Black Panther #59-62 (2003): Ascension; series ends

Kasper Cole, as the new Black Panther, is still fighting the 66 Bridges Gang, while T’Challa is trying to return to the Wakandan throne without wearing the Black Panther mantle.

T’Challa—and Falcon—help Cole in his battle against the gang, and Cole finds increasing challenges being Black Panther without going through the Rite of Ascension to gain Panther’s powers.  T’Challa, surprisingly, decides to help Cole prepare for the ritual.  T’Challa truly seems to have renounced his role.

While Cole is studying for the ritual, Killmonger wakes up from his coma in Wakanda and resumes his leadership role there—having expelled T’Challa many issues ago.  You see where this is going right? 

Actually, you don’t.  Predictable, Killmonger and Cole do fight—but rather than fight to finish, Killmonger gives him a synthetic version of the Wakandan herbs that bestow Panther powers in exchange for Cole not pursuing full Ascension and challenging Killmonger’s role.

Through additional interventions by Okoye, T’Challa and Falcon, Cole successfully defeats the 66 Bridges Gang.  T’Challa tells him, however, that he can never fully ascend and can never wear the Black Panther costume again.

So, Cole becomes the new White Tiger, with T’Challa resuming wearing the Black Panther costume.

The end of this series sets up The Crew as the next place to find White Tiger.  T’Challa only becomes Black Panther again in the very last panel (above), and there is no mention of the brain cancer that was supposedly killing him.  I guess that’s gone now?  It’s also not absolutely clear that T’Challa is the one in the Panther costume, but it seems logical.

Priest’s run on this series was radically different from any other before or after.  This ending is solid, but feels rushed (and it was—the book was set for cancellation), which is a shame.  It deserved a more complete resolution.

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