By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Laura Martin, Joe Sabino, Manny Mederos, and Rian Hughes
Black Panther #1 follows up after Battleworld where Black Panther is King once more of Wakanda and his country is in turmoil after battling Thanos’ army. We find our hero T’Challa and his country Wakanda both trying to rebuild themselves after the death of his sister, Shuri, who was the former Queen and Black Panther. We are fortunate to have MacArthur Genius, Ta-Nehisi Coates manning the story. We are fortunate because he is a longtime fan of Black Panther and comic books, so you know the character is in good hands. This book has had a ton of build-up and talk surrounding it and thankfully, it really lives up to all the hype, with Black Panther and Wakanda being written to have so much depth and complexity. Coates brilliantly lays down many small plot lines that are sure to be further developed and leave readers eager and anxious for the next issue. The pace is somewhat slower than many books, but it will likely have a big payoff with the great characters we are being introduced to.
Being labeled a “genius” and being asked to write a comic book certainly puts some pressure on a writer, but Coates certainly delivers on his first-ever comic book. It is hard to imagine that he has never written Black Panther before, because he writes him like a well-known companion. There is a slow confidence to this book, as there isn’t a lot of action in this first issue, but rather a lot of foundation laying with great attention to character and plot development. Coates is laying down all the pieces of the puzzle for the readers and he is taking his time, allowing the story to unfold naturally. However, with all the new and old characters, not to mention the many areas of Wakanda, Coates has a lot of back-story to establish. If Black-Panther #1 is an introduction to this character or a re-introduction to T’Challa, it certainly paints a more troubled and complex character than we have seen in recent memory. Wakanda is in chaos, with a possible uprising brewing and growing discontent amongst those in T’Challa’s inner circle, and he has to evolve with the needs of his nation or fall with the old ways. Everyone is mourning the loss of Shuri, a great leader and fierce warrior who also held the mantle of Black Panther, but T’Challa is taking the loss harder than he lets on. Coates introduces some great characters like Ramonda, T’Challa’s mother and Aneka, a former member of T’Challa’s bodyguard unit, the Dora Milaje. He supplements the great leader in mourning with these strong females characters that are working hard to restore the country. He is re-introducing this world of Wakanda with great characters to make T’Challa a relatable character. Then, there is the nation of Wakanda, a character in it’s own right, fighting between letting hate spread or moving forward with T’Challa as king. Coates shows the different areas of Wakanda from the Mounds to the Golden City to the Nigandan border region and Necropolis, you can see the great detail and effort spent to create these cities from Coates and the art team.
The art is beautiful and such a lovely complement to Coates’ sciprting. Brian Stelfreeze on pencils and inks, with colors by Laura Martin and letters from Joe Sabino, all come together seamlessly to redesign and introduce/reintroduce Black Panther and Wakanda to a new readership. The lines and paneling are pure perfection in this book, just great comic book composition between action and dialogue allowing for easy reading but also for great detail work when necessary. Stelfreeze has great detail on the little pieces of Black Panther’s outfit like the tiny mechanisms that extend out of his suit that come together to make his mask. Looking through the pages you’ll likely notice the effort and detail to differentiate every new area of Wakanda and it is gorgeous. Necropolis is an area we can hope to see more from as the series progresses because they only showed a little bit, but the little that was shown was great. Martin’s coloring in this issue is also stellar with the use of light greens in flas backs and strong reds showing anger and hate spreading among the group of rebels called ‘The People’.
Coates is certainly taking his time enjoying his first comic writing experience and he is lucky to have Stelfreeze and Martin along for the ride. The three creative geniuses are working in lockstep to create a well thought out story with great design and artwork throughout. The many threads of plot and character that were introduced this issue are only allowing us to have a more complex story than we are accustomed to in comics these days, but it’s already apparent it will be worth it. The steady pace Coats is taking this story is complemented by the page layout we get from Stelfeeze along with the design work on Wakanda and the Black Panther outfit. This series is a definite must on every pull list, and Coates is sure to deliver with coming issues after all the hard work and careful planning he put into this first issue. If the last page is any indication of what the future issues brings, we are all in for a treat.