Black Panther #1 (Comic Review)

BP1It’s no surprise that Marvel has rebooted the Black Panther series. After all, they have their blockbuster movie, Captain America: Civil War, coming out May 6th, which will be introducing T’challa, the Black Panther, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not at all uncommon for Marvel to hype looming movies by pushing related video games, action figures, and comics leading up the release date. Sometimes these endeavors are more about raising awareness, and of course, making a buck, which can unfortunately compromise the integrity of the project. I’ve seen it many times before, which is why I’m so happy to report that Black Panther isn’t just a marketing device. It’s an ambitious, original, top notch book which has quickly become a must read for me.

Black Panther, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates (novels The Beautiful Struggle, Between the World and Me), and illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (The Ride, Gun Candy), takes place entirely in Wakanda, the African country in which T’challa reigns. Even as I write this, it seems obvious to me that such a setting would make perfect sense. The reason it’s remarkable is that for the bulk of Black Panther’s comic history, he’s mainly portrayed in America, usually fighting alongside the Avengers, sometimes as member of the secret society, the Illuminati, but he’s almost always away from the country he’s supposed to rule. That this comic is focusing on Wakanda is refreshing in and of itself, that it’s taken a close look at all of the history of Wakanda, and is portraying the country in the most realistic, thoughtful way, is brilliant.

The book starts with a brief synopsis of Wakanda, the reasons it’s a country of significance, and a summary of the hardships it’s faced in recent years. From there, we delve into a very nuanced, relatable, and believable political world building. T’challa’s objective is not sending the Vulture back to prison or defeating A.I.M. again. His concerns are far heavier. He needs to lead a nation in pain. His concerns are crime rates, workers’ rights, and unrest in the populace. He needs to figure out how to be the leader his people require him to be. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, or in this case, panther suit.

It’s such an intelligent book, perhaps not the best for younger readers, but who knows, I’d like to think I would have loved this book as a youth. At any rate, it’s certainly geared towards an adult audience. And it’s ambitious. With only one issue out so far, the reader is introduced to a complex society with a slew of issues, and important characters. This doesn’t appear to be a shallow world we’re stepping into, rather, it’s one of intricacies and layers. As soon as I put the book down I was looking forward to the next issue. I don’t know where this story is going to take us, but I’m highly optimistic it will be a well told, and gratifying experience.

Another strength this book has is that it’s not only about T’challa and Wakanda, it’s about the people, and it’s sincere in its representation. The characters are all black. Because they’re in Africa. That shouldn’t require much explanation. They also have indigenous sounding names such as “Shuri”, “Haramu-Fal”, “Damisa-Sarki”, and of course “T’challa”. My point is that this book doesn’t try to fit in. It’s doesn’t want to be an ancillary Avengers book. It doesn’t require easily memorable character names, and the characters don’t need to be surrounded by white people. What it does, instead of watering itself down to be safe and fit for mass consumption, is provide a rich, complex, engaging setting entirely appropriate for the character, and it’s better for it. Why it’s taken this long to figure out this simple approach is beyond me, I’m just grateful we have it now.

While it may be hard to state this with certainty, as the series is only one issue deep, this certainly appears to be my favorite representation of Black Panther, whose been around since 1966, when he showed up in Fantastic Four #52. In other words, this could be the best Black Panther in half a century. Don’t let this one pass you by, all the indicators point towards it being a book to remember.

The story is smart, and full of potential, easily deserving  5 out of 5 Vibranium pieces. The art is great, especially in regards to the character design, however I’m going to give it 4 out of 5, only because the action sequences are a little clunky. All things considered, I give Black Panther #1 4.5 out of 5 Vibranium pieces, and will be eagerly awaiting issue #2.





2 Responses to “Black Panther #1 (Comic Review)”

  1. Morgan Wren

    Awesome review! I was wondering how this series was going to be tackled, and I’m excited to hear about its setting and quality bar!

    Looks like I’m going to have to pick this up now 🙂

  2. Gabriel Bloomer

    Enjoy it Morgan. I’m hoping Marvel lets Coates and Stelfreeze just run with this one, because I want to see where it goes without interference from outside events.