Black Panther Vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet
By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze & Laura Martin
Black Panther is a pretty big right character now thanks to his on-screen introduction in the latest Marvel blockbuster epic, Captain America: Civil War, with Chadwick Boseman’s take on the character easily being one of the best parts of the movie and a welcome addition to a packed franchise. Now following that, not only will we be seeing a solo film for the character directed by Ryan Coogler, but readers can also expect new issues of the Marvel series from Between the World and Me author Ta-Nehisi Coates. Given the quality of the author’s previous work it’s no surprise that A Nation Under Our Feet kickstarts one of the best ongoing titles that Marvel currently has on the shelves.
Coates handles the book well, serving as not only something that readers who have never read a Black Panther comic before can enjoy, but also something that appeals to long-time fans of the character, thanks to a balancing act that gives new readers a way into Wakandan culture but also manages to capture the familiar feel, voice and character of The Black Panther. There’s not much reliance on events elsewhere in the Marvel Universe for the reader to worry about, as it hasn’t been dragged into a crossover yet. We do get to see T’Challa as T’Challa rather than just as the Black Panther here as well. It’s refreshing to see the man himself explored in more detail than we’ve had in the past as this collection provides a good character study into what makes him work. He’s deeply patriotic and would put on his life on the line for Wakanda, and the political turmoil in Wakanda is handled well as T’Challa is pitted against a superhuman group known as The People as well as a mysterious familiar antagonist.
Stelfreeze is a pretty awesome artist and he really brings this book to life, with plenty of strong, rich detail in his artwork that proves to be a perfect fit for Coates’ writing as T’Challa’s presence is felt every time the character appears on the page. Laura Martin’s colors also help bring Wakanda to life with several amazing details that provide a vibrant background to the landscape that fits Stelfreeze’s distinctively clear art style and heavy inks, whilst also making explosions and action sequences look at the top of their game. For readers who like maps the bonus content of A Nation Under Our Feet also includes a map of the fictional country, from Ta-Nehisi Coates & Manny Mederos that also provides further information about the country’s borders. It’s a great addition that is perfect for those not too familiar with it outside of the movies, and is a nice way of showing the reader where everything is.
Unfortunately, A Nation Under Our Feet is a little on the short side of things like most of Marvel’s most recent graphic novels and only collects four issues from the current series plus a classic Fantastic Four issue from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It means that the graphic novel may be a bit quick to get through, but despite this it’s absolutely worth investing in, with the excellent creative team establishing the book as one of Marvel’s best ongoing titles and essential reading for any comics fan.