Black History Month 21: Bad Mutha

February 21st, 2008 by | Tags: , , , ,

art from marvel comics’s black panther. art by mike deodato.
The problem with Reggie Hudlin is that Christopher Priest ruined Black Panther.

I don’t mean “ruined” in a negative way. Priest had a ridiculously fun run and I’ve enjoyed Hudlin’s run. But, following up Priest on that book is kind of like following up Grant Morrison on Doom Patrol. When you make a book so thoroughly yours, you make it hard on anyone else who steps up to bat.

I think that Reggie Hudlin knew this, so he delivered a Panther that’s different from Priest’s. Where Priest worked the intrigue angle hard, Hudlin is working on a straightforward superheroic action movie. They’re two books that couldn’t be more different, and I kind of like that.

Reggie Hudlin isn’t afraid to try new things, either. Panther marrying Storm, a Luke Cage/Black Panther buddy movie, Skrull Civil Rights leaders, and all kinds of fun things have riddled his run. There are a few subplots going on (remember those?), but the A plots tend to be fun rides where the Panther gets to show off (or be in the wrong!) and things blow up.

I like that a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love Priest’s Panther, but I think that Hudlin’s Panther is also very fun to read. If Priest hadn’t taken Panther on a different (not better, not worse, different) path, Hudlin’s Panther wouldn’t catch half the flak it does. There’s an expectation for a book starring the Panther now, and it’s one that Hudlin has only flirted with so far.

So, I come not to bury Reggie Hudlin, but to praise him. He’s writing a book that is aimed almost directly at the black comics reader, and I don’t think that that helps the reviews any. It took me a minute, but once Hudlin wrote the issue that began with Luke Cage thinking about what the Panther means to him, I realized exactly what he was doing.

It’s a Marvel Comic book with a black american slant. Call it a black male power fantasy if you like. It’s Hudlin drawing a line in the ground and going “Here we are. We have always been here. We are just as awesome, just as capable, and just as fun as those other guys.”

I think that Hudlin’s Panther is a fun book to have out there. It serves a good purpose, even if that purpose is just “Watch Panther fight people for 22 pages.” I’d like to think that this is a book that has appeal outside of the usual spandex demographic. I’m still buying it, which is kind of a big deal for me since I don’t like floppies much. The latest arc, with the Kirby frogs and the Skrull gangsters and Malcolm X and all was fun. Just loud, bright comics about an awesome dude doing awesome things.

There are two Black Panthers. I love both of them.

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8 comments to “Black History Month 21: Bad Mutha”

  1. Nice article. You’ve inspired me to give Hudlin’s Panther another chance. I think I’m one of those people who was so attached to Priest’s interpretation of the character that it ruined me for Hudlin’s version. Congrats, by the way.

  2. I can only hope that you’re saving one of these 29 days for an ode to Flippa Dippa. I’ve been obsessed with that character ever since I started picking up the 4thworld omnibi. Just imagine not only being the smartest and most capable member of the Newsboy Legion, but also getting to run around in rad scuba gear. Just imagine!

  3. I liked House Party 1 ok,
    However, I did not enjoy:

    House Party 2 & 3, Boomerang, Serving Sara, The Boondocks, Ladies Man, Bébé’s Kids, The Great White Hype, or pretty much anything else Hudlin has been involved with has been pretty damn disappointing.

    The funny thing is, I always think, that was weird and not very good, oh hey! there’s Hudlin’s name, I don’t go out avoiding him or anything. I felt that the first 6 issues or so that I read of hudlin’s run were bland, uninspired and showed a lack of understanding of the medium of comics itself.

    My problem with Hudlin, is that he always takes the easy way out. He takes the easy joke 99% of the time, whether it’s making fun of grace jones as a ‘crazy sex crased’ person, the jokes on the boondocks or the bernie mack show, or taking the Panther into relatively boring/safe superhero tropes, I’m never surprised, and often feel bored or frustrated.

    I’m not a Hudlin fan.

  4. Jamaal: Try the last year or so of BP comics, or the Bad Mutha arc. Hudlin really hit his stride post-Civil War, where Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm guest-starred. He starts bringing in King Solomon’s Frogs and all these old references and it’s a neat package.

    zero d: How could I leave Lil’ Flip out in the cold? I got you covered.

  5. Any chance there’ll be some love for Lobo? The Black one, not the KISS one.

  6. I don’t think so, West. I’ve got a post planned that I can fit him into, but I’d have to find scans of his comic first. No way will I be able to find actual issues.

  7. Joe,

    I think that movies like Boomerang and The Great White Hype (or even the second House Party movie) are best analyzed through the prism of black (or any other minority) cinema. The triumph of those films lies in a vision of a black middle (and upper) class that was absent from mainstream cinema.

    I’ll definitely check those out.

  8. I was never a fan of Hudlin’s BP… except for the “Bad Mutha” arc. THAT was fun, funny, everything that’s good about Hudlin’s take on the character is in those four issues.