T’Challa and Shuri have arrested their suspect – T’Challa’s own sleeper agent, Omolola, and are now bringing her to stand trial for her crimes. But with a title like ”The Long Shadow,” can readers really trust the heroes are on the right track?
Black Panther #5 sees John Ridley and Juann Cabal joined by artist Stefano Landini as the mystery behind a group of assassins continues to build. And though the issue appears to answer a few questions, the pacing of the series still leaves a lot to be desired. A huge part of the problem has been the series’ release schedule – issue #4 was released six weeks ago, and issue #3 was another five weeks before that. There are obviously a number of real-world issues that are impacting the book’s delivery, but it’s unfortunately sucking the air out of the story right as it gets stronger.
Black Panther #5 largely takes place in a meeting of Wakanda’s parliament as numerous revelations send the meeting spinning out of control and ultimately put T’Challa on the run from his own government. Without getting too spoilery, some of the reveals work well while others feel a bit on-the-nose. The important thing though is that it highlights T’Challa’s secrets beyond the sleeper agents. In previous reviews, I remarked that the idea of sleeper agents being controversial on their own felt too small-scale. Here, Ridley’s script answers that call and gives readers something else to chew on.
The artwork here is great as well. Getting a scene of politicians talking to be interesting visually is a challenge, but the expressive facial work makes the scene pop. The action sequence towards the middle of the issue is a little less successful. Conceptually, it’s a really cool idea, but in execution, the panels lack the verticality to really capture the sense of motion for the maneuver pulled off.
However, it’s time to address the wolf in the hen house, and that means talking spoilers.
The decisions to turn the focus of the investigation to the Hatut Zeraze and give Akili a heel turn create some weird narrative questions. For some background, the Hatut Zeraze debuted in Priest’s run on Black Panther that began in 1998. There, they were a Secret Police force that had been banned by T’Challa due to their methods, methods that seem awfully in line with T’Challa’s plans for his sleeper agents as presented in the current series.
While I suspect that incongruity is less a retcon of error and more something that will be integrated into the current plot, it’s also something that would only be recognized by people who have read that older material. But for those readers, Akili’s turn here almost immediately calls to mind the Hatut Zeraze’s previous leader, Hunter, who is the elder adopted brother of both T’Challa and Shuri. It’s so familiar, in fact, that it’s more than a little frustrating that neither T’Challa nor Shuri bring it up in the story. Perhaps they will in future chapters. For now, it’s an additional layer to the mystery of the story.
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