So far fan response has been positive towards Marvel’s epic relaunch of the Ultimate continuity. The House of Ideas has been preparing for a massive launch of the second ongoing series in the line, “Ultimate Black Panther.” Will this new version of T’Challa stand out from exiled counterpart in the main continuity? Will the creative team of Bryan Hill and Stefano Caselli be able to tie in the subtext of The Maker into this “Ultimate Black Panther” title? Also, how will this series fit into the eclectic line of new comics? Without further ado, let’s see if “Ultimate Black Panther” #1 can live up to its epic name!
Written by Bryan Hill
Illustrated by Stefano Caselli
Colored by David Curiel
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
THE NEW ULTIMATE BLACK PANTHER! In the wake of ULTIMATE INVASION, Khonshu and Ra – the force known together as Moon Knight – are seeking to expand their brutal control of the continent of Africa. In response, the lone bulwark against them, the isolated nation of Wakanda, will send forth its champion…its king…the Black Panther! From the creative minds of Bryan Hill (BLADE, KILLMONGER) and Stefano Caselli (X-MEN RED, AVENGERS) comes a bold new take on the world of Black Panther and Wakanda!
Aside from the opening scene, the early parts of “Ultimate Black Panther” are devoted to fleshing out T’Challa’s personal relationships as royalty. The interactions between T’Challa and his Queen Okoye begin to hint at what their relationship looks like off the page. T’Chaka and T’Challa also share poignant scenes to introduce Wakanda. It was also fascinating to see Shuri interact with Okoye during the sequence where T’Challa learns about a threat coming to Wakanda.
Stefano Caselli and David Curiel’s art are key contributions toward “Ultimate Black Panther” #1. Caselli and Curiel bring a mostly bleak aesthetic to the series that matches other Ultimate Comics nicely. The exaggerated expressions and character acting from Caselli make “Ultimate Black Panther” #1 a cohesive comic book experience. There were a few moments where I had a difficult time telling characters like Okoye and Shuri apart. The various redesigns for existing Black Panther characters also help make Wakanda feel a little more mysterious and unique this time around. One of the best visual aspects of the series is also the most mysterious as Killmonger and Storm open up a beautiful blue palette that brings an element of hope to the forefront in “Ultimate Black Panther” #1. One of the best pages from “Ultimate Black Panther” #1 happens to be the final one as T’Challa is finally ready for battle, gearing up to battle his foes with a striking bleed to the previous panel and a vivid hue of fire in the foreground. Caselli’s art can get really imaginative and I hope to see him continue to utilize unexpected pieces of his work and challenge himself for the new Ultimate Line of Comics.
One of the most interesting pieces of “Ultimate Black Panther” is the villain. Together the Gods of Khonshu and Ra are joining forces to become the Moon Knight! Ra and Khonshu are violently looking to expand their territory in Africa. As “Ultimate Black Panther” develops, it feels like the expansion of Africa threatens T’Challa more closely as the issue progresses. When the villains strike T’Challa as close to the home as they can possibly get, T’Challa takes the bait and calls out our foes directly. Hill did a good job pacing the slow threat within the story.
While “Ultimate Black Panther” #1 carries a great sense of ambition towards its antagonists, the same can’t be said for the leading hero. While this iteration of T’Challa carries himself in an interesting way and has strong dialogue, this is way too similar to the Black Panther film from The Marvel Cinematic Universe. The New line of Ultimate Comics kicked off with “Ultimate Invasion” and it is disappointing to see Marvel continue to explore back-to-basics approaches with established heroes. “Ultimate Black Panther” carries some plot threads from “Ultimate Invasion” and will likely continue to reveal more connections as it develops. While the characters of Khonshu and Ra already carry some of these elements, it’s disheartening to see just how disconnected the first two Ultimate Comics launches in the new line have been so far from previous comics. Future issues could easily rectify these elements and craft a new identity for “Ultimate Black Panther” #1 but this far the series is missing elements of ambition. That being said though the political threats to Wakanda carry a fascinating element of realism which also recalls positive elements from the Black Panther movies.
At the end of the day, “Ultimate Black Panther” #1 is a mixed bag. There is really strong dialogue and art crafted across this story. The villains introduced in previous comic books inject a sense of intrigue towards the comic book series. However, the level of familiarity with the Black Panther franchise is holding me at arm’s length from investing in this comic book. If Marvel is having trouble keeping new readers on fresh comic book titles, why not shake the continuity as far as it can possibly go to keep readers interested. Why did the character of T’Challa have to be the face of the “Ultimate Black Panther” when readers have their own version of character incredibly well established in Marvel’s core continuity? Why not feature a cameo from The Ultimate Universe’s greatest villain in the first issue?
Final Verdict: 6.8 – “Ultimate Black Panther” #1 packs a cool villain in a derivative script.