Fantastic Four: Return of the Panther

Fantastic Four: Return of the Panther

By Jim Beard

Since his debut in the classic FANTASTIC FOUR #52, The Black Panther has roamed free and far to become an integral part of the larger Marvel Universe. He returned to his original hunting grounds to actually join the FF in FANTASTIC FOUR #544, but has rarely been spotted in the legendary title since then.

Fantastic Four #605 preview art by Ron Garney

Now, the ex-King of Wakanda once again prowls those pages in FANTASTIC FOUR #606, due out May 23, and Marvel’s First Family may never be the same again. It all revolves around the worldwide lack of a certain precious metal found only in Wakanda.

“In the recent past the Panther's lost his throne and the country has seemingly lost its priceless resource [of Vibranium],” notes writer Jonathan Hickman. “Which is one of the reasons Reed Richards thinks he's there [in Wakanda].
“Reed and the rest of the FF will get the appropriate reception that a life-long friend, intellectual peer and habitual heroes would receive.”

Hickman counts himself as a fan of T’Challa and looks forward to spotlighting him. He also notes that despite the character’s long history and royal pedigree, there’s still room to make him even cooler.

“I don't think that I'm pigeonholed as a writer, but certain character types do seem to come easier for me,” he points out. “Smart dudes who happen to be kings who happen to have storied legacies who happen to rule secret science cities seems to be one
of them.

Fantastic Four #606 cover by Mike Choi

“I absolutely love some chunks of what Christopher Priest did [with The Black Panther]. I thought Jason Aaron did strong work on his Secret Invasion issues. Heck, I can go through and pick out good things that everyone who's worked on the character has done. Certainly Reginald Hudlin, who set up most of the current status quo, and certainly David Liss, who just wrapped up the most recent run. But if you exclude the Silver and Bronze Age stuff—which, for me, was really a dissimilar time with wildly different expectations and parameters—and look only at modern runs of Black Panther appearances, it's obvious that we haven't nailed it like we want to.  By that, I mean the Black Panther should be huge, one of our bigger characters. Hopefully everything we're planning for this year can result in us achieving that.”

The writer’s intense, epic-scale work on FANTASTIC FOUR has involved many monarchs and other royal-type folk in his War of Four Cities and Forever stories, so one might wonder how he feels The Black Panther stacks up against such personages.

“Equally impressive,” he assures us. “Equally as important, if not more because of where we are headed.”

And in terms of what FANTASTIC FOUR readers might expect from the book after T’Challa’s long-overdue return?

“Oh, just fun stuff,” Hickman teases. “Think of it like spending time with friends before you have to say goodbye.”

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