Saturday, May 4, 2002

Composition 312: Place an unsliced loaf of bread on the counter. Listen. The piece is finished when the bread can no longer decay.


Black Panther: The Client (Marvel) - Now this is my kinda book. It's narrated by a State Department functionary who had been assigned to escort the Black Panther (king of an African nation) on an US visit. The catch is that the functionary is constantly interrupted by his boss and keeps wanting to get to the exciting parts so the whole thing comes off in a maze of fragments, sight gags, digressions, back story and critical musings on duty, the concept of superheroes & other serious stuff. (Tarrantino is referenced but this actually doesn't seem inspired by Tarrantino at all or if it was then the effect is quite different.) Writer Christopher Priest decided to tackle the whole idea of the Black Panther head on, creating a multi-layered subtext (if that's possible) on the construction of ethnicity, not as a fact but as a conception, something people react to. The narrator initially wonders whether the Panther will stay at the Avengers mansion and order ribs, apparently what he thinks American blacks do; faced with the displayed royalty of the Panther and his entourage, the narrator is then surprised by the Panther's insistence on staying at a run-down housing project rather than the planned fancy hotel. This is far different from the usual preaching that most comics--heck most books, TV or movies--use to approach this idea. The Panther comes across with his own dignity but also the full campiness of a king who dresses in a "kitty-cat" costume and fights small-time drug dealers with his two lightly dressed babe bodyguard/companions. The Client is laugh-aloud funny but also grounded enough that it's not a parody.