Something you can do right now—or whenever you want, provided you have a login or know someone who does—is watch Black Panther on Netflix. It will be every bit as fun as you remember it, from the thumping soundtrack to the thoughtful specificity that makes Wakanda a believable superpower to the imaginative costume design to the serene beauty of the Realm of the Dead to the underground-casino romp–turned–dazzling chase scene in Busan. Though it arrived just seven months ago, some other things haven’t aged as well, like the final one-on-one King vs. Usurper fight scene, or the perceived viability of Killmonger’s plan, or his last wish to be buried with his ancestors who jumped from the slave ships.
While I have no intention to stop squeezing mileage out of “Is this your king?!?!,” Michael B. Jordan may be too sexy and lovable to be a truly great villain. Rather than relitigate that, let’s appreciate that Black Panther managed to deliver on an unfathomable amount of hype (that I actively contributed to) as the first Marvel movie made with black people in mind, starring mostly black people, directed by a black person. I still don’t know about necessary, but it was certainly overdue. I love comics, comic book movies, and the Black Panther character, and was thus excited for myself, but I was most excited for my nephews, who are in the thick of their gangly formative years.
Growing up I could see The Meteor Man, Steel, and Blade on the odd movie channel and Static Shock on Channel 10 Saturday mornings, but my nephews can find a prepackaged Black Panther costume at Walmart this Halloween. They have a genuine global phenomenon. And now they have Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest.
Quest isn’t a stand-alone show but a new season of Avengers Assemble—a Disney XD animated show that premiered in 2013, capitalizing on the success of the first Avengers movie, which arrived a year earlier. Quest does the same with Black Panther. Sunday’s hour-long premiere introduces the “Shadow of Atlantis” arc with some standard weekend action-cartoon fare. At first, all is well. There’s a friendly gathering of costumed heroes—an Avengers welcome party for Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, interrupted by an existential threat. Tiger Shark is advancing his Atlantean army on the surface world, starting with New York City. But things are not what they seem.
The situation is in hand, and then it isn’t, and back and forth it goes until resolution. There’s some genuinely good fight animation, although there’s nothing that touches Justice League, Batman Beyond, or Batman: The Animated Series. (The DC Cinematic Universe is in complete disarray, but the DC Animated Universe has been very good for a very long time.) And though “Shadow of Atlantis” may suggest the on-screen debut of one of the best feuds in comics—so good it’s been suggested for the Black Panther sequel by everyone—there’s not much to light a fire under the asses of comic-fluent adults. But then again, it’s not really for them.
So … is there any reason for non-kids to watch it? This really is a show for kids, but the banter between Black Panther and Iron Man is pretty enjoyable. Black Panther canonically ghosts the Avengers and then reappears whenever he feels like it—because in addition to being a hero, he’s a figurehead and also a king—and Quest plays on that tension with Stark’s entreaties to T’Challa to be “buddies.”
Should you check in on it later? I might, but only because I’m holding out hope that Namor shows up. (He probably won’t.)
Who is Quest’s MVP? Shuri, easily. The relationship between her and T’Challa leans paternal, but much like in the movie, their back-and-forths are a highlight. She’s also a bit of a stand-in for the older audience, who might think that for a master strategist, T’Challa’s choices are a little nearsighted.