In Which A Blogger Justifies A Thumbs Post From A Couple of Days Ago

Remember a couple of days ago when I gave a thumbs up to Black Panther: The Man Without Fear 513 and then said you'd have to wait for me to tell you why I gave it a thumbs up until Wednesday, when the next one came out?

Well, thankfully for both of us it is now Thursday. I went to my shop yesterday, picked it up and, let me tell you, if you were worried that there would be a significant drop in quality between then and now, fear not: issue #514 is even better. Behind that terrible Simone Bianchi and Simone Peruzzi cover (seriously, whats up with that cover? It bears no resemblance to the contents of the book, and is ugly as hell- if Francesco Francavilla doesn't want to draw the cover, you know who should? Chris Samnee) is the best comic book of the year so far.

I know, I know. The year is young yet, with only two weeks worth of releases. This one, though- we're going to remember this one. David Liss makes some missteps, sure, but really only in the context of the shared universe: his Luke Cage doesn't sound quite right, a little too brash and quick to anger then maybe he should be, but maybe that means there's something to watch for coming from that corner of New York. That little critique aside, David Liss writes a damn good comic book, particularly given that he's only recently come to the medium. He gets the pacing just right, his highly varied dialogue suggests that he has a complete grasp on his characters, and, most impressively, he convinces me that this way of reintroducing T'Challa to the mainland Marvel universe was a really good idea- Hell's Kitchen needed protecting before, and it still needs protecting now. This is a clever way of reintroducing 'ol Hornhead back into the old neighborhood, because it reminds us of what even those fantastic Brubaker comics had forgotten. Black Panther puts Hell's Kitchen back on the man without fear's front burner, it's just a much different man. David Liss, Stan Lee bless him, gets what the title was missing and puts that Marvel man on the street perspective on the whole thing. His work alone would make the comic work reading but, wonderfully, he's not working alone.

No, as good as Liss is, what makes the two issues of the book so far break out is the art of Francesco Francavilla. This is brilliant, pulpy stuff- dark and blocky, with colors both muted and flat. It just feels right, like we're in a noir movie set in Hell's Kitchen. His figures are stylized without being unrecognizable, flexible without being squishy. The whole thing is very kinetic and his panel design- maybe not the best I've ever seen, but damn close- adds to that impression a great deal. The result is all shadows and movement and I'm madly in love with it.

This is the first comic in 2011 that you're going to fall in love with- hopefully, it's a portent for the good stuff we'll see this year. If not, it's another brilliant and pulpy comic on the stands each month, and that's never a bad thing. Here's to another long, classic, run on a long running book.

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