It Makes No Sense, But It's Interesting
The first issue of Black Panther's descent into Hell's Kitchen poses a challenging question. What do you think of a book that is very well written but has a bad premise? Because that is what Black Panther: Man Without Fear is in a nutshell. The writing is excellent, as is the art, but but it all stumbles terribly when it actually addresses the idea of Black Panther taking over for Daredevil.
This issue does a fantastic job at immersing us and T'Challa into Hell's Kitchen, which is presented as this very real and multicultural neighborhood. In one issue, David Liss populates this book with interesting and unique characters including a new criminal on the rise.
The same positive things can't be said about this issues attempts to sell us on the concept of it all, though. There is a strange scene between Matt Murdock and T'Challa that basically tries to explain everyone in one go and fails pretty badly. It feels completely detached from everything we know, as Matt acts nothing at all like the guilt-ridden mess of a man he left Shadowland as. The scene really just does not mesh with the story we have been following up to this point. On top of that, trying to follow the logic laid out here about why Matt chooses T'Challa and why T'Challa accepts is more likely to lead you right off a cliff than to any destination that makes sense. It tries to relate Shadowland and Doomwar in a way that gives the two characters some common ground but leaves you wondering how the hell they came anywhere near that conclusion.
This story reminds me a lot of the Grounded story arc with Superman right now in that we have a character burdened with an artificial sense of self-doubt in order to tell this story. David Liss does a good job at writing T'Challa as a man with something to prove, but nothing feels substantial about why T'Challa feels the need in the first place. And if you think too much about it, it becomes shockingly reprehensible that T'Challa would be doing this at a time when Wakanda probably needs him more than ever before.
There is also this weird thread running through the issue of T'Challa insisting he is no longer the Black Panther yet is wearing a Black Panther costume.
But credit where credit is due. This is not Batman. In the short build up to this in Shadowland's aftermath, Black Panther was blatantly being written as a Batman clone lurking in the shadows of Hell's Kitchen. No such Batman vibe exists here. This reads very uniquely as a superhero king slumming amongst the people, and even if the reasons for it don't make any sense, it is written in a strong way.
So, what do you do with a well written, bad idea? I guess you just enjoy it. As we move deeper into this run, we will also move on from the illogical reasoning behind why T'Challa is doing this and the book seems like it will become stronger for it. Nonsensical premise aside, this is still probably the most well written Black Panther book in a very long time.