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Depowered and dethroned, T’Challa has turned his sights towards New York City as the place to rebuild himself. Can he reign supreme as the new “man without fear?”
The Man Without Fear portion of T’Challa’s history remains one of the oddest premises in the character’s history. After suffering losses at the hands of Dr. Doom and Morlun, T’Challa seeks redemption not in his own country, but in New York City. Furthermore, he takes over Daredevil’s book. On paper, the premise is a recipe for disaster. In practice, it was anything but.
The move to Hell’s Kitchen heralded a new visual style to Panther’s book: that of the pulp noir. And in doing so, Marvel got an A-list roster of noir artists on this book. Francesco Francavilla, Jefte Palo, Shawn Martinbrough, Michael Avon Oeming, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Jesus Aburtov — the credits page is an all-star list. The pages throughout the book are gloriously done, and bravo to the printers for this complete collection: the blacks of the original issues are recreated here without any errors or bleed.
Writer David Liss takes the book’s premise head-on, using T’Challa’s lack of resources to highlight the character’s intelligence and ingenuity. Liss slowly builds T’Challa back up throughout the volume, starting with smaller criminals and no allies, before slowly letting people back into his life. The book crescendos brilliantly, culminating in the subtitle change from “Man Without Fear” to “The Most Dangerous Man Alive.” The final arc of the book is Black Panther vs. the Kingpin, and Liss uses the opportunity to highlight the strategic thinking of both hero and villain, raising both their profiles as a result.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t a few missteps. Storm shows early on in the run and while her presence is handled decently, her appearance only highlights the manufactured nature of the book’s premise. And the return of T’Challa’s adopted brother, Hunter, doesn’t do the villain proper justice, never quite capturing the nuance that makes Hunter different from Marvel’s more famous evil siblings.
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Is It Good?
Black Panther: The Man Without Fear – The Complete Collection is a must have for fans of the character. A superhero story with heavy noir elements and beautiful artwork by a group of artists known for this type of story, The Man Without Fear is what happens when a creative group takes an odd premise and makes gold out of it. David Liss’ writing does T’Challa justice, using the absence of the his trademark trappings to highlight his intellect.
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