BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW #4
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates & Yona Harvey
Penciller: Butch Guice
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Dan Brown
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Release Date: 7/12/17
Things just got personal for Luke Cage. An attack pulls Luke into the mystery and we learn about his history with Ezra.
Plot: After an attack, another one of Harlem’s heroes joins the hunt to find out who killed Ezra. Misty Knight and Luke Cage try to get to the bottom of what evil forces are at work while running into an old enemy. Meanwhile, Ororo and T’Challa explore the link between Ezra and Wakanda.
Story: After being promised an entire crew, we actually get one in Black Panther and the Crew #4. Well, not all together in the same room, but I’ll take what I can get considering this book is set to end after #6.
Waiting to unite the Crew is a smart move by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey, since the pairings of Storm and T’Challa and Luke and Misty have a lot of chemistry on their own. In a book often filled with heavy subjects, the lighter moments provided by their interactions are a great reprieve (Ororo mentions T’Challa’s singing; Luke advises Misty on her burgeoning romance with Sam).
In the rest of the book, Coates and Harvey pull no punches in reminding the readers that while the present-day enemy might be Hydra there is another villain lurking in the shadows: inequality. Lengthy discussions on whether justice is truly blind grounds the story in issues of race and police brutality explored in Black Panther and the Crew #1.
For the most part, these explorations provide a powerful comic reading experience. Luke’s metaphor for the cage, meaning both prison and oppression, gives him a strong first showing.
However, by exploring the parallels of then and now, the story can feel spread thin. We still don’t know much about Ezra and it feels like his ties to Wakanda were just an excuse to bring Ororo and T’Challa back together. And the introduction of Hydra as the villain feels out of left-field and like a feeble attempt to try to make this book more than just a good mystery set in Harlem so it can connect to even more of the Marvel Universe. Luke Cage says it best:
Art: While I’ve said this about previous issues, the art in this book is very muted. In some cases, like for action sequences, this leaves the reader feeling a little underwhelmed. However, when looking at this book as a detective/drama the art makes more sense. Butch Guice and Scott Hanna’s style of character expression feels very natural and grounded in the real emotions the book explores. Maybe the action scenes aren’t blockbuster, but they portray the violence of a city at unrest like they’re drawing it right out of a newsreel.
Dan Brown’s colors complement the grounded feel, sticking to a more muted palette from the brownstones of Harlem to the blue glass skyscrapers of downtown. The scenes set in the South feel distinct from the city scenes because they have a deeper saturation of color that a rural area would have.
The panels set in the South also use color beautifully to create a cloudy night. This effect is easily the stand-out element of the issue’s art.
Verdict: While it’s not entirely fair to judge the story against the six-issue run since it was intended to run longer, it’s easy to begin worrying that fans who have invested their time aren’t going to get many answers. Not only have the writers set up the current day mystery of why Hydra is working in Harlem and whether their plans are a lot more sinister than gentrification, there seems to be a lot more left of Ezra’s past to unravel.
The story continues to be a strong mystery, but the slow pacing feels a little too slow this far into the series.