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How Does the BLACK PANTHER Animated Series Hold Up?

How Does the BLACK PANTHER Animated Series Hold Up?

Thanks to the blockbuster success of the feature film, Black Panther has never been more popular than he is now. However, Marvel laid the groundwork for T’Challa’s newfound A-list status nearly a decade ago with a short-lived animated series on BET. Now, all six episodes of Black Panther have been posted on Marvel’s YouTube channel, and it’s time to revisit the series to see if it holds up after eight years.

The first thing you may have noticed is that Black Panther is not a true animated series. It’s more of a motion comic, with limited animation added to the artwork of John Romita, Jr. and a story written by Reginald Hudlin for the Black Panther comic in 2005. Hudlin executive produced and developed this adaptation. In terms of historical significance within the Marvel universe, this is the story that introduced Princess Shuri. Prior to this tale, T’Challa had no biological siblings.

Unfortunately, the source material is not very strong and Romita’s style doesn’t easily lend itself to animation. In his attempt to modernize the Black Panther’s origin, Hudlin treats the citizens of Wakanda as if they were shallow enough to treat challenges to throne as UFC style televised events. The dialogue is also lacking, and very few of the supporting characters come off well.

It’s unfortunate that the writing doesn’t live up to the show’s stellar cast, which includes Djimon Hounsou as T’Challa/Black Panther, Kerry Washington as Shuri, Alfre Woodard as Dondi Reese and Queen Mother Ramonda, Phil LaMarr as T’Shan, and Jill Scott as Storm. The performers made this series much more enjoyable and the music was also well chosen. Those are the most compelling reasons to watch.

With better animation and stronger writing, this incarnation of Black Panther could have been one of the best animated Marvel series. Instead, it falls far short of a classic. If anything, it demonstrates that Marvel should have enough faith in the character to pursue a full animated series instead of simply repackaging the comic. The good news is that Marvel doesn’t have to make the same mistake again. There’s a proven demand for Black Panther’s adventures, and the time is right for a new animated series. Don’t be too surprised if Marvel announces a solo Black Panther cartoon within the next year or so. It’s long overdue.

What do you think about the first Black Panther animated series? Let us know in the comment section below!

Images: Marvel/Disney-ABC TV

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