When it comes to Marvel Comics‘ Mightiest Heroes, few Avengers – including Iron Man – are as iron-willed as the Black Panther, but as T’Challa’s father reminded him, even the King of Wakanda is capable of feeling fear. As the leader of a nation and the latest in a line of countless warriors, T’Challa is considered by many to be one of the most dangerous men alive.
Just like his father T’Chaka before him, the current Black Panther has used his considerable skills serve Wakanda faithfully for years. And like many of his fellow Marvel Comics heroes, the responsibility of being a hero has instilled in the Black Panther an immense fear of failure. Fortunately, 2020’s Marvel Action: Avengers forces T’Challa to face that fear head-on in the shape of his father’s ghost.
Marvel Action: Avengers #9 by Matthew K. Manning and Marcio Fiorito finds the titular Avengers battling an alien invasion against a race of creatures called the Fear Eaters – an appropriately named species that thrives off the fears of their foes. Using a modified version of Iron Man’s stealth armor, the Black Panther manages to draw the entities away from the civilians and straight to him, all while combating his own greatest fear – the ghost of his disappointed father that has been following him since issue #7 of the series. Initially, the Panther hesitates against this patriarchal specter, seemingly giving into his fear until his teammate Iron Man bolsters his willpower by telling him, “We’re not our fathers, T’Challa. And hot tip? We’re not supposed to be.” Ultimately, these words of wisdom give the Black Panther the strength he needs to face his own fears and save the day, but he’s changed as a person in the process.
Vibranium Suit With A Will to Match
While this series is in a continuity all its own, T’Challa’s fear of his inability to live up to his father’s legacy and protect Wakanda as the Black Panther is one that fans have seen on more than one occasion. It’s a tried-and-true theme, but his confrontation of the literalization of his fears in the form of his seemingly resurrected father adds a new layer to the conflict by externalizing the Black Panther’s inner fears. And even though his father turns out to be little more than a vision brought on by fear-feasting alien entities, the catharsis T’Challa feels is still very real.
But the Black Panther isn’t the only one who grows from this experience, as it’s Iron Man’s own self-reflection that helps spur T’Challa in the right direction. Both heroes feel the crushing weight of trying to live up to their respective fathers’ impressive legacies, and both have spent much of their lives trying to bear the burden. But by releasing themselves from that self-imposed labor, Black Panther and even Iron Man are given the opportunity to truly come into their own and be the heroes that the world needs them to be, not who they think their fathers would be.
The Black Panther is one of Marvel Comics’ most competent heroes, but even he can suffer the occasional doubt. And while it may have taken an alien invasion to shake loose those anxieties, it doesn’t make T’Challa any less of a hero. And together Black Panther and Iron Man prove that when you’re one of Marvel Comics’ Avengers, you’re always stronger together.