Black Panther #1 Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates Pencils: Brian Stelfreeze Colors: Laura Martin Letters: Joe Sabino Publisher: Marvel
The ruler of the fictional nation of Wakanda Ta’Challa, aka Black Panther, will be making his big screen debut in Captain America: Civil War this May. This is to establish the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at to prep for his upcoming solo film. So it was no surprise that a new Black Panther series would be released around this time.
This issue opens up with an inner-monologue of Black Panther giving a brief rundown of his history up to the present day, from being disowned by his father, nation, and people. We see Ta’Challa go to quell some rebellious vibranium miners. After that we get military disobedience, prison breaks, possible political unrest, etc etc etc.
Before we analyze this comic we first need to discuss its writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is an established and respected journalist who has reported on political, social, and cultural issues, particularly when regarding African-Americans. He has had published articles with The Washington Post, The Washington Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, and is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has also written a memoir called “The Beautiful Struggle”. Black Panther #1 is his first outing into the comic book medium.
The number one problem in this comic is the number one problem with the recent Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, is that its unfocused, disjointed, and convoluted. There is no focal plot point or character to follow. As a matter of fact, for a comic book called “Black Panther”, there is a severe lack of Black Panther.
Throughout the issue characters are quickly brought in with little establishment or context. Then just as quickly they’re brought in, they exit and it’s off to the next scene. The comic doesn’t allow for its characters and scenes to be fleshed or played out and it feels as if its just in a rush to get the ball rolling. As a setup issue it may do its job for long time readers of Black Panther who know the character inside and out but as a new #1 issue, which is used to attract new readers, it’ll confuse and shy off those potential new customers. This is clearly done by a first time comic writer as it’s very heavy on inner-monologue and narration as opposed to dialogue and letting the visuals tell the story.
With those negatives it is worth noting that the themes here are great. There’s an emphasis on asking a question of whether or not T’Challa is not only capable of saving his kingdom but also if he is even in control of Wakanda. As evident of the scene where it shows Black Panther’s mother deal with military disobedience within the royal guard. A role she may have taken control of due to T’Challa’s absence as of late. The comic also delves into themes of civil unrest, revolt, and how far government should go in order to keep the peace.
As unfortunate as the writing is there is an upside, the artwork in this is beautiful. Brian Stelfreeze pencils a heavily detailed and glorious looking Wakanda. The designs of the secondary characters and the high tech nation are fantastic. The facial expressions are oozing with emotion and Stelfreeze is very effectively able to convey what mental state a character is in. There’s a great scene with two of the Dora Milaje which has a strong emphasis on shadows and it looks phenomenal.
The amount of new number ones in today’s age of comic books is overwhelming. There are so many new series coming out bidding for attention. Black Panther #1 unfortunately fails to make the sale to continue for the next issue. The script is unfocused and has the vibe of being in such a mad rush to establish the various sub plots, that it forgets to put an emphasis on establishing those sub plots as well as character motivation. It’s a shame because there are great ideas here, it’s just poorly executed. There are some superb visuals provided by Brian Stelfreese fortunately but thats not enough to give this comic a recommendation.
Score: 2.5 out of 5
Review by Eric Bradach