Directed by: Mark Brooks
Cast: Djimon Hounsou, Alfre Woodard
Lets shake things up a bit, move into new and unexplored frontiers, and battle beasts the like of which we have never seen! Lets go to American animation!
My benefactors at FanGirlTastic have graciously provided me with some material they would like me to review; among these is a cartoon series that aired on BET in January of last year: Black Panther. For those of you that don’t know, Black Panther is the first black superhero to appear in mainstream American comics, and made his debut in 1966 during the Silver Age of comic books. The BET series was animated in the motion comic style, and Black Panther himself was voiced by none other than Djimon Hounsou, of recent films such as Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Blood Diamond.
The plot is fairly typical of a super hero series. We’re first introduced with the history of Wakanda. Wakanda is an African country that has never been successfully invaded or defeated in war throughout its history, even when European powers were colonizing the continent. The entire globe is focused on getting into Wakanda for its advanced technology and abundance of natural resources, specifically Vibranium (an clever name for a rare mineral that absorbs vibrations), yet the Wakandans refuse to trade.
The Wakandans are led and protected by their leader, T’Challa, otherwise known by his title: Black Panther. However, a villainous mastermind sets to motion a scheme to overthrow Wakanda and get his revenge on Black Panther. Like I said, nothing special, but it has all the right ingredients for enjoyment. As far as I can tell, the plot follows pretty closely to several of the early Black Panther issues, of which I am unfortunately unfamiliar with.
So, while the plot is nothing stunning or innovative for the genre, it does surprisingly well with paying homage to the comics and developing the back story. Many cameos are made, including Captain America, Wolverine, and Storm, as well as a bit character voiced by Stan Lee (because a Marvel adaptation is nothing without The Man). In the short amount of time given to develop the story, the show managed to fit in the history of Wakanda, the legend of the Black Panther, the romance between T’Challa and Storm (though a bit flat), and carry out the main plot, even leaving it open for a sequel. Despite the unlikeliness of a sequel at this point, the story arc given is satisfying enough and appropriate for this six episode series.
The last big hit or miss for the series would be the direction they chose to go in with the art. As I said earlier, Black Panther utilizes the motion animation style, which makes it appear as if you’re literally watching the comic book read itself. There are many criticisms of this style; many critics find it to be cheaply done if not performed right, which has been the case for many shows, such as with The Astonishing X-Men. However, the BET’s Black Panther really manages to achieve the perfect blend of motion animation and traditional animation to make more comfortable to view. The characters designs are more fluid, yet still reminiscent of the comic style, and of old fashion cartoons.
In conclusion, Black Panther is a pretty decent animated series. It’s as corny as you’d expect the average superhero story to be, yet it still retains that Marvel touch of humanity that made characters like Spiderman and Wolverine famous. It does an excellent job with the animation, in my opinion, and that really was the make-it or break-it factor for an adaptation such as this. I personally enjoyed watching it, so I’m going to rate it a 6/10 for being a fun watch, and great eye candy. I recommend this to fans of the Black Panther, or Marvel in general, and those who enjoy quality motion animation.