Abdulkareem Baba Aminu writes,
I’ve said it before, that I know Marvel’s currently trying to win back their fans’ hearts, and it is said that all’s fair in love and war, but when I saw some preview pages in Marvel Legacy #1, of the first issue of the new Black Panther series, my interest was only moderately piqued, and far from stoked. Particularly grating, for me, was the reveal within that there exists an “Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda”, which has been in existence for centuries. But fast-forward to last Wednesday. You know, comic book day? I grabbed a copy of Black Panther #1, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and drawn by Daniel Acuña, and eagerly began to read it.
After showing us on the first page the grandeur of the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, I half-expected to see T’Challa on the throne. But, no. Instead, our hero is seen pages later in dire straits, dreaming about, or psychically connecting, with his paramour, the X-Man Storm. Now, he’s been enslaved by an ancient space-faring sect of the empire, allying with new friends with super-familiar names, but with confusing relationships (as far as the continuity we know goes, anyway). Our hero, here, is also without any kind of power, royal or super.
Going by the events of this issue, one can be forgiven for not getting what’s really happening, and to whom really. Almost every new character introduced, is actually old. And there’s a couple of fan-favorites whose entrance is sure to elicit excitement. And while the old-but-new supporting cast confounds, I found it appealing, and it fuelled my curiosity.
So I braced myself, and continued. After all, this is Black Panther, written by regular badass writer Coates, and drawn by one of my all-time favorite artists, Acuña. But it’s not that simple, I see, as a daring escape unfolds, with breathtakingly-drawn, kinetically-paced action scenes with mood. Yes, fight sequences with ambience. It’s all rather a bit X-O Manowar-esque (which is a huge compliment, as that’s one of the finest superhero/sci-fi comics being published today), but still remains very much a Black Panther comic.
While I got a little clarity when I got to the last four or five pages, I was still left slack-jawed, looking forward to seeing how everything will tie to the wider Marvel universe, and recent Black Panther continuity.
Again, as when I read the preview months ago, I smiled a knowing smile when I saw the planet described as the throneworld of the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, called Birnin T’Challa, which means ‘T’Challa City’ in Hausa, the Nigerian language I grew up speaking. It’s said to be the throneworld, sure, but it’s named as if it’s a city. But I’m probably part of the very few who would chafe a bit at that.
Coates’ earlier comics work has always been a mixed bag for me. The first few issues before the renumbering were solid reads, but later dragged on. I’ll admit, they read better in trades. Plus, I still believe, as great a writer as he is, he’s still in the process of getting the hang of the medium. With this, the first issue of the re-launched (is Marvel calling it that?) Black Panther, I think, and I really do, that Coates has finally found a voice, a real comic book writing one. It’s evident in his dexterous placement of exciting, new characters in exciting, new situations. And yes, an exciting new world.
Without a taste, I probably would’ve wondered what they were thinking when they picked the artist for this book. But with the ambition sought, I can now understand. Visually, this cosmic-alization of Wakanda, is utterly beautiful to behold. Acuña’s work has always been breathtaking, and here in Black Panther, it’s almost as if he’s grown in spades. Characters, buildings, tech, weapons, and even outer space, are all a joy to behold. It also helps, obviously, that he colors his own work, which makes the line art blend with the hues in an organic way.
Even if it’s still the first issue, and very much early days, Coates and co-conspirator Acuña appear to have done what I wasn’t expecting earlier, certainly not from a ‘new’ series: They’ve made it an engaging read, a visual treat, a danger-filled romp in a faraway galaxy, and yet still, somehow, a Black Panther comic through and through. Ah, well, there it goes, straight to the top of my buy-and-read pile. Again.
Black Panther #1 is on sale now. Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates. Artist: Daniel Acuna. Publisher: Marvel
Abdulkareem Baba Aminu is a newspaper editor and award-winning journalist based in Nigeria. He has reviewed comics, novels, movies and music for a variety of platforms and is currently the Editor of the Saturday edition of the Daily Trust, one of the most influential newspapers in his country. You can follow him on Twitter: @KareemReal
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