I know a lot of people are super excited to see Spider-Man appear in the upcoming Civil War movie— and don't get me wrong, so am I!— but I'm even more stoked to see the Black Panther appear. It's a character that had been completely unknown to me growing up and the more I hear about him and his fictional country of Wakanda, the more I'm intrigued. Plus his costume in the trailers looks very cool.
Trying to get a sense of him beforehand, I went looking for must read Black Panther titles. Time and time again, people recommended Priest's take. Mat Elfring, of ComicVine, writes, "This was the run that really defined the character. [...] this is the most important of all the stories."
After reading The Complete Collection, Volume 1, I'm skeptical and far less excited.
First off, it's amazing that this many people can take a stab at the artwork and no one can get it right. It begins with a story illustrated by Mark Texeira. Let me just say, for all the complaining I've done over the past year about generic superhero art, Texeira made me long for generic superhero art. It's heavily painted and looks messy, faces are often grotesque, and aren't even consistent from one panel to the next. As the later artists go the more generic route, this problem with consistency continues to plague the whole collection. The worse is for a character named Everett Ross. Everyone seems to want to completely overhaul the character.
And no wonder. He sucks. Single-handedly the downfall of the entire run. An American government rep meant to be T'Challa (the Black Panther's real name) guide in the U.S., Black Panther's story is told entirely through his eyes. He's meant to be funny. He's not. But the attempts are there and he just underscores how little we little we know about T'Challa who comes across as flat and dull. He's the king of an African super-nation and a superhero, and he comes across as boring. How is that even possible?!
Ross also cannot tell a straightforward story. You know how everyone was playing with the narrative flow in the 90s? Yeah, it's possible to make that work but when it doesn't? Awful.
If this is the best source material, Marvel Studios has their work cut out for them.