By Evan Narcisse, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Paul Renaud & Stephane Paitreau
Rise of the Black Panther #1 is the perfect introduction to T’Challa’s world. With a new, hotly anticipated movie on the way it makes sense that for those less than familiar with Wakanda that we get an introduction to the world, and for the most part it pays off, setting out to tell an exciting prequel of T’Challa’s rise to power. This is essentially his origin story, and it’s great to see that so far, writer Evan Narcisse – under the consulting gaze of experienced Black Panther veteran, Ta-Nehisi Coates, has gotten off to a strong part.
The issue itself is a brilliant answer to the question “What does it mean to be Black Panther?” It’s very much character driven, weaving its way through the exciting history of Wakanda in a way that never feels dull or boring, despite plenty of dialogue-heavy scenes. It could have easily been a one-shot issue in its own right and readers would have most likely satisfied, but the decision to write The Rise of the Black Panther as a six-issue mini-series allows the book to tell the story that’s incredibly vast in scope, including an opening act that takes us back to World War 2 which tells the story of how Steve Rogers gained access to vibranium needed for his shield to be so powerful, also featuring an appearance by Howard Stark in the process. None of this takes the attention away from the story of Wakanda however, as the book goes for an epic tone and feel that has echoes of the old-school Hollywood epics, weaving a story that takes place across multiple generations of T’Challa’s family, exploring the adventures of not only King T’Chaka, but also T’Challa’s grandfather, Azzuri The Wise.
The book explores political intrigue in Wakanda and goes into detail about what separates it from the rest of the world. If the rest of the world did know about Wakanda they’d be jealous, and it’s easy to see why in the way the world is brought to life. Penciller Paul Renaud & colorist Stephane Paitreau are on excellent form, catching the raw beauty of the country, with several spectacular visuals. Renaud’s action sequences are spectacular too, and his character designs are just as good. The facial expressions from Renaud and Paitreau are also worth paying attention to, as a variety of emotions portrayed in the characters helps add depth to key scenes, making them feel all the more impactful.
One thing that could be clearer in this issue at least is the progression of time; there’s no clear way to tell and the switch can sometimes be jarring, but that doesn’t decrease the enjoyment of this issue at all. The book itself has a clear mission objective, to inform newcomers about Wakanda and origin of the Black Panther, and it more than succeeds in its goal. It’s an ideal entry point for new readers, and is a great way to get up to speed on T’Challa’s story before the new movie hitting next month.