I brought up sales figures because Priest's don't match with all of this adoration he seems to get in those links you provided, and from what I've heard about this on other forums. If everyone loved him so much, why wasn't Panther such a big success during his run? I do agree with you that money or ratings doesn't equal quality, or replace quality. But then again, the results are the results. I think Priest tried to bring white readers in, adding Ross and Nikki, providing a 'white' POV, or gateway to Panther. Making him an enigmatic, mysterious badass, a la Morpheus or just about every Samuel L. Jackson character. But I think Hudlin has tried to tell Panther's story through the Panther. I think Hudlin has tried to keep the badass elements but ditched the 'white' perspective.
Granted I don't like the Mary Sue elements of it either. I want Hudlin to do a better job revamping Panther's rogues or creating new rogues. I want to see Panther really getting challenged, so that we can see him take a punch, get back on his feet, and find a way to overcome, which is the essence of a great hero for me. I also would like to see more of the political/governing aspects of Wakanda, especially since I'm a poli sci grad.
To be honest, I also have a problem with Wakanda being so technologically advanced, but then again, this is the Marvel Universe, so it's not that big of a problem for me. And besides, it's good to see an African country portrayed as rich, powerful, and advanced. Wakanda might be the first ever depicted that way in mainstream comics.
Also, not every Panther villian has been white. He just brought back Killmonger and in one of the previous books he fought some Arabian guy, can't remember his name.
I don't see what's so bad about his characterization of Storm, as opposed to what we've seen before. He does try to emphasize her regalness, her royalty, and respects her power-level, which should've been upped years ago. I don't think she's even Omega level and she pretty much controls nature. I would like to see them move from the honeymoon phase and deal with some 'real' marriage issues, but I don't want them to break up.
Finally I think Panther has been a 'minor' character because he didn't get the push he perhaps deserved years ago. The same could be said for a lot of characters. The ongoing battle between Hudlin's supporters and detractors show that BP has made an impact on a lot of people. Plus, he has a cool origin, a classic, iconic look, and could possibly make for an interesting series of movies. But I think one of his problems is that he is black and that he is African, and it would be hard for the majority white audience in America, the primary audience for a comic or movie, to really relate to and support. Before you bring up Hancock, he was portrayed as a drunk bum who ultimately was redeemed and even physically saved by a normal white guy. So, that idea or depiction of blacks isn't too far from the media norm. Even I sometimes shamefully can't relate or even imagine a black nation as powerful as Wakanda after being fed a constant media diet of disease, famine, genocide, and despair when he comes to issues about Africa, Haiti, and blacks in America.
Hudlin might not be handling him the right way, but I think both Priest and Hudlin have done a good job showing how cool and vital the Panther could be to the Marvel Universe. I also applaud TPTB at Marvel for getting behind both of them, and trying to keep this character and book going.
Black characters, not to mention Hispanic, Asian, and other non-white characters have a long way to go before they ever really break through to the majority white audience, but it's cool to finally start to see BP, Storm and then Luke Cage and even Blade on covers and getting some attention and respect, or to see Vixen, Black Lightning, new Firestorm, etc. in the Justice League. I've also liked the new Blue Beetle. This stuff does have a whiff of gimmicky to it, but I don't think they should stop doing it, even if it is a gimmick, because who knows what little kid or grown adult might be turned on to comics if they see a cover with someone that looks like them on it? Diversifying comics I think brings more people in and is in line with the increasing globalization of cultures occuring right now in the real world.