Episode Number: 1
Season Episode Number: 1
Airdate: January 16, 2010
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Director: Mark Brooks
Voices: Djimon Hounsou (Black Panther), Kerry Washington (Princess Shuri), Alfre Woodard (Queen Mother, Dondi Reese), David Busch (Everett Ross, Scientist), Stan Lee (General Wallace), Adrian Pasdar (Captain America), Taye Diggs (Historical Panther 1), Kevin Michael Richardson (Historical Panther 2, Warrior 2, Announcer 2), Phil LaMarr (Announcer 1, T'Shan, Wakandan 1, Sentry), Carl Lumby (S'Yan), Georgette Perma (Queen's Handmaiden), Earl White (Warrior 2, Warrior 3)
Plot: In a top-secret Washington meeting, Intelligence Agent Everett Ross briefs the government on the history of the Black Panther, the warrior king of the African nation, Wakanda. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, the Black Panther must compete to defend his throne in hand-to-hand combat.
Review (Warning! Spoilers!): At first glance it may be easy to write this off as an over-glorified motion comic - but it is so much more. Upon my initial viewing, the animation in Black Panther reminded me of something I would see in an Adult Swim show like Aqua Teen Hunger Force or Seaslab 2021. I later found out that the animation was provided by Titmouse Animation, the studio responsible for Adult Swim's Metalocalypse.
Let me assure everyone that there is actual animation in this show. The process is similar to that of a motion comic (the artist's work ripped straight from the comic panels and given movement), but there is more attention to the movements of the characters. Walk cycles and fight scenes are less clunky than, let's say, The Astonishing X-Men: Gifted motion comic. Eyebrows move, eyes blink and mouths are fully animated, rather than just cut out mouth shapes. The fight scene between T'Challa and his father is better than anything you can find in a motion comic.
However, the animation is quite limited due to the detail in the characters. Animating really detailed drawings is a lot of work. This is why characters in shows like Wolverine and the X-Men and Spectacular Spider-Man are designed with simplicity, because you can get the fluidity of movement that you need while keeping your characters on-model. Take a look at the excellent artwork in the 90s X-Men series. The drawings look great, but they often start to look off-model once they start moving.
Anyway, let's get back to talking about Black Panther. In this first episode we get a brief history of the King of Wakanda. If you have read the Who is the Black Panther graphic novel from 2004, you will be well familiar with this story. This six-episode mini-series is directly adapting the six-issue storyarc with very minor changes that help with its transition to television.
The voice acting is really good. I'm not an expert on African accents, but I think they sound pretty authentic. This could be due to hiring an African-American cast, people who may already be familiar with these accents. Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) doesn't get a whole lot of line in this episode since T'Challa doesn't come in until near the end of the episode. Stan Lee gets to play General Wallace, a role that actually allows him to act, and he's good at it too!
The only voice I was not impressed with is Adrian Pasdar (Heroes) as Captain America. His interpretation of Cap made him sound like a boy that just hit puberty. This may be because it is a very young Cap during WWII, but since his body is at peek physical condition, his vocal chords should be as well.
Comparing Black Panther to an Adult Swim show is probably a good way to view this series. It will most likely fall into a cult status rather than gaining high popularity like Spectacular Spider-Man.
This comparison says a lot about the nature of this show. Black Panther fits in with other adult animation, including Fox's new primetime cartoon, Archer. And this is not only in style, but content too. This is a violent cartoon. In the first ten minutes we are met a violent and bloody mass murder and decapitated heads on sticks. Not quite children's fare. Most adult animation is themed around humour, so it is nice to see a serious cartoon, even if it is only six episodes.
Next episode, we get to meet some super-villains!