Black Panther #3 sees John Ridley and Juann Cabal joined by Ibrahim Moustafa, Juni Ba, Germán Peralta, and Jesus Aburtov for a 40 page issue as the title reaches its Legacy numbering of #200 (I’ll get into where that number comes from at the end). Despite this being a centennial issue and Black Panther being the first Black superhero at Marvel to reach this numbering, Black Panther #3 feels much more in line with the first two issues in this volume rather than an extravagant anniversary issue.
The issue begins with the next chapter of “The Long Shadow,” picking up right where Black Panther #2 left off as T’Challa and Omolola face off with the masked assassins. Juann Cabal’s artwork shines here as our heroes use a combination of acrobatics, jiu-jitsu, and technology to take down their would-be assailants. Cabal handles all with aplomb, including some moments within the fight itself that may hint at the larger story. Color artist Matt Milla also adds some fun details, like T’Challa’s eyes glowing green like a cat’s. After the attack, T’Challa realizes he may be the actual target of the ambushes on his agents and chooses to go off the grid, and departs Earth for Mars, now terraformed and ruled by Storm and the X-Men.
During the travel, writer John Ridley takes an opportunity to have T’Challa open up a bit more about his own emotions, something he’s reluctant to do as king. He asks Omolola whether or not Jhai was happy given his station as one of T’Challa’s secret agents. It’s a nice scene that touches on T’Challa’s compassion without getting melodramatic. At the same time, some of Ridley’s dialogue for T’Challa still feels a little off. Lines like “Yeaaah, no.” feel a bit casual for a man raised to be royalty, but fortunately these moments aren’t too distracting.
Upon arrival on Mars, Black Panther #3 changes artists, bringing in Ibrahim Moustafa. Moustafa’s lines are thicker than Cabal’s and uses more crosshatching, giving these pages a different feel to the ones done by Cabal. The change works well, as though there’s some time focused on the relationship between T’Challa and Storm, though it’s actually the relationship between T’Challa and the Wakandan mutant Nezhno Abidemi (aka Gentle) that gets more pages. Gentle’s past has often seen him shunned by his fellow Wakandans, and Ridley makes use of that history and Gentle’s appearance in the finale of the previous volume of Black Panther to make for an emotional interaction between a king and his former subject.
While this story works as the third issue of John Ridley and Juann Cabal’s first arc, this being the 200th issue of Black Panther does make the story feel a bit underwhelming, especially as there doesn’t seem to be a large narrative reveal. Fans who are looking for a standout moment in an issue like this are likely going to be disappointed.
Counteracting that potential disappointment, Black Panther #3 is supplemented by two 10-page stories. The first, by writer/artist Juni Ba and colorist Chris O’Halloran focuses on a young T’Challa saving the goddess Bast from an ailment and meeting a trickster spirit. Ba’s art and writing are expressive and humorous, giving the story a nice departure in tone from the rest of the issue. The story’s supernatural feel evokes some of the strangeness common to Jack Kirby’s work in the 1970s volume of Black Panther, honoring the past while delivering something new.
The final story in the issue is perhaps the most publicized as Ridley and letterer Joe Sabino are joined by Germán Peralta and Jesus Aburtov, the art team behind two of T’Challa’s most recent crossovers to introduce a new Wakandan hero in Tosin. Tosin’s story is laid out in his own narrative captions, a stark contrast to the way T’Challa has been presented in Ridley’s work. Ridley founds Tosin’s viewpoint in some of the worldbuilding laid forth by other creators, allowing for the new character to fit nicely into the story without seeming alien. Additionally, the events of this backup clearly take place after the main story and tease future developments in “The Long Shadow” story arc.
While perhaps not what some readers would hope for in a milestone issue, Black Panther #3 makes for a solid read. While some of the dialogue feels a bit informal for a king, John Ridley’s take on T’Challa nails the dynamic that makes Black Panther such a great character. The artwork by Juann Cabal, Ibrahim Moustafa, and Matt Milla bring to life the main story while Juni Ba, Chris O’Halloran, Germán Peralta and Jesus Aburtov give readers two backups that are sure to leave an impression.
A Brief Note on the Legacy Numbering
In 2017, Marvel Comics introduced “Legacy” numbering to their issues, treating disconnected volumes centered around characters as a single continuous title. These numbers briefly replaced the the numbering of the issues, so the nineteenth issue of Black Panther (2016) was labeled as issue #166, but these legacy numberings are now currently featured under the issue’s numbering. For the character of Black Panther, the legacy numbering combines the following titles:
Black Panther (1977) #1-15
Black Panther (1998) #1-62
Black Panther (2005) #1-41
Black Panther (2009) #1-12
Black Panther: The Man Without Fear (2010) #513-523
Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive (2011) #524-529
Black Panther (2016) #1-18, #166-172
Black Panther (2018) #1-25
Black Panther (2021) #1-3
Readers will note this numbering omits Black Panther’s first solo series, which was published as Jungle Action (1972) #6-24 as well as the four issue miniseries Black Panther (1988), which is most frequently known as Black Panther Vol. 2. At the same time, it includes the issues in which Black Panther briefly took over Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. There was an issue, Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #523.1, which is not counted, but that makes sense given that the point-one publishing initiative was made to be an “extra” issue. Daredevil’s legacy numbering does not include these issues featuring Black Panther.
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