BET's Black Panther
By Tyler Smith
BET’s 2010 animated adaptation of the Black Panther is a love letter to one of Marvel’s most iconic black characters as well as comic books, the media where it came to life. The cast features prominent black stars, such as Djimon Hounsou, Jill Scott and Kerry Washington to name a few. The plot is simple: T’Challa hunts for the man who killed his father, T’Chaka. It takes place over six episodes, about twenty minutes each. I don’t recommend this for kids, though. It has adult themes, and it is somewhat violent and bloody. Also, there are some fighting/death scenes that can be a little intense. So be warned if that isn’t your thing.
The animation itself is somewhat minimal. To pay homage to its comic book roots, the characters movements are somewhat reminiscent of paper dolls. However, make no mistake, the animation is beautiful in its simplicity. The cartoon spends a lot of time with closeups of the character’s faces and their expressions. Joy, anguish, pain and anger are expressed beautifully through the smallest of movements. The cartoon also makes excellent use of lighting and shadows, from sunlight on brown skin to shadowy outlines of assassins lit only by moonlight. If the story doesn't keep you engaged, the visuals definitely will.
Speaking of the story, it is a very simple but effective one. I won’t spoil it here, but you don’t need to be a hardcore fan of Marvel to enjoy it. A lot of people tend to avoid the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of its complex and, let's be honest, convoluted storylines and endless cast of characters. However, this six-part series is self contained. It will tell you everything you need to know, no prior comic book reading needed. However, if you are a fan of the original comics, it does feature a fun cameo from a famous group of mutants. It also offers an interesting commentary on racism behind all the super-powered flair. Wakanda isn’t real, but racism, microaggressions, misconceptions and colonization are very real and have their place in this fictional version of the world. It is a nuanced but powerful take, and it pulls no punches. Oh, and it has an amazing soundtrack. Its opening theme is one of the best among Marvel’s animated shows.
All in all, it is a riveting show. It’s more adult than most Marvel cartoons, and is self contained enough to kill an afternoon without having to Google anything. It is riveting in its action and nuanced in its ideals. The full series is available on YouTube.
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