Written by: John Ridley
Art by: Juan Cabal, Ibrahim Moustafa
Colors by: Matt Milla
Letters by: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover art by: Alex Ross (cover A)
Cover price: $3.99
Release date: March 2, 2022
Black Panther #4 leaves the mutant, Martian colony of Arakko to continue his hunt for the assassins when Shuri uncovers a disturbing clue about the assassins’ methods and their potential origin.
Was It Good?
Black Panther #4 is just okay. Nothing special, Nothing that will wow you, and nothing that will stick with you a memorable. It’s a safe, middle-of-the-road issue, and that’s not how an issue should come across with the surprise reveals we get here.
Before we get into the story, Cabal, Moustafa, and Milla’s art are great in this issue. The cityscapes, costumes, and vehicles nail the Afro-Futurism that’s so much a part of Wakandan culture. That said, the artists hold back a little too much on the distinctiveness of Black Panther’s costume as it looks like a plain, black bodysuit in most panels. The artists don’t need to go too ornate but a little more Black Panther-ish adornments would help set Tchalla apart as he should be.
The story starts with T’challa and Omolola leaving Arakko. But for a few pages at the end of the last issue, the visit to Mars was uneventful and didn’t do anything for this story other than to take up space. T’challa’s motivations for going to Mars were thin, so it would have served the story if his visit was more meaningful to the plot.
During the flight back to Earth, Shuri discovers (*plot twiste*) the fighting styles and uniform material of the assassins appear to be Wakandan. This should be a big wow moment, but it doesn’t feel big, and it doesn’t have an emotional punch for anyone involved. Ridley may be playing on T’Challa’s penchant for stoicism, but T’Calla reacts stone-faced rather than stoic, and the lack of impact is palpable.
During her research, somebody bombs Shuri’s lab, giving weight to the theory that the assassinations are signs of Wakandan upheaval. On this point, Ridley is giving readers something to chew on. Rather than rely on the political bickering in the newly-formed Wakandan Parliament, Ridley is showing that (possibly) political tension is growing on multiple fronts, opening the door for a possible Wakandan coup. That’s an interesting development that’s ripe for story potential.
As events develop more evidence comes to light that even somebody close to him could be a traitor. Ridley uses the situation to take T’Calla from potential despot to potentially paranoid potential despot. While the potential is there, it remains to be seen if Ridley can come to a satisfying conclusion without leaving T’Challa in his currently unpalatable state.
Black Panther #4 takes the political intrigue of the assassination attempts and slathers on a generous helping of paranoia. The art is good, although the Black Panther design is almost too generic, and the action is energetic. That said, Ridley is painting a story about a deeply flawed hero leading an increasingly unstable nation, and it’s not clear where this story is headed but it doesn’t appear to be anywhere good.