, however, elicits no small amount of displeasure from Ororo's paternal grandfather, Mr. Munroe.

Which itself elicited a displeased response from letter writer Jarrod Alberich:

And there was certainly one wedding crasher attendee who upstaged all the guests combined.

In the palace, however, the Panther takes it upon himself to personally meet with the two guests who were most likely to come to blows, despite the festive atmosphere. It's a meeting that seemed bound to rehash simmering resentments and reopen wounds--but in spite of the Panther's good intentions, the one thing that it unfortunately won't be producing is reconciliation.

Iron Man's departure is soon to follow, though for different reasons. Perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, there are words exchanged between the Panther and Iron Man which constitute what could be viewed as a mutual warning--or, taken a step further, a veiled threat given in response to another.

Finally, the wedding itself, which doesn't disappoint, thanks in part to an entrance by Ororo which puts to shame any other; and for readers such as ourselves, a "backstage" pass to a sacred ritual which no other guest will be privy to.

It goes without saying that the celebration which follows is a bash for the books--including a priceless scene between Spider-Man and the Man-Ape that proves beyond a doubt that Man-Apes and scotch don't mix.

Hours later, however, as Ororo and T'Challa dive into their wedding gifts, it becomes clear that there was a head of state whose invitation was overlooked--though intentionally or otherwise, T'Challa isn't saying. But it turns out the one slighted has an invitation of his own to issue.

Ororo believes her husband speaks in jest--but do you feel like laughing?


Black Panther #18

Script: Reginald Hudlin
Pencils: Scot Eaton
Inks: Klaus Janson
Letterer: Randy Gentile


George Chambers said...

I've never been a fan of Reggie Hudlin… but, I have to admit, he handled T'Challa's interaction with Tony and Steve beautifully. Given that I thought everything about Civil War was stupid, I think Hudlin invested Tony and Steve with the right level of bull-headedness and petulance, which contrasted strongly against T'Challa's maturity and willingness to conciliate. "I respect Wakanda's neutrality in this war. For that reason, I'm abiding the presence of known fugitives." Good LORD, Tony. Reach exceed your grasp much?

Comicsfan said...

Usually, George, I found myself taking those Cap/Iron Man scenes with a grain of salt, relegating them to little more than placeholder status. You pretty much knew that nothing was going to be resolved between the two of them in an issue that's only a piece of the Civil War pie; all they could do is spin their wheels, having the same argument using different points of contention. The real drama here, I thought (and as you hint at), was between Stark and the Panther. For his part, Hudlin was simply setting up T'Challa's decision in a later issue to actively take Cap's side in the conflict; but Stark's attempt to pre-empt T'Challa in that respect was really unnecessary posturing on his part, and it read that way--and he may have even swayed T'Challa's sympathies more solidly in Cap's corner as a result.