Jan 12, 2015

Black Panther, Part 3: Secret Invasion, Oh My

Black Panther
Part 3: Secret Invasion, Oh My
Ben Smith

If you tuned in toward the end of last year, you are most likely a close relative of mine. Regardless, I’ve been on a deep dive into the back issues of the newly announced future movie star, the Black Panther. What I’ve found are some highly entertaining comics, but the story I am going to cover today might possibly be the most entertaining of them all.

After reading the comics I covered the last time, I continued along with the Hudlin written Black Panther series, with a surprisingly decent House of M tie-in, on through the marriage to Storm, and the subsequent learning curve both T’Challa and Storm would have to experience as a newly married royal couple. The Civil War tie-in issues weren’t of the gravest importance to the main series, and were kind of boring, so I skipped ahead. (I wasn't that interested in their short stint as members of the Fantastic Four, allergic to most things FF that I am.)

Secret Invasion was a crossover event written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu. Much like Civil War, it had a really strong concept (secret Skrull agents have been slowly infiltrating Earth, in preparation for a full-scale invasion) that arguably wasn’t fulfilled in the main series to maximum effect. Black Panther #39 -41, by Jason Aaron and Jefte Palo, is a tie-in to Secret Invasion, and may be the best story out of the entire event.

It begins as Commander K’vvvr leads a Skrull invasion force against Wakanda, fully confident due to the advance Skrull agents that have already infiltrated and embedded themselves in Wakanda.

What sets this story apart already is the inner monologue of K’vvvr as a war-weary soldier. To him this is one last battle, one last time he pretends to care about the Empire. This is obviously something that was sure to resonate with me personally.

As they approach Wakanda, the Skrull invaders are shocked to see the severed heads of their undercover agents on spikes.

Wakanda and the Skrulls trade cyberattacks, demolishing both of their weapons vaults, and then their electronic systems, leaving both sides to resort to a more traditional battlefield approach.

Two armies, with swords and shields, boots on the ground.

Storm is prepared to fight, but T’Challa sends her away, as part of his larger plan. (T’Challa always has a plan.) The two armies rip in to each other, with mass casualties on both sides. Black Panther comes face to face with a Super-Skrull with the martial arts skills of some of his closest superhero compatriots.

The Black Panther is too badass to be afraid.

Black Panther grieves for his people, as he sees soldier after soldier fall, each one a personal loss. He finally finds the weakness in the Super-Skrull’s attack, and deals with him in brutal fashion.

First breaking his arm.

And then ripping out his eyes.

Commander K’vvvr feels the pain and loss of war as well, but he remains confident, due to a few remaining undercover Skrull agents that don’t appear to have been caught.

It is those undercover agents that capture Storm and T’Challa.

K’vvvr has T’Challa and Storm strung up, ready to torture them in the hopes of gaining entrance into Wakanda. They refuse to cooperate, so the Skrulls proceed to mercilessly beat them both.

Commander K’vvvr excuses himself to send a message to his wife, a wife he’s not sure he even knows anymore. (Again, a “human” angle not often given to the evil alien invader.)

And that, is when Black Panther’s big plan is put into motion. I won’t spoil the exciting details for you, but rest assured the end result is this.

Message received.

This is the best possible example of a creative team taking full advantage of an event to tell an exciting story that spins out of the main series, but is not dependent on it. All too often writers resort to showing the actions of their individual characters between the panels of the main series, usually to boring or inconsequential effect.

Not only that, here they give the commander of the invading force a purpose and personality that most stories don’t bother to do, making me as a reader almost feel sad for him when it all goes wrong. Not everyone is immersed in the rhetoric of their government, some are just there to do their jobs and get paid.

Jason Aaron would obviously go on to be one of the central writers at Marvel, helming an event of his own in Original Sin (no comment). I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work that I’ve read, especially Wolverine and the X-Men. Jefte Palo I’m not as familiar with, but his art provided the perfect amount of dark and creepy for the story.

At first glance, most might dismiss this story on the surface as another event tie-in, but it’s probably my favorite Black Panther story yet. It’s short and sweet, with Black Panther at the peak of his highly competent abilities, the man always with a plan. It's brutal and violent, something I also tend to like, in the right context. And it's got lots of tough talk, which I also love. You’d be well served to seek it out for yourself.

Next time, the Black Panther love continues. Or doesn’t, who knows.

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