This week Black Panther gets an updated origin story in time for his new movie, and Snagglepuss gets a major reimagining in Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles!
Rise of the Black Panther #1 (of 6) (Marvel Comics)
With a brand new movie coming out in just under a month, it’s no surprise that Marvel would put out a new Black Panther origin comic. But what makes Rise of the Black Panther stand out is the fact that it’s written by current Black Panther writer Ta-Nehisi Coates with an assist from journalist Evan Narcisse, which allows them to work in aspects of Coates’ run into the story of T’Challa’s rise to becoming the King of Wakanda. While this may not be a necessary read for fans of the character, if you need a refresher on T’Challa and his world, Rise is a great read.
Much of this issue focuses on T’Challa’s father and his time as the Black Panther, which is pretty interesting and lays the necessary groundwork for how the country of Wakanda fits into the rest of the Marvel Universe. As far as the rest of the issue, Coates definitely hits all the major beats for T’Challa’s origin, so going over the plot for this issue is probably moot (it would be like me reading off the Wikipedia page for Black Panther). But like the ongoing series, Coates’ love of comics and the character is in full effect with this issue. While I thought Coates needed some plotting work when he first started with Black Panther, it’s clear that he’s found his stride now, and I’d argue that he’s the first writer to really get Black Panther and the world of Wakanda as a whole. The fact that he’s teamed up with Evan Narcisse (in his first comics work) shouldn’t be a cause for alarm, as I couldn’t find any noticeable difference in the two’s writing styles.
While regular Black Panther artist Brian Stelfreeze is unfortunately no where to be found here, Paul Renaud’s art is a great replacement. Renaud’s smooth style works perfectly with this script, and he gives T’Challa and his world the regalness it requires. There’s not a whole lot of action to be found in this first issue, but I’m sure that when it does come, Renaud will be able to deliver.
While Rise of the Black Panther doesn’t cover any new ground, it’s a great refresher into Black Panther’s world to get you ready for the upcoming movie. If you’ve been curious about the character but didn’t want to jump into his ongoing series, this is the perfect book to try out. At the very least, you’ll know more about the character before the movie hits.
Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (DC Comics)
The latest in their Hannah-Barbera revamps, Exit Stage Left: the Snagglepuss Chronicles has already started kicking up controversy. Taking place in the 1950s, the new series reimagines the pink cartoon cat as a gay southern playwright who must navigate the conservative aspects of the times. As one of the major literary stars of his time, there are a lot of eyes on Snagglepuss, but amazingly his secret remains. Until the government, in full on “Red Scare” mode, starts looking into the entertainment industry and finds pictures of Snagglepuss entering gay bars. Can he keep his secret and his career in tact?
Despite taking place in the 1950’s, Exit Stage Left definitely has a lot of modern themes in its pages. From a worry over Russian involvement in American politics to fear of the government hunting people with alternative lifestyles, writer Mark Russell fills Exit with some really powerful and meaningful themes, much more than I was anticipating if I’m being honest. I had no expectations when I started reading this comic, but I got to admit, this is a pretty ballsy book for DC to be publishing now, and it’s pretty cool of them to do it.
Mike Feehan handles the art on this series, and it’s pretty solid. His pseudo-realistic take on Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound are a little jarring at first, but it works well for the story and Russell are telling. Feehan even has some fun with the art, allowing some pretty hilarious sight gags whenever we see Snagglepuss’ play being acted out.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Exit Stage Left, but I was pretty impressed by this first issue. It’s certainly one of the most unique comics that DC has put out in the past few years, and stands to be one of the better books in their Hannah-Barbera imprint. If you’re looking for a historical fiction comic that stars a gay cat, or even something a little different from your typical superhero fare, then Exit Stage Left is definitely the book for you.