Black Panther – DVD Review

Superhero comics were a rather white club for decades. Even when the good character came from another planet or deep under the waves, they were rather light skinned. That all changed in 1966 when the Black Panther met up with the Fantastic Four. He conquered newsstands months before the arrival of the Black Panther Party. The character didn’t quite have the same success as other Marvel stars because of the name issue, but he wound up coming and going over the decades with a steady cult of fans. Reginald Hudlin (director of House Party) took over writing the character in 2005. The first six issues were put into motion by Marvel Knights Animation for Black Panther.

Wakanda has always been a place of interest. During World War II, Axis and Allies wanted this African Kingdom. But none could defeat this land’s people or its ultimate protector: Black Panther. Even Captain America was defeated by the native hero. Over a half century later, the land is still envied: This time for a revolutionary power source. Can an aging Black Panther fight off another attack?

Unfortunately he’s dead, thus a great athletic competition is held with the winner wearing the uniform to protect his tribe. Luckily for all the winner is T’Challa, the son of the previous Black Panther. His first job is to worry about Klaw, the man who killed his father. Turns out Klaw’s returning with an army of super-villain commandos to take Wakanda by force. Over the course of six-episodes, Black Panther battles it out with these explosive characters. Luckily he gets a little help from African resident Storm (from the X-Men).

Unlike Marvel’s earlier Saturday morning TV shows, Black Panther uses the original artwork done by John Romita, Jr. This isn’t simplified limited animation techniques commonly used. His shading and character design is part of the image. The big difference between this and previous Marvel Knights productions is that there’s more than what was on the page. BET had greenlit the production so each episode needed to be twice the length of the previous Marvel Knights projects. Hudlin added more subplots and brought in Storm from the X-Men to fatten up the comic books. The additions work for the series. Benin’s Djmon Hounsou (Gladiator) lends a true African voice to Black Panther. He should play the role if it goes live action. Jill Scott does a better job as Storm’s voice than Halle Berry.

For some mysterious reason BET ultimately passed on airing Black Panther as a series. Why? The series is far from a mess. Perhaps it didn’t mix well with constant reruns of The Game, The Jamie Foxx Show and The Bernie Mac Show. This would have fared better on Adult Swim where viewers don’t need traditional motion animation to be entertained. Fans eager to see the show after years promotion can now watch it at home without fruitlessly checking their cable listings. Black Panther should have lasted longer than six episodes.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The detail of the artwork comes out in the transfer. The audio is Dolby Stereo 2.0. The voices sound fine along with the audio effects.

Music Video (2:35) puts the theme song to clips from the series.

Trailer (2:08) sets up the superhero and the action.

Looking Back At Black Panther with Reginald Hudlin (15:29) lets him explain how he went from live action director to comic book writer thanks to a belief in storyboards.

Black Panther keeps up the action from Africa. He battles to save his city and establish himself as a full time Marvel superhero. The six episodes show that the comic book could have done well as a full time series.

Shout! Factory presents Black Panther. Starring: Djimon Hounsou, Alfre Woodard, Jill Scott and Stan Lee. Boxset Contents: 6 episodes on 1 DVD. Released on DVD: January 18, 2011.

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