I’ve told friends before that I was taught to read by two people, my mother and Jim Shooter, the former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. I went from “Green Eggs and Ham” to Shooter’s penned “Secret Wars” in what feels like a mere month, and I’ve never looked back in regards to comic books. I love ‘em, always have, always will, even as my taste for the medium is in constant flux. I don’t exactly keep up with the hero books these days much outside of Catwoman, and occasionally playing catch up with Hellboy (a book I slept on for years). No, these days my taste leans heavily into science fiction with the likes of “Kapatara,” “Nameless” and “Negative Space” being a few trades I’ve read here recently and greatly appreciated.
However, I haven’t missed a single film yet released by Marvel Studios, not since its first major film in 1998 with “Blade” (still my personal favorite of all its output), so needless to say I was one of the true believers who trekked out to the multiplex this past weekend to see “Black Panther.” The first two screenings were sold out, but I managed to barely squeeze into the third, sitting among a family I didn’t know from Adam! The word was definitely out on “Black Panther.”
Now, without divulging any of the film’s secrets, apart from one tidbit later on, I’ll say this: Much like the accompanying album that was released ahead of the film by the incomparable Kendrick Lamar, the hype is real. The film is spectacular and truly rises above being just another building-crunching, superhuman slugfest that many of these films are (I’m looking at you, DC — Jesus fuckin’ Christ, get your act together, or get out of the game completely!)
With all the real-life horror being dished out by real-life supervillains sitting on the swivel chairs of power, “Black Panther” is exactly the type of positive escapism we need right now. The entire film radiates with passion both behind and in front of the camera, and it delivers the goods in new and exciting ways. And now for that tidbit, which really isn’t much of a spoiler — the idea I liked the most about the film, and it’s an idea that pumps blood throughout the entirety of the production, is how it sheds the tired concept of the lone, troubled hero, sitting in a dingy lair, brooding over some menace who is simply the other side of the same coin: Protagonist and antagonistic needing one another to have any sort of meaning in their otherwise meaningless existence. See, T’Challa relies heavily on his friends and family, especially his younger sister Shuri, the Q to his Bond, so to speak, to make his and their heroics work. They all need one another to keep their beloved country Wakanda safe and viable, and this idea makes the film more of an ensemble piece, with each character given enough space, depth and pathos for you to make a connection. And it was these connections that kept people cheering in their seats from start to finish.
Every single little kid, no scratch that, every single person moving out here in the wild of the day deserves to have a fantastical fictional hero they can relate to, root for and hope to aspire to. No single type of people should be allowed to tell all the stories all the time… fuck that. We need as many voices from as many different places spinning tales as much as possible. Growing up I despised school — I loathed it with all of my heart and soul, high school especially so. I detested the principal, found my teachers repugnant and even hated the lunch lady, because why not, and if not for comic books, music and genre films I would have gone mad and utterly lost my soul. I was saved by the likes of Peter Parker, Chow Yun-fat and the Wu-Tang Clan.
This shit is important. “Black Panther” is important — the kids whom it will no doubt inspire to create new stories and new adventures all their own are important!
“Black Panther” is a triumph, and I can’t wait for the next installment. Excelsior, indeed!