Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Colorist: Laura Martin
It should really say something when it seems like the last good Black Panther story arc was way back in 2008. The reason being was that was the last time T’Challa had his own solo book in which Jason Aaron sent the Skrulls back with their tails tucked in between with a message to their kin:
“This is what happens when you invade Wakanda.”
Reginald Hudlin and Ken Lashley (who was on for 6 issues) then brought Shuri, the first female Black Panther to the forefront as Wakanda fell into chaos and then Dr. Doom nearly brought Wakanda its knees. Much has happened since then and most of it outside of the Black Panther title including the war with Atlantis, T’Challa’s stint as Daredevil, Shuri’s death and the re-emergence of Wakanda.
Many of us were very happy that Marvel gave Ta-Nehisi Coates the huge task to write this book because they understood not only the need for a character of Black Panther’s calber to return to his own book but the need to ensure that they bring in a writer that understands Black Panther’s world as well.
Mr. Coates’ handling of Wakanda shows right from the beginning. Wakanda and its newly restored king for all intents and purposes, are in turmoil. There is a rage among the people and many are willing to commit regicide in order to see change take place. There is also turmoil among T’Calla’s Dora Milaje as one is sentenced to death. Choices must be made between choosing mercy or duty. Of course as we read through this issue, we find out that there are neighboring countries who smell the blood in Wakanda’s waters and are ready to finally see Wakanda fall. Ta-Nehisi Coates shows that this T’Challa will not be a 1 dimensional character ‘fighting crime’. He not a superhero, he is king. He is faced with issues that more or less mirrors what is going on in the world today as many nation have natives bursting at the seams for some kind of revolution. Coates effort is not a book solely about the Black Panther himself but Wakanda as a whole. As the country devolves further, we see first hand what those in power must do to stay in power. We also see that there are those close to the throne who will risk their very lives to defy their rulers to save the ones that they love as well, at the risk of committing open rebellion and treason.
This is the book that hopefully over the next 9 issues to follow will be the definitive run that we have waited for. Coates has started off giving us a very grounded Black Panther that we haven’t seen in a long time. Of course as we are building towards finally seeing a Black Panther grace the screen in Civil War and in his own solo movie, it feels good to have such a competent book. Best of all, unlike some other Marvel writers, Coates’ writing is not over our heads, boggled down in techno-babble, or overly wrought introspective dialogue. Ta-Nehisi Coates placed all the game pieces on the board in such a way that readers know all that his happening in the present universe.
Brian Stelfreeze also impresses with his artwork. From the first page when T’Challa is faced with his past to the scenes with Ayo and Aneka is impressive. I even enjoyed one of the early pages as T’Challa’s mask is forming on him similar to Iron Man. Also artists really need to take a note in how Stelfreeze renders Ramonda’s dreadlocks. One other thing I picked up is rarely do we ever get to see T’Challa’s full face. We sides, shades, and shadows at some point but we never really get a full look at him and it’s almost as if Stelfreeze doesn’t want us to see the pain that T’Challa is going through.
Just as Stelfreeze’s art impresses, Laura Martin’s colors adds weight and depth to Coates’ work as well. The oranges and yellows in many scenes bring about the light and the dark which felt like it added a certain warmth when needed. When all are combined, we have a book that starts off and ends with seeing how the weight or responsibility is wearing T’Challa down and we will see if he will overcome the burden.
I am very impressed with the start of this new Black Panther series. This was definitely the book many of us were waiting for and it was worth the wait. If I read nothing else from Marvel this year, this book will firmly be on my pull list. From the time it was announced until now, I knew we were getting something good and it’s great to see such an excellent start.
5 bars of vibranium out of 5.
“…it is not enough to be the sword, you must be the intelligence behind it.”