Jason Aaron, Jim Towe, and GURU-eFX introduce Vibranium Man in the latest chapter of Avengers Forever. By removing the mantle of Black Panther from T’Challa, Avengers Forever #6 explores the character through a montage of action scenes.
The issue begins with an homage to Superman, as an infant T’Challa from this alternate universe is launched away from an Earth doomed by King Killmonger. The issue then flashes forward, to the planet of Chandilar, where a teenage T’Challa operates as the Sky Spider, utilizing the Vibranium in the rocket he arrived in to operate as a superhero in this alien world.
Throughout the issue, T’Challa goes through several metamorphoses, operating as heroes that readers will recognize. In doing so, Aaron and Towe explore different facets of this T’Challa’s character. T’Challa has the agility and drive of Spider-Man, but the Sky Spider isn’t who he is and it ultimately costs him when King Killmonger does show up.
A genocidal monster, King Killmonger wears a suit of Destroyer Armor and shows how truly unprepared the young T’Challa is. Killmonger has been T’Challa’s true archnemesis since the character’s introduction in Jungle Action and it’s nice to see Aaron and Towe explore that dynamic through a different lens. Whereas Killmonger of the 616 seems to be one of the only people T’Challa can’t beat in a fistfight (despite Killmonger not having powers), King Killmonger presents a challenge to the existence of this universe’s T’Challa. Armed with doomsday machines, it’s a nice inversion of their normal dynamic where it is T’Challa that has the power of a military force behind him.
Jim Towe’s artwork keeps the story at a brisk pace, which works given that this is a normal 20-page issue. Even without the aliases, readers won’t struggle to see which hero T’Challa is emulating from sequence to sequence, thanks to Towe’s ability not just to create new hero designs but to get T’Challa into some of the iconic poses of those heroes. The action here flows nicely from page to page and Cory Petit’s lettering helps convey the physical state of the characters throughout the fights. GURU-efX’s coloring balances the deep blacks and glowing violets of T’Challa’s various outfits with the harsh reds of King Killmonger’s devastation.
The book’s tight pacing does mean that some of the emotional moments don’t quite have the depth that one might hope for in a story like this. The story as a whole feels a bit shallow, and it makes you wonder if Jason Aaron and Jim Towe might have been able to mine a little more depth out of this story if this were a 32-page book. Still, by the end of Avengers Forever #6, there’s a sense that this T’Challa’s story is only just beginning and creates an incentive for fans of the character to keep reading this story.
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