Before arriving at the current Black Panther series, we are going to take a look back at a couple of teams he enjoyed before the newest series under Ta-Nehisi Coates.
From my personal experience, I had actually become more interested in T’Challa after reading about him in Al Ewing’s Ultimates and Ultimates Squared. Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers also told a T’Challa-focused tale and was actually another really good series.
One thing about Avengers titles over the past decade or so is that Brian Michael Bendis never seemed particularly interested in the character of T’Challa, only really bringing him in to AvX due to his relationship with Storm and the schism that could be played with therein. Unless you were paying attention to Black Panther specifically, it was hard to get a whole lot of T’Challa in your comics. Hickman’s New Avengers brought him back into the Avengers family of titles, and I personally didn’t even read much of Hickman’s New Avengers until more recently. I was initially bitter about it being the polar opposite of Bendis’s small-scoped pseudo-street level New Avengers lineup. Also, it didn’t have Luke Cage or Iron Fist.
Ewing’s Ultimates were what began to truly sell me on T’Challa. I was at first more interested in the team due to Captain Marvel, Blue Marvel, Spectrum and how enamored I was with Ewing’s Mighty Avengers during its run. I still liked T’Challa back then, but he wasn’t a favorite.
For those curious, this book also sold me on America Chavez.
Talking Hickman’s New Avengers will actually segue very well into Ultimates and Coates’s Black Panther. Bear in mind this discussion will be primarily plot-focused and less evaluative, though take my word for it that these runs of New Avengers and Ultimates are both quite good.
New Avengers brought together Marvel’s Illuminati once more to answer a major threat which T’Challa detected in Wakanda. The Illuminati were a Bendis creation. It was a clandestine team of leaders consisting of Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Professor Xavier, Dr. Strange, Black Bolt, and Namor the Sub-Mariner. They initially invited Black Panther to join the team, but he turned them down.
The Illuminati was disbanded after their existence became known to the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and Captain America promised to shut them down should they continue to operate. This spun out of the Hood using the Illuminati to gather the Infinity Gems.
Black Panther gathered the team once more after discovering the Incursions, a phenomenon in which Earths from across the multiverse were colliding and destroy themselves and the universes they inhabited. The lineup remained the same with the exception of Beast replacing the deceased Professor X and the involvement of Captain America.
It quickly became clear that the reformed Illuminati would have to consider some terrible things in the name of survival. This became clear after the discovery of a mysterious and powerful woman called the Black Swan explained what was happening to the team. They knew that, eventually, they would have to destroy another Earth like their own.
After Captain America’s reticence and moral hangups became a problem, Dr. Strange mind-wiped and expelled him from the group. This was far from the only in-fighting. T’Challa and Namor still held a lot of animosity towards one another due to Sub-Mariner’s attack on Wakanda from Avengers vs. X-Men. Even as they cooperated in the Illuminati, Wakanda and Atlantis fought a war that would destroy both nations. Plus, the team was on Earth to fight off Thanos’s invasion during Infinity while the rest of the Avengers were of-world fighting the Builders.
Later, Bruce Banner (at the time possessed by the more heartless Omega Hulk personality), Captain Britain, and Yellowjacket would work with the group. As things became more dire, Terrax the Tamer, Doctor Doom, and even Thanos himself were allies to the Illuminati. This became a necessity after the involvement of the godlike Beyonders was revealed.
Steve Rogers would later rediscover the Illuminati’s existence and the mental manipulation of Doctor Strange, and he would take the Avengers to war with the group.
The Incursions were never stopped, but Doctor Doom salvaged parts of various Earths to become Battleworld after the end of all things came to pass. Black Panther was on the life raft that escaped the end too, and he played an integral role in overthrowing Doom with the help of the Infinity Gauntlet.
After the restoration of our universe, Black Panther founded the Ultimates, a small group consisting of himself, Captain Marvel, Blue Marvel, Spectrum, and America Chavez. The new Giant-Man, Raz Malhotra, was also a frequent ally of the team.
The intention of the team was to solve the biggest universe-shattering problems before they make it to Earth at all. The goal was to also solve them as peacefully as possible. The first of these was curing Galactus, the World-Eater, of his eternal hunger.
The team would face some struggles after the events of Civil War II. Captain Marvel and Black Panther became at odds but still cooperated. The Ultimates would face their greatest struggle upon discovering that Eternity, the being that represents all that is in the multiverse, was chained by the First Firmament, the first universe.
During the run of Ewing’s Ultimates, Coates’s Black Panther began. And with that, we will be moving on to the current Panther series.