Reginald Hudlin has shifted the tone of this Black Panther series with each successive story arc, and this is his slam-bang science-fiction and horror mash-up. It’s entertaining from beginning to end.

There’s been a strong political content to Hudlin’s scripts from the very start of this series, and while it was overstated during Civil War, what that set up plays out well here in the opening chapter, before being dropped entirely and not picked up again until the following Little Green Men. The Wakandan Embassy was destroyed, so a pop-up version is instituted in the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building. The Panther and Storm also temporarily replace Reed and Sue Richards in the FF, and from there it’s a short step to the type of action adventure that’s usually the strongest Fantastic Four material.

Along with the Thing and the Human Torch, the Panther and Storm face off against a horde of superhero zombies with the collective power of Galactus, and if that wasn’t enough, it occurs on the Skrulls’ home planet. Hudlin’s having a lot of fun here, and it shows in the twisted personalities of the zombies and the escalating macap plot. Furthermore, Hudlin’s dialogue, which has been problematical in previous books, is perfect with regard to the zombies. Self-analytical and reflective, it’s hilarious. The conclusion is abrupt, but logical, and Four the Hard Way is a lot of fun.

Francis Portela is the best artist the series has seen since John Romita Jr’s work on the opening book. Most of the pencillers separating them have been adequate, but Portela brings a spectacular eye for layouts, a delicate line, and willingness to ensure his characters are embedded in backgrounds. He’s more ordinary when it comes to faces and figures, which are static and posed, but this improves as the book continues.

Unlike the earlier Black Panther collections by Hudlin, this is still available at reasonable prices, and is among the best of his run.