We arrive at the conclusion of Bleeding Cool’s Five Days of Black Panther with the current Black Panther series by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artists such as Chris Sprouse, Brian Stelfreeze, and Leonard Kirk.
This was my first Black Panther solo series, as I was turned onto the character primarily by Al Ewing’s Ultimates. I would like to justify this also by reminding you I’m only 22. I was only 3 when Priest’s run started. It quickly became one of my favorite series and remains one of the best currently-running comic series by Marvel to this day.
The most notable thing about Coates’ take on T’Challa is how the series began by taking Wakanda’s monarchy to task with a revolution led by a pro-democracy faction led by Tetu and Zenzi and a feminist faction led by the Dora Milaje, Ayo and Aneka. The latter faction became known as the Midnight Angels.
The conflict was made appropriately complex and ambiguous by many factors. You’re following T’Challa, and he is the implicit protagonist. Plus, he truly wants the best for his people. However, he is a monarch with absolute power and nothing to keep him in check were he more malicious. On the other side of the conflict, Tetu and Zenzi employ wantonly destructive tactics that resulted in many needless deaths, plus they were funded by American industrialist benefactors led by Ezekiel Stane. The Midnight Angels were the only element not corrupted on some level, and they did the most to sway T’Challa. Though this arc is over, I won’t spoil the ending.
The second arc, which is still running, has a few elements running concurrently, though they mostly tie together. A neighboring state is clashing against the Wakanda borderlands. This country is being backed by an alliance of the Klaw, Doctor Faustus, the Fenris Twins, Ezekiel Stane, and Zenzi. On top of that, the gods of Wakanda have abandoned the land, and followers of the Elder Gods have been invading the country through portals. However, some of these beings are actually sound contracts of the Klaw, further confusing things. This coalition has also kidnapped T’Challa’s old flame, Monica Lynne. They’ve also captured Ayo and Aneka.
The most common criticism of Coates’ Black Panther is the length of his story arcs, the first one, “Nation Under Our Feet” lasting about a year and the second, “Avengers of the New World” being on track to be even longer. While I think that criticism may be somewhat deserved of the second story, the first was near-perfect in its execution and had very little padding.
“Nation Under Our Feet” did a lot to put Wakanda’s political structure under the microscope and expand upon the culture of the nation. “Avengers of the New World” is still fairly enjoyable, but it is keeping a lot of plates spinning. It may have been too ambitious, and the possible pressure to include the Klaw wouldn’t have helped anything.
Coates shows a deep understanding of the character of T’Challa, writing him as a pensive man with a deep love his country and a natural inclination to help others whenever possible. He is aware of the world around him and how he is perceived by others, but it will not deter him from doing what he thinks is right. He is not prone to bouts of rage, but there are lines you can cross with him. He’s kept the villains interesting and complex too.
Artists Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse contributed the art to the first chunk of the series, with Stelfreeze being relegated to the cover and Sprouse staying on through the present. Leonard Kirk has joined up more recently. Jacen Burrows, Wilfredo Torres, and Adam Gorham took over for small sections. With talents like these, the art of the comic has been largely great with the occasional dip here and there. Sprouse does have some issue depicting fight scenes, using large impact stamps that cover the actual collision. Laura Martin has been the primary color artist, and her work has kept a good consistency throughout.
Coates’ Black Panther has been a gem of Marvel Comics since its launch, and it’s easily one of my most anticipated comics each month. Hopefully the quality will stay high into the future, and I recommend that those who haven’t read it catch up on the series.
Coates and artist Butch brought back the Crew for Black Panther and the Crew which lasted for six issues. That was a vastly underrated title, and it’s worth checking out too.
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