Hot off the heels of his big screen debut in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther makes a return to comics with a new 11 issue run written by first time comic writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates with art duties by Brian Stelfreeze. Like I suspect is the case with many movie goers, I’ve never really had too much of an experience with the character, especially in the comics. Nothing really attracted me to the character outside of the fun concept of an African king being a superhero, but his role in Civil War was a great introduction and I decided to give this run a shot. So, approaching this as a first time reader, my initial question was: Will this series be a good introduction to Black Panther comics? And after these first two issues, I think my answer is a definite yes.
The story begins with T’chall returning to a Wakanda that has fallen into chaos with a public that outwardly resents him. As he attempts to reunite his country, opposition arises in the form of a mysterious mind controller named Zenzi and the Midnight Angels, a pair of former members of Black Panther’s personal guard who have taken to vigilante justice to fight the corruption of Wakanda. Again, I haven’t really read too much Black Panther, so I can’t really comment on how close Coates sticks to his character. T’chall is portrayed as honorable and duty-bound to his people but guilty over his perceived failure as a leader, which works fine but I find that less interesting than some of the other characters we’re introduced to. Coates paces the story very slowly, taking his time setting up plots and characters which I think works to his benefit. At times it does drag it’s feet, especially in the first issue, but the slow pace of the story really makes you feel like something epic is in store later on. At times, it almost feels like a high fantasy story.
The artwork also lends a lot to the story’s tone. It’s easy for writers to rely too much on their words to drive the story forward, but that is not the case here. Coates seems very comfortable with letting Stelfreeze’s expressive line work take the story’s reigns. Stelfreeze’s line work also works great with colorist Laura Martin’s choice of color work. My favorite moment is definitely a quiet scene with Ayo and Aneka, the Midnight Angels, in the first issue. The two characters share a moment together as they decided to fight the corruption of their city themselves. Their written interaction is great, but it’s the color choices and line work that really draw the emotion out of that scenes. We really get a sense of tenderness between the characters and a wary feeling as they decide to break away from their nation, and all of this is expressed mainly through image.
If there was a complaint to be made it is that the slow pace might be grating to some readers. I was never really bothered by it because I found the time spent on building the relationship between these characters very enjoyable, but I could see people growing impatient wanting to see the ticking time bomb that is Wakanda explode. Things pick up in the second issue, but it’s painfully clear the story has yet to even really begin. I’m excited to see comes next, but I wouldn’t blame anyone if they just wanted to wait for the trade paperback to come out. For those interested in the character though, I suggest you find yourself a copy as soon as you can. Issues 1 and 2 of Black Panther are in stores now and issue 3 will be out June 15th.
Written by Remy Williams May 23rd, 2016