BLACK PANTHER #166 By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leonard Kirk, Marc Deering, and Laura Martin
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
BLACK PANTHER #166 is one of Coates' weaker issues. It suffers from a dull story and unremarkable art that makes this an overall disappointing issue.
71 %
Hone Your Klaws!

BLACK PANTHER #166 is an important comic for the series. Not only is it BLACK PANTHER’S first comic to return to the old Marvel numbering, but also it brings back a classic villain. This arc, “Klaw Stands Supreme,” seeks to introduce Ulysses Klaw to a modern audience. While Ta-Nehisi Coates makes a strong attempt to humanize this villainous figure, BLACK PANTHER #166’s story did not feel like anything original. Overall this comic was a bland addition to Coates’ run on this series.

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Cliche Origins

I’ve always felt that Klaw is a villain who has a lot of potential. There is definitely a lot to explore in his character. Writers should explore his obsession with Wakanda and Vibranium as it relates to themes of imperialism and greed. Watching Andy Serkis’ tantalizing performance as Klaw in the BLACK PANTHER trailer further proves that this character has a lot of room for growth.

This is why I applaud Ta-Nehisi Coates for spending an entire issue devoted to Klaw’s backstory. However, that backstory just isn’t that compelling. We learn that Klaw had an older sister named Julia. Klaw suggests she was the one person who understood him. They relied on each other’s support when dealing with their abusive father. However, Julia increasingly suffered from schizophrenia. It was her parents and the doctor’s decision that they lobotomize her. This irreversibly broke Klaw and since then he has been on a quest for unlimited power. He admits that while he seeks all the power in the universe, the only power he really wants is the ability to speak to his sister again.

BLACK PANTHER #166
BLACK PANTHER #166 pg. 3. Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

My problem with this backstory is that it is reminiscent of too many villainous origins. So many writers have created villains who turn evil just because someone they loved died or because they want to save someone they love. Paul Dini did this amazingly with Mr. Freeze in BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. However, BLACK PANTHER #166 reduces Klaw to a heartbroken man and rids him of some of the complexities of his character. I hope Coates moves away from depicting Klaw as a mournful brother and focuses more on Klaw’s feelings of powerlessness which motivate his greed.

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God Among Men

The strongest part of this comic focuses on the topic of faith. Coates’ BLACK PANTHER has done an awesome job discussing mysticism, belief, and religion. After the events of BLACK PANTHER #12, the gods of Wakanda abandoned the country. Now new deities have risen up to claim Wakanda as their own realm. Among these claimants is Klaw.

In this comic Klaw has put together a team consisting of Zeke Stane, Sasha Hammer, Doctor Faustus, and Zenzi the Revealer. With their help, Klaw seeks to take over Wakanda and its monopoly of Vibranium. Yet, Klaw decries his fellow villains, proclaiming them weaklings compared to his raw power. Klaw believes he is an “aspiring god,” a god of science that is destined to rule over the primitive people of Earth. However, he says that he needs more Vibranium before he can take his true deified form.

BLACK PANTHER #166
BLACK PANTHER #166 pg. 7. Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Perhaps Klaw is being dramatic when he refers to himself as a god. Nonetheless, this proclamation tells us far more of who Klaw is than his backstory does. It shows that Klaw believes he deserves power, that he deserves to rule over others. He thinks that Black Panther and his royal family are undeserving of the power they have accumulated through Vibranium and wants to prove that through his superior might he is more worthy to hold Vibranium.

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In other stories, writers have presented characters like Klaw as the hero. These characters come from a foreign land and help free a people from an oppressive regime. They use their superior insights and intelligence to overcome the odds and save the day. Klaw is similar since he uses his vast intelligence to try to defeat Black Panther and his Kingdom in Wakanda. However, his lust for power always prevents him from goodness. This lust blinds Klaw and twists him into the Imperialist tyrant we despise.

Art in BLACK PANTHER #166

The main shortcoming of this comic is the lacking art style. The drawing and colors from Leonard Kirk and Laura Martin aren’t atrocious; they just aren’t very interesting. There isn’t page or panel that moves me towards any emotion. This is a real problem since art should evoke some feeling in its observants. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leonard Kirk, and Laura Martin wanted to make a riveting take on Klaw’s origins. Yet when the art does not make an impact, it is far harder for the story to have an impact. It’s mainly because throughout the panels there is nothing to connect to. As a child, Klaw’s face doesn’t look human enough for me to relate to it. Then, as a villain, Klaw’s form isn’t menacing enough for me to actually fear him.

BLACK PANTHER #166
BLACK PANTHER #166 pg. 15. Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This may be a slightly heretical statement, but the Klaw outfit does not work in the modern day. It comes from a bygone era of pulpy villains with little to no depth. In essence, Klaw is only wearing red spandex with purple underwear. I am all for honoring the original designs of characters. The modern sign of the Black Panther costume has remained relatively faithful.  Klaw’s costume just looks ludicrous today. I think Marvel should update Klaw’s classic costume to make it look like something that a super-genius would make and not some Halloween costume an 8-year-old would wear.

Final Thoughts

BLACK PANTHER #166 is a disappointing issue. However, it doesn’t crush my hopes for a compelling return for Ulysses Klaw. If Coates continues to write more on Klaw’s obsession with his own divinity and his lust for Vibranium, I think he can definitely revitalize this villain. For this series to truly shine in the MARVEL LEGACY era, it needs original stories and much more compelling visuals.

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