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‘Black Panther’ Finally Lands on DVD — Was It Worth the Wait?

After a couple of years of hype and brief clips, Marvel’s Black Panther cartoon has finally debuted. While originally intended to air on BET as part of a new animation block, “Black Panther” ended up floating in limbo for a few months. It aired in Australia — of all places — for a full run early in 2010. Later, Marvel advertised and launched the series on the iTunes store as six separate episodes, although unspecified issues resulted in that being pulled from distribution shortly after release, with nary a word from Marvel as to what happened. Now, almost exactly a year after it first aired, Black Panther is hitting DVD. That’s quite a road to travel. The question is, how is it? Is it worth watching?

For its latest animated feature, Marvel Animation hired Titmouse, a studio perhaps best known for shows like Metalocalypse and Freaknik: The Musical, to take John Romita Jr’s art and transform it into a cartoon, with comics artist and producer Denys Cowan, then Senior Vice President of Animation at BET, overseeing the production. The result splits the difference between your run of the mill motion comics and cartoon animation.

Black Panther looks much better — more fluid and dynamic — than a motion comic, but still retains some of the motion comic style. There is plenty of original animation to be found, too, just to keep things fresh, and is actually in a style I think would work well with other stories.

Actor Djimon Honsou (Gladiator, Blood Diamond) is the voice of T’Challa, and he proves that he was born for the job with a cadence and voice that fit the Black Panther very well. If the Black Panther ever makes it to the big screen, Honsou should definitely be in the running for the live action role.

The rest of the voice acting is okay to good — Marvel Animation hired several veteran actors, and they all come ready for the job. There aren’t really a lot of roles for the actors to really dig into, but Kerry Washington as Princess Shuri and Alfre Woodard as T’Challa’s mother perform admirably.

If you’ve read Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr’s Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther?, the story will be very familiar to you; barring a couple of minor character changes, and the introduction of the X-Men and Storm (as voiced by singer/actress Jill Scott), this is a pitch perfect adaptation of that story. The dialogue and pacing have been adjusted for the new medium, but it tells its story very well.

In short, Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther? works. If you’re looking for a good introduction to T’Challa, this gives you foundation with the major players and gives you plenty of background to make your own way. It looks better than Marvel’s range of motion comics, and is better acted by far. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for something new.

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