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Black Panther: “The Client” (Marvel Comics, 1998 #1-5)

This is the story of the devil’s pants*.

The Black Panther is in New York to seek justice for the death of a Wakandan girl. Serving as his liaison to the State Department is the pantsless Everett K. Ross, the self-proclaimed whitest man alive. While T’Challa chases down gang members and corrupt officials, Ross makes small talk with the devil.

Christopher Priest’s first Black Panther arc is funnier than I expected it to be, despite T’Challa dealing with serious issues like the death of a child and political upheaval in Wakanda. He manages this by letting the ineffectual, seemingly incompetent Ross narrate the events of the Black Panther’s visit by briefing** his boss. This also gives Priest room to play with narrative structure, teasing beats ahead of time or jumping backwards in the story to fill in gaps.

The art team’s work is grimy (in a good way!) and shadowy. Scenes of the Black Panther prowling the streets have a Batman-esque feel to them. While some of that comes from the writing, the art reinforces that perception (which may be a product of Ross’s secondhand recounting of T’Challa’s hunt). Overall, I like the stylized, almost noir vibe the book’s art has; however, I did bump into some of the ridiculous ‘90s physiques on characters and the occasional panel where Everett Ross looks like he's twelve years old.

If you’re interested in Black Panther and looking for a take that is less heady than the (excellent) current ongoing, take a look at Priest’s run. It does still have a fairly complicated narrative structure. It’s not unlike his current work on Deathstroke, but with heavier narration and a more fractured timeline. I like it a lot, but if wordy books that jump around in their storytelling aren’t your jam, you might have trouble getting into this run.

*I personally believe that all pants are of the devil, and I appreciate The Unstoppable Wasp #2 for putting pants on blast.

**This bit of wordplay is a happy accident.

Collected in

  • Black Panther, Vol. 1: The Client (#1-5)
  • Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 (#1-17)


Writer: Christopher Priest | Artists: Mark Texeira, Vince Evans, Alitha Martinez | Colorists: Brian Haberlin, Avalon Color | Letterers: RS, Comicraft’s Siobha Hanna, Wes Abbot | Editors: Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti, Nanci Dakesian

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