Strange Times & Places: Ultimate Black Panther

Welcome back to Strange Times & Places, where today we’re looking at an AU story starring Black Panther (in celebration of his big screen debut this week). It’s just about the only one I could find – Ka-Zar headlined more issues of What If? than King T’Challa, and he tops out at one!

How’s It Different?

Like the entire Ultimate Marvel Universe, it is a Royale with Cheese retelling of the Marvel Universe’s 1960s foundational stories in the present day of the 00s.

What’s The Story?

Despite ostensibly being an annual for Ultimate Captain America, both stories in this ish revolve around the newly introduced Ultimate Black Panther:

  • This is the origin of Ultimate Black Panther. Prince T’Challa was chosen to undertake Wakanda’s dangerous Trial of the Panther over his older brother M’Baku by their father T’Chaka. It goes about as well as an unarmed fist fight with a jungle cat usually does, and T’Chaka turns to the American Weapon X program to save his son’s life. T’Chaka’s heart is then broken when Nick Fury informs him that his son is now the property of the U.S. government, though the final panel reveals that M’Baku was the favored son (hence why he wasn’t, y’know, sent to fistfight a panther).

    Pictured: Why you don’t fist fight panthers.

  • This story features Black Panther being introduced to Captain America by Nick Fury. Cap evaluates T’Challa’s powers (including Cap-esque physical powers plus Adamantium claws) and skills (he’s damn good) for potential Ultimates membership only to discover that Fury’s been lying to him about Panther. Turns out that he’s a prince and not a pauper, he’s not a mutant, and he’s not just rudely quiet – his vocal cords were ripped out by a panther. Cap decides to cover for T’Challa while he returns home.

Best of Differences

  • The second story explains one of the most bizarre and inexplicable plot points of Ultimates 3 – why is Captain America dressed up as Black Panther and is there a real Black Panther – in a way that respects both Captain America and Black Panther. Though how Cap thought being two different members of the Ultimates would work, I can’t imagine.
  • T’Challa being his father’s beloved but less favored son is actually a fairly interesting and novel spin on the character, and it is a shame that it never got followed up on.

Worst of Differences

  • Making Black Panther into a weird amalgamation of Captain America (strength, speed, agility) and Wolverine (sensory powers and Adamantium claws) who can’t speak seems like a rather misguided take on one Marvel’s most interesting heroes.

They even “Snikt”!

Come Back Next Week for a New Installment of Tokusatsu Gesundheit!

About Chris Walker

Chris Walker (@back2past) is affectionately referred to as Back to the Past's social media lackey. He's all over finding nuggets of pop culture news, wherever they may be hiding!

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