Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest - “Shadow of Atlantis”
Written by Geoffrey Thorne
Directed by Michael Gunnell (Part One) and Timothy Eldred (Part Two)
Starring James Mathis III, Daisy Lightfoot, Mick Wingert, Laura Bailey, Kathreen Khavari, Matt Mercer and Roger Craig Smith
Airing September 23 on Disney XD
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The newest season of Avengers Assemble, aptly titled Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest will make its debut September 23 with the two-parter “Shadow of Atlantis.” With Black Panther and his fellow Avengers pitted against Tiger Shark and his Atlantean soldiers as they rip through New York in search of a mysterious artifact, this debut sticks the landing with some fast-paced scripting and high-octane action, even if there are a few hiccups along the way.
The two-parter opens as T’Challa (James Mathis III) formally introduces Shuri (Daisy Lightfoot) to his teammates at Avengers Tower. While Shuri and Kamala Khan (Kathreen Khavari) take an instant liking to one another, the focus quickly shifts to the T’Challa and Tony Stark (Mick Wingert). Mathis has played Black Panther a number of times now, and his vocal ability gives T’Challa a commanding presence that plays really well with Wingert’s light-hearted take on Stark.
It’s this dynamic that Geoffrey Thorne’s script uses to emphasize the tenuous working relationship between Black Panther and Iron Man, particularly with a running joke on Tony Stark’s desire to be “buddies” with T’Challa without the two really knowing much about one another (T’Challa is all too happy to point out that Stark doesn’t know the king’s favorite color).
The action here is mostly of the punching variety, but the animators come up with some dynamic combos and movements, especially in emphasizing the acrobatic nature of T’Challa’s combat skills. As one comes to expect with Marvel, the humor is sprinkled in here, and though there are a few jokes that don’t quite land, the ones that do hit are a blast (including a bit referencing all the things that are found in the stomachs of real sharks). Tiger Shark and the Atlantean soldiers make for good opening villains, and a giant monster keeps the heavy hitters on the team occupied. Mercer’s performance gives Tiger Shark a growling menace that contrasts him against the heroes while also leaving room for some other antagonistic characters to make their mark.
While there are laughs to be had here, Thorne layers in an undercurrent of tension as the unfolding events require Stark and T’Challa to repeatedly reveal just how much they both know about the other’s secrets. The two aren’t quite butting heads just yet, but the foundations have been laid for an arc based on “Enemy of the State II” from Christopher Priest’s acclaimed comic book run, should the show choose to go that route.
The second episode focuses on joining Shuri in defending the Wakandan Embassy from Tiger Shark’s intrusion. Thorne nicely balances T’Challa’s concern for his sister without making her a damsel in distress. The dialogue between T’Challa and Shuri emphasizes how similar the siblings are and how strong their bond is. Both are geniuses trained to protect their kingdom. It’s in these exchanges that Daisy Lightfoot begins to shine as Shuri and it will be nice to see how the interplay between her and Mathis develops.
However, in spite of some strong character moments from both the main and supporting cast (Captain America apologizes to T’Challa for accidentally knocking over a Wakandan flag in combat), the second episode is let down a bit by the action. The heavy hitters on the team are mysteriously absent here, with the episode focusing primarily on T’Challa fighting Tiger Shark through a number of different areas of the Embassy. The design of the embassy is certainly fascinating, but the fight gets stale after a while.
“Shadow of Atlantis” is a strong start to the new show, welcoming new viewers, while also building on the world the show’s fans have come to know. James Mathis III has great chemistry with both Daisy Lightfoot and Mick Wingert, giving the episodes an energetic pace. Geoffrey Thorne’s scripts cover a lot of ground and while the plotting of the second episode isn’t as dynamic as that of the first, both episodes are bursting at the seams with story bits that are sure to pay off down the road.