Black Panther Returns to ‘Fantastic Four’

Can Jonathan Hickman succeed in finally making T'Challa one of Marvel's top-tier characters?

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Fantastic Four #606

Fantastic Four and FF writer Jonathan Hickman has just completed a massive high-minded three-year epic about gods and alternate realities, and he put a pin in the whole thing by giving us a story about Ben Grimm so touching it'll make ya misty. Starting in May's Fantastic Four #606, Hickman is turning his sights on the Black Panther before he leaves the books toward the end of the year, hoping to take a crack at elevating his status from 'guy who can't sustain his own series' to 'top tier Marvel star.'

"“In the recent past the Panther's lost his throne and the country has seemingly lost its priceless resource [of Vibranium],” Hickman said to about the issue. “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.”

The loss of vibranium can be traced back to the Jonathan Maberry/Scot Eaton epic Doomwar, which also features Dr. Doom at his Doomy best, and drove T'Challa, the brilliant former regent of Wakanda (he is on the infamous list of eight smartest people in the Marvel Universe), to start following Doom's path of combining science and mysticism. All of these elements of T'Challa's character should put him right in Hickman's wheelhouse.

"I don't think that I'm pigeonholed as a writer," Hickman said, "but certain character types do seem to come easier for me. 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."

Still… why Reed thinks he's in Wakanda? Does that mean T'Challa has some surprise planned for him – like he did in his debut way back in 1966's Fantastic Four #52, when he attacked them to try and test his mettle? That is kind of what the recent Black Panther: Man Without Fear/Most Dangerous Man Alive series was about, after all. Or will it be based more on the stellar run of Black Panther Vol. 3 from the original incarnation of the Marvel Knights imprint?

“I absolutely love some chunks of what Christopher Priest did," Hickman says of that great series. "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.”

Considering the fact that Hickman will be writing part of Avengers vs. X-Men, and that T'Challa is an Avenger currently married to an X-Woman, could he be getting a huge launching pad as part of Marvel's massive 2012 event? Or does that mean when HIckman leaves FF, he'll be moving onto a new Black Panther solo series? We'll have to see, but we can hope.

And in May,we can buy Fantastic Four #606 and get a hint of how cool that solo series could turn out to be.


Fantastic Four #606