It’s just been announced that T’Challa, the Black Panther, King of Wakanda, is going to become the new Man Without Fear protecting Hell’s Kitchen. This turn of events will transpire after the Shadowland event centering around Daredevil becoming the leader of the, usually evil, ninja cult The Hand.
Andy Diggle has penned the Daredevil title, and event, for the past year and has taken Daredevil down a dark path. Daredevil was lounging on the wrong side of the law, but then he killed his long-time nemesis, Bullseye. This transgression caused Matt Murdock’s soul to be opened up for takeover by nefarious Hand demon, the Beast. It would seem that with this sort of villainy owning Daredevil’s soul and actions, he will be given a rest from his title for an undisclosed amount of time and T’Challa will take over.
First of all, this isn’t the first time a series from Marvel has gone through a set of events and then had the title character absent. Ed Brubaker killed Captain America and was able to make the title survive a long time with no Cap at all and then later introduced a new character behind the shield, Cap’s old war buddy, Bucky. There was also the time after World War Hulk that we were given The Incredible Hercules. In both cases, these series garnered much fan and critical reception as being very good comics. Many might not have thought either Hercules or Bucky would be top choices to hold down an ongoing title, but they each managed the feat for some time. Though Black Panther generally doesn’t set the sales chart aflame with his own ongoing, there is a fair chance that he might be able to keep Daredevil’s numbers, or something close to them.
Taking Matt Murdock off the table is a pretty good idea and is about all that is left to do with him after murder and Hand possession. Murdock was not under the influence when he took the life of his foe Bullseye and so even once he distances himself from the Hand I can’t see how he can simply integrate back into life with his friends and job. Rather than see some awkward situations, I’d much prefer to just have Murdock disappear for a while. Remove him from the picture and give readers and characters alike some time to get over the shock and aftermath. Daredevil, as a comic, needs some levity time to have a good lead, someone we can believe in, and having someone else instead of Murdock offers that perfect opportunity.
Why Black Panther? It seemed that Marvel was pretty serious in their desire to replace Murdock as the protector of Hell’s Kitchen and I thought it was a good idea. With that in mind, I started wondering/hoping about who might become the New Man Without Fear. I had a few suggestions that I would have put forward as my choices but you have to look at whom you would choose AND why. If Murdock, a man who has been protecting Hell’s Kitchen since 1964, is going to be replaced as the Man Without Fear, then you need to select someone worthy of replacing him. During Brubaker’s run, Murdock was in jail and so Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist, stepped into the Daredevil role, but did it to make people think Murdock never was Daredevil. Rand was doing his best to be the Daredevil that we already know. As much as I’d love Rand to step back into the role, and he could due to his lack of an ongoing series right now, I think the new Man Without Fear needs to offer us something different in the role, otherwise there’s really no point in changing. Hercules was certainly not the Hulk and Bucky’s Cap had enough differences from the original to make things different.
I would have liked to see Carlos LaMuerto, the Black Tarantula, become the new Man Without Fear, and having him do so seemed like it could have been an organic choice. He’s worked with Murdock since his incarceration and he joined the Hand along with him. With Murdock’s fall, Tarantula could pick up the mantle and offer Hell’s Kitchen a slightly more brutal, formidable, and imposing protector in the darkness of their streets. I like Tarantula as a character as he’s a former bad guy trying to go good but still feels that harsh justice is still the best. While this might have been a new tact a few years back, it seems his ways are too similar to the new Murdock and so the change would not be as dramatic.
Elektra seemed to me to be another good choice to become the new (Wo)Man Without Fear. She has a long-standing history with Murdock as his lover and foe at different times. She is certainly skilled enough to be able to protect the streets and herself and she’s also a hero in need of some rock solid redemption. I think Elektra’s assassin past might make her a little similar to the Daredevil we have now, much as Black Tarantula wouldn’t be a shock either. To swap in Elektra, as we know her, in the title without fear is not going to give us much of a new title. With Daredevil having just gotten so dark lately we need a different direction for the series and these two characters simply act too tough to be the right choice for the new replacement.
Other Marvel teaser posters showed a variety of characters in the role of the new Man Without Fear and each brought some level of interest. We had Nova, Kraven, Gambit, and The Falcon as our other options. Though each could be interesting in their own right, it seems that Marvel have finally indicated that the other option has been taken; the Black Panther will be our new Man Without Fear, which brings me to the point of why T’Challa would have been chosen. T’Challa is king of his African country, Wakanda, and there he has complete control, advanced technology, and an army willing to serve next to him, though he rarely needs them. His country has never lost a war and why he would want to travel to Hell’s Kitchen and take up the role vacated by Murdock is anyone’s guess, but I think it’s a pretty good move. Black Panther is an interesting character, there’s no doubting that, and he’s a noble man. He will do what needs to be done, sure, but he will do so with style. He’s a king and acts as such. This will be a completely different regime for Hell’s Kitchen once he kicks off. And I certainly think it’ll be one worth keeping an eye on.
Having this new title, Black Panther: Man Without Fear, continue the old Daredevil numbering and thus start on issue #513 is actually a pretty slick move and one that should aid sales. Most Daredevil readers will hopefully be more inclined to continue to pick up the title and we can only hope any new people interested in trying will jump on anyway.
The new character change will also herald in a fresh creative team. David Liss is going to write the series; his only work that has been mentioned in comics is the Daring Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special that got around Marvel a while ago. I haven’t read a single word of this guy’s work but I’m more than willing to take a chance with him. Then there’s the art, a massive sell because it’ll be completed by one of my current favourites, Francesco Francavilla. Francavilla appears to be double booked with a Commissioner Gordon back up in Scott Snyder’s upcoming Detective Comics run but I’m sure he can make time to do this as well. He’s a phenomenal artist who should be able to make the vibe of Hell’s Kitchen drip off every page. I am looking forward to seeing his work on a comic already in my pull list.
If Liss and Francavilla are working on this series then it makes me wonder what will happen with the relationship between Andy Diggle and Daredevil. Diggle took over Daredevil from Ed Brubaker and the hand off was given just as Murdock took the reins of the Hand. That was about a year ago and Diggle has turned Daredevil into quite a different character. Through this Shadowland event, with Murdock killing and every hero with any connection trying to take him down, it feels like he’s painted himself into a corner. Diggle has stated that he’s glad he’s going to be able to end this event in the same way that he pitched it, so it makes me wonder; did Diggle’s pitch take Murdock through all of this to end after Shadowland and make way for a new era? Is this what Diggle wanted and now he’s out and Liss is in?
There is going to also be a mini series titled Daredevil: Reborn that Diggle will pen, but any news after that has not yet been released. Perhaps Murdock will continue elsewhere and Liss has been given T’Challa but Murdock will come back with Diggle later, we don’t know. I, for one, kind of hope that Diggle is done. His run on Daredevil has been one of the weakest in a long time and the entire Shadowland fiasco, which maybe hasn’t been the worst event ever, but it certainly hasn’t been great, has really felt a lot like some of the old ’90s Daredevil storylines. Shadowland even goes so far as to reference a clandestine sub-set within the Hand known as Snakeroot that were created in the ’90s. I honestly don’t feel that Diggle has done anything worth remembering on Daredevil, and if his reign ends now then I won’t be too worried about it. I would honestly be happier to take my chances with Liss than I would be to continue with Diggle. It seems that most of the good in the last year on Daredevil has come when Diggle has co-written with Antony Johnston, so I’m not sure why he hasn’t been given more of a run with the character, aside from writing solo on the Cage Match one-shot and the upcoming After The Fall one-shot.
I’d like to think that the Black Panther introduction to this series is going to offer up a new perspective and make for some good storytelling. I’d like to think that and I have a feeling that’s what we’re going to get. I can see why people might not be as receptive, they might not be big Black Panther fans, and I know I’d be devastated if it was Remy LeBeau coming in (I don’t even know if I could buy that series), but I’m certainly willing to give this whole thing a shot and see how it goes.
Having T’Challa as almost a fish out of water in the hellish city and seeing how he copes seems like it could be an effective concept. Whether they will pair him with any of the Daredevil supporting players is yet to be known, but I’d like to see him work with Dakota North and Foggy Nelson. There must be a specific reason that he’s there, in the city, and taking over and I look forward to finding out why that would be.
If it’s no good, hey, relax, you know Murdock will be back in two years, tops. Nothing is permanent, so just enjoy the ride…if it doesn’t make you sick first.
Ryan K Lindsay is an Australian writer who finds time in nearly every day to get words of some description down. He was published by Marvel once, in a back matter essay in Criminal, but he can more regularly be found penning reviews and op/ed pieces on comic news website The Weekly Crisis. His favourites are; character, Matt Murdock; story, Y: The Last Man; novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay; movie, Chasing Amy; and woman, his wife.