By Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alitha Martinez, Rachelle Rosenberg, Joe Sabino, Yona Harvey, Afua Richardson, and Tamra Bonvillain.
The success of the current run of Black Panther from Ta-Nehisi Coates (MacArthur Genius award and National Book Award winner; you know, no big deal) has inspired a new Black Panther run titled Black Panther: World of Wakanda, which will explore the backstory of some current characters in the Wakandian universe. The first issue released this week has fully lived up to expectations; engulfing readers even further into the world of Wakanda with a wide depth of rich characters and engaging storylines. Coates has entrusted his characters to some pretty impressive writers like Roxane Gay (a feminist writer, associate professor at Purdue University, co- editor of a nonprofit literary arts collective, and all around pretty lofty woman) and Yona Harvey (an award-winning poet, and professor at University of Pittsburgh). Just researching these ladies makes a person feel a little under qualified to even read these stories.
The character of Zenzi, Aneka, and Ayo are being completely fleshed out in this issue. This issue features one full-length story of the beginning of Ayo and Aneka’s relationship, when Aneka was training Ayo and other women to become part of the Dora Milaje. Then, we are treated to a mini issue of Zenzi, the leader of The People that is currently attempting to establish the monarchy in Wakanda, and her history of how she became the revolutionary leader she is now. Both of these stories help to further immerse the reader into the intimately constructed universe Coates has made, and it is impressive he has found Gay and Harvey to write and add their own imprint into Coates’ Wakanda.
The love history of Aneka and Ayo is shown in the first story of his issue and Roxane Gay writes it with consultation from Coates. This is the first part of the “Dawn of the Midnight Angels” arc, which will go over all the events that lead Aneka and Ayo to where we originally found them in Black Panther #1 (2016). This story is beautifully crafted and it allows the readers to see these two strong, fierce women slowly fall in love with one another while balancing that with their loyalty to their position in the Dora Milaje. There is a slow build to this story, while there is also a full force escalation between Aneka and Ayo toward a romance. This is nice pacing, we all know the eventual scenario we will find the Midnight Angels in, but the circumstances that led them there are still not fully put together.
The first story features art from Alitha Martinez, colors from Rachelle Rosenberg, and letters from Joe Sabino. The character design and facial detail is really detailed and adds to the familiarity the readers feel for the characters. The warm hues of color allow the emotion and intensity of each frame to be exaggerated, but give this book a nice tone. There is a lot of action packed into this first issue and the readers are going through time quite quickly, but it seems smooth from all the loving care from the creative team.
Zenzi is probably one of the most interesting characters featured in this issue because there is still a lot of unknown. To continue this character allure, it was smart to introduce her story in little bits and pieces, never revealing too much. Yona Harvey writes this story, with Coates and the art in this story is from Afua Richardson, with colors from Tamra Bonvillain, and letters from Sabino once again. We are featured to a very different story and accompanying art style that helps to engage readers and enforce that this is a different story completely. As you see Zenzi escape certain death and defend herself against bullies, the readers start to root for her and find her likeable. She is a complex character that has overcome adversity and is not just concerned for her own well-being, but wants to use her powers to defend her country against bullies. The art style is a little more whimsical with ethereal colors and the central focus of every panel is Zenzi.
This issue is quite the gift for comic readers, we rarely get to see supporting character get so fleshed out and realized like this. This book is not only expertly written by highly acclaimed women, the book itself is about highly capable women being the hero. This is a treat for woman comic readers everywhere, because the book was not written to pander to woman, it is just a great book that adds to the current Black Panther story from Coates. So, if you need a must read comic to give you some much needed escapism, pick up Black Panther: World of Wakanda #1.