The fourth issue of Marvel Action: Black Panther takes a break from the established pattern of the Marvel Action series, and instead of starting a new story line that will go across three issues, acts as a stand alone piece.
The main plot for issue four centres around T’Challa taking part in Exchange Day, an event that comes around every 10 years in which the king of Wakanda secretly trades places with an average worker so that they can get a feel for what life is like within the nation. It’s basically Black Panther Undercover Boss.
T’Challa goes to work in the vibranium refinery, one of the more important industries in the whole country. Unfortunately, his visit there takes a turn for the worse when he discovers that one of the foremen is corrupt, and abusing his position to both torment the workers, and to steal vibranium.
There isn’t a huge amount of action in this issue, and the one fight that does ensue when T’Challa confronts the corrupt refinery workers is over pretty quickly. But then this isn’t really a story about a superhero. Instead, issue four focuses on the fact that T’Challa is first and foremost the ruler of a nation, and as such has bigger things to focus on than costumed crime-fighting.
However, the issue also makes T’Challa seem like something of a foolish king. He assumes that because he is living well then the rest of the country is. Yes, he knows that not everyone is living in a palace surrounded by wealth the way he and his family are, but he still believes that everyone has a good life. The refinery visit acts as something of a wake-up call for him, and makes him realise that there’s actually a lot more for him to learn and to be aware of.
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There’s not much more that can really be said about the issue, as there’s nothing here that feels like it’s going to be playing into any kind of larger story, or be part of any kind of long term character growth. The end of the issue seems to neatly wrap a bow around T’Challa having learnt from his experience, so it doesn’t seem that his continued change as a king will really come up again. It could be that the next story line will deal with social upheaval and the poorer classes rising up in protest against their ruler – but it just doesn’t feel like that’s the route the writer is going down.
This is the first issue to feature a new creative team, with Vita Ayala replacing Kyle Baker as writer, and Ariana Florean taking over art duties. Ayala has written for the character of Shuri in the past, so has some experience in the Black Panther toy box. And even though this issue didn’t excite me greatly, I’m very eager to see a black woman getting the chance to write these amazing black characters.