This was perhaps the comic I was most looking forward to while also being the most apprehensive about. It certainly comes from a renowned group of creators even if it sports an untested comics writer. But it also features a classic character that somehow seems to be difficult to get “right”. I came in wanting to like this book. And that can cut both ways. So, does Black Panther meet expectations.
Writer: Ta-Nahesi Coates
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Colorist: Laura Martin
Quick Review: As should be expected from a Black Panther book this is a mix a politics and super-heroics. Although since we are treated to so much world building there is an argument to be made about a lack of the heroic side. This was perhaps more politics and super-science. While compelling at can’t help but feel T’Challa is more of a minor character in this issue. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would be very interested in a book just called Wakanda but I do hope we get more of our title character in issue 02.
Analysis: I’ve been making my way through Priest’s volume of Black Panther and can’t help but notice some plot similarities. First off, the is once again a revolution/revolt in Wakanda. While Priest used a refugee crisis as motivator, Coates seems be relying on th unstableness of having royalty involved in heroics. Also, mind control. Sadly, mind control is one of those aspects that tend to weaken a story for me. Also, if your leader is also expected to be the spiritual leader,of the Panther clan and lead in regalia I think the Wakandans would be used to a more action oriented monarchy. Not to keep score but point: Priest.
Now in both books the story did not focus on T’Challa but rather on those around him. Here I don’t yet have a sense of Coates’ interpretation. The one word that comes to mind is “preoccupied.” Priest pinned T’Challa right away as an undeniable force of nature. Point: Priest.
Of course, Priest used Ross as the PoV character (partly due to the likely true belief that having a white, schmuck as narrator would be an easier sell than a black, African King.) I like Ross, but his is a bit of an acquired taste. Coates instead introduces us to the players of Wakanda, perhaps setting the stage for some palace intrigue. Also, am I mistaken or was our cast entirely black? How the times have changed. Point: Coates.
As for the art, well, let’s just say points are a draw. Read the above linked article for my thoughts on the earlier volume. Here I will say that Stelfreeze is amazing. I love the power of his work even as it comes off deceptively simple. His designs are a great marriage of old and new. I like the cat-like look of the Panther, even if I am not completely sold on the auto-mask feature. It just seems too Iron Man or strangely Venom-like.
Wrap Up: I did like this issue, even if I don’t feel it is as bold as it should have been. I am curious where this arc will take us and how Coates will develop the world. And while I do think there could have been more T’Challa, maybe that will come in issue two. And with Wakanda being so important to this story I can see the desire to flesh it out for new readers as much as possible.