Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Black Panther: Cap vs. T'Chaka

One of the hot-button topics of Hudlin's series has been the Captain America/Black Panther fight that was related in #1. It's a very well-drawn two-page spread by JRJR, but it has caused a lot of consernation among fans.

Way back during the "DC vs. Marvel" crossover, fans were asked who should win in a fight between Cap and Batman. That was when I was first exposed to the (apparently commonplace) Marvel belief that Cap is nigh-unbeatable. 'Captain America being bested by Batman? That's absurd!' I suspect it's that approach to Cap that accounts for some objections to that two-page spread. I'm primarily a DC boy myself, and I have no particular love of Captain America (I stand among the few who preferred Liefeld's eagle on the cowl to the 'A'), so I really don't care about how he performs.

But it's that final image that irks me:

That shot of T'Chaka carrying away Steve on his shoulder. It doesn't irk me because of what it says about Cap's fighting skills. After all, it's been pointed out that this is a fairly young Steve going up against an experienced fighter. Rather, it irks me because of what it says about T'Chaka and Cap as people.

The Cap/T'Chaka fight was first shown a few years ago in Black Panther #30, one of the best issues of the last BP series. The issue starts mid-fight, as the two duke it out. Cap tells his men that he suspects this fight is "an informal greeting. If they wanted to kill us, we'd be dead already." The two approach a momentary draw, with each man holding the other in a precarious position, and Cap offers to settle their dispute in a less violent manner. T'Chaka then calls off all his men (who had Cap's forces greatly outnumbered), and proceeds to talk with Cap. In their conversation, T'Chaka proves both his intellect (by speaking several languages) and his capacity as a national leader (by showing how well informed he is about WWII). He negotiates with Cap over what Steve wants from Wakanda, and finally offers him the chance to come, alone, to the capital city.

When there, T'Chaka, sitting on his throne, asks Cap to again prove why he, an outsider, should be trusted. And Cap's response not only earns T'Chaka's trust, but his friendship as well. The scene actually ends with T'Chaka laughing and declaring just that.

Later in the issue, we see Cap telling T'Challa about his friendship with his father, and how he hopes he has the same relationship with the son.

There's so much about this portrayal that I liked. It shows a Captain America who is willing to settle his battles with diplomacy rather than violence. It shows a T'Chaka who is highly intelligent and informed, wary of the outside world, but willing to trust one man on his own terms. It shows Cap being simple and honest, and it shows T'Chaka being open and regal. Cap puts his faith and trust in T'Chaka by going alone to the city (while leaving his men behind), and T'Chaka puts his trust in Cap by offering him vibranium. Simply put, it shows them both to be good men, and it ends with a newfound friendship.

I get none of that in this new version. Instead of negotiation and invitation, we get T'Chaka toting off Cap on his shoulder like a game animal. Cap ends up looking like a fool, and T'Chaka like a jerk. Neither comes off looking as intelligent as before, and it ends with very little promise of friendship.

In short, it took the first meeting of Captain America and the Black Panther, stripped it of virtually everything I liked about their meeting, and added nothing in return. It was the new relationship, not the physical fight, that made the original story so good and memorable. But Hudlin took a several-page encounter, most of which was the two characters dealing with each other diplomatically and intelligently, and summed it up as "T'Chaka fought Cap and whupped him." I can't speak for everyone, but that's why I didn't the scene.


At 4:23 PM, Blogger Woody! said...

Yeah, this is one of the reasons I didn't pick up this new series. I just had a feeling that it would poop on stories that were relatively fresh for no discernable reason. Like you said, the first story was really good. Why go there again if you can't improve on it?

At 8:01 PM, Blogger heroictimes said...

I haven't checked out the Hudlin series yet (working on it), but yeah definitely following up Priest's run is not going to be easy for anyone.

You do good reviews, keep em coming.

At 11:30 PM, Blogger Carl said...

I loved it. This is a more realistic view of the times (Both were roughly the same age).Cap was sent to take vib from Wakanda. Cap was neither diplomat or great military mind in WWII. Also, Cap's "he suspects this fight is "an informal greeting" is a view consistent with the racism of those times. So, no Cap would only have spoken to T'Chaka as an equal only after he lost. T'Chaka knew of how the world of WWII treated people like him. Finally, T'Chaka would've known that you don't send a military unit into a country for diplomacy. So, what you were talking about is not logical thinking for now or then.

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