“Finally, a good Marvel cartoon.”
That was the statement I uttered after watching the two-part premiere of Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest and I meant every word because as far as I’m concerned, Marvel Animation needed that kick in the pants.
A bit of backstory; following the blockbuster success of The Avengers, Jeph Loeb-current head of Marvel Television-decided to greenlight new series inspired by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That year, Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider-Man premiered, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy. Fans were…less than pleased with the results.
However, the tables seem to be turning. With the Marvel Rising series and now Black Panther’s Quest, it now seems like actual effort is being made to produce quality stories. Part of this is the creative talent involved. Black Panther’s Quest is being executive produced by veteran writer Geoffrey Thorne (Ben 10, Leverage, The Librarians) who also serves as showrunner for the season and penned the first two episodes. The voice talent is also stellar. James Mathis III, who voiced Black Panther in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, returns to the role, accompanied by Roger Craig Smith (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Laura Bailey (Natasha Romanov/Black Widow) and Daisy Lightfoot (Shuri.)
The premiere kicks off with a bang-literally, as an Atlantean extremist group led by the monstrous Tiger Shark (Matt Mercer) attack New York, targeting the Wakandan Embassy. As the Avengers battle the Atlantean invaders, T’Challa and Shuri must fend off Tiger Shark. The action intensifies when Tiger Shark blows the Horn of Triton, a mystical artifact that can summon all matter of magical creatures.
Thorne’s script is zippy, action-packed, and above all else, never loses focus on its main character. T’Challa is every bit the stoic monarch that you know and love-thanks largely to Mathis’ stellar performance. From T’Challa’s rapport with Iron Man (Mick Wingert) to his frustration with Shuri, we get to see the character in action and what makes him tick.
Shuri gets a fair amount to do as well, and much like the live action movie, she threatens to steal the spotlight from her brother. Her wit is refreshing, and she can take care of herself as she repeatedly reminds T’Challa in multiple situations. The siblings have a moment in the second episode where they reminisce about their late father, and you can see that despite the way she gets under his skin, T’Challa only wants to protect his sister. It’s an island of calm among all the chaos.
The animation is wonderfully fluid and anime-inspired, taking a much-needed departure from the flat, blocky style that previous seasons employed. The fight scenes shine in particular, especially where Black Panther is concerned. One sequence finds him tracking Tiger Shark into the sewers. The resulting fight feels like it was ripped from Batman: The Animated Series. Although many of the character designs are lifted from the Marvel Studios films, rest assured this is not a retelling of the film. It only uses the film-and other sources-as inspiration for its story.
Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest is a much needed shot in the arm for Marvel Animation. Hopefully, future episodes-and future shows-will continue this trend.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Vibranium claws. Definitely recommended.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.