By Nnedi Okorafor, André Lima Araújo, Chris O’Halloran, Jimmy Betancourt
Black Panther: Long Live the King #5 is T’challa the public servant. Okorafor shines a light on the Wakandan King’s interactions with the average person and how those play into the way he rules his kingdom. We’re reminded that T’challa and his father exist in the public eye. They have friends and colleagues, for instance. They go to Wakanda U. and do their best to live as one of their citizens might. This issue is interesting because it highlights not only the hero, but the people who support him. Araújo’s unique style gives Wakandans a chiselled appearance. The best way to describe his faces is this: imagine if the most stylized cave paintings suddenly came to life and were given expression. If that doesn’t register, then simply know that his inks show lots of devotion to his work.
The environments of Black Panther: Long Live the King #5 are bountiful. The mountain looking over the village is covered in flora, evident by Araújo’s lines and the faint greens from O’Halloran, while the facades are somewhat plain. The earthquakes, which have been a common thread in this series, render the best art of the issue though. These scenes have the most movement as dust and dirt erupt from the ground and an ominous sound effect ripples across the Earth’s crust. Even the layouts reflect the pandemonium. Panels slant and elongate according to the tremors.
This scene is also indicative of the story’s fluidity, as Okorafor cleverly uses the strengths of Black Panther’s suit against him. Unfortunately, but understandably, this riff only lasts a few pages before it disappears. T’challa’s ability to quickly grasp a situation and work efficiently does lower the stakes of the issue, however. The risk lies, typically, in the fate of unnamed characters experiencing problems T’challa can easily solve, meaning that the Long Live the King won’t have readers on the edge of their seat for gritty action. The strengths of this issue are in the characterization and the dialogue, seeing the Black Panther’s wit and compassion in action more than his raw strength.
In a way, the series’ simplicity highlights these aspects. T’challa’s suit is as simple as it’s ever been. The majority is a flat, dark grey, with the conservative neck piece, while the gloves and boots are black, with vertical lines that harken back to an older costume design. The plot is centered around T’challa saving Wakanda, yet again, but as a government force rather than as a vigilante, and that small twist is part of what Okorafor uses to make her story unique.
Black Panther: Long Live the King #5 asks readers to imagine a world in which the average citizen has a relationship with their leader, to the point that they need no security when travelling in their borders. Put more simply, Okorafor’s Wakanda reflects the mutual trust between ruler and ruled. Wouldn’t that be nice?