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Review: Black Panther and The Crew #1

BlackPantherCrew.jpgEven though most of Black Panther and The Crew #1 is spent in the Harlem of the 1950s and Black Panther doesn’t even show up, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ thoughts and ideas squarely fit in 2017. (Also, a team of black vigilantes beating up mafiosos in 1954 is pretty awesome.) An activist named Ezra Keith was arrested after protesting gentrification and ended up dead in police custody, and Misty Knight must investigate his murder while coming to terms with being a “good cop” in a world where brutality and cover ups are the norm. The twist is that Keith was Lynx, the leader of that earlier mentioned vigilante team, and Coates, artists Butch Guice and Scott Hanna, and colorist Dan Brown are off to tell a Harlem superhero/crime yarn that spans decades.

Coates does a little point/counterpoint with his writing of Misty Knight and Blue with Misty being more sympathetic towards police officers while Blue leans more towards the protesters’ POV. They end up somehow making a great team. I like how open he was about Misty’s bias because she is a police detective herself even though the presence of the fascist Robocop wannabe Americops makes the veteran superhero’s defense of the system come across as naive. She even starts by pulling her punches against the Americops when they confront her and Blue for missing their curfew before Guice and Hanna show her kicking ass in a flurry of sparks and kicks ass like the Daughter of Dragon that we know she is.

Misty’s sympathetic point of view towards the police comes off better in a scene where she talks to a correction officer who is badly and doesn’t appeal to some idealistic view of justice, but just doing his job well. Guice and Hanna do a great job blocking panels having Misty move closer to the guard because they both understand the tough reality of fighting for justice and keeping a job to pay the bills when corruption is everywhere. She comes off better as the constantly questioning detective than being aTheCrewInterior mouthpiece for respectability politics or a borderline “Blue Lives Matter” advocate. (There’s a scene where she says that police need more credit for making Harlem a better place.) It seems like her becoming an active part of resisting society’s corruption will be part of her arc in Black Panther and The Crew as she interacts with characters like Blue and the other superheroes set to appear in this comic.

Butch Guice and Scott Hanna’s art in Black Panther and The Crew #1 is pretty fantastic at seamlessly transitioning from the past to present Harlem and showing character’s emotions in a more effective way than Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bombardment of caption boxes. The examples of their skill are numerous from Misty rolling her eyes about a police cover-up to an intense expression from Blue’s friend Ava-Jean that nails his passion for his justice even though he barely appears in the comic. And their drawings of the 1954 members of The Crew are just pure fun and old school superhero nostalgia with Coates’ captions feeling like Stan Lee’s carnival barker act, but cooler.

Other than Ta-Nehisi Coates’ characterization of Misty Knight, Black Panther and the Crew #1 is a knock-out combination of a generation-spanning murder mystery, ripped from the headlines thoughts about police brutality and capitalist systems,  and eventually superhero team-up action. It’s worth thumbing or clicking through again just for Butch Guice and Scott Hanna’s gift with faces and action choreography alone.

Story: Ta-Nehisi Coates Pencils: Butch Guice Inks: Scott Hanna Colors: Dan Brown
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review