Black Panther has always been considered one of Marvel’s most politically driven titles. T’Challa – the first black superhero in mainstream American comics – made his debut in Fantastic Four #52 (included in this collection) where it is immediately clear how much responsibility is on his shoulders. Not only must he defend his country, Wakanda, from the super villains that plague the Marvel Universe – villains who are more often than not after the rare metal Vibranium found only in Wakanda – but as king of Wakanda, he must also handle affairs of a political nature that vary from management of the country’s great resources and scientific prowess to maintaining diplomacy with the rest of the world. In this new series however, the action is mainly kept in Wakanda as T’Challa attempts to guide the newly restored country following its decimation in Avengers vs X-Men, and its recent restoration at the end of Secret Wars.
This is no easy feat, as T’Challa is faced with a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation difficult. When a superhuman terrorist group that calls itself The People sparks a violent uprising, Wakanda will be thrown into turmoil. If it is to survive, it must adapt – but can its monarch, one in a long line of Black Panthers, survive the necessary change?
Besides the obvious draw of Black Panther being more in the public eye than previous years thanks to his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Captain America: Civil War, the main buzz of this book is that it is the Marvel debut of Nation Book Award winning author T-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me – also available from Turnaround). Having received significant acclaim for his biography detailing the realities of being black in the United States, and also being a long time comic fan, Coates is a natural fit to the series. His depiction of T’Challa as a ruler out to protect his country above all else is consistent, but at the same time he uses this new era of Wakandan history to show that as loyal as T’Challa is to his country, he is struggling to adjust to the rapidly changing political climate of the country in the wake of its rebuild, as he is torn between upholding tradition and embracing change.
The previously best known Black Panther series by Christopher Priest spent a lot of focus on Wakanda’s international relations, whilst Coates keeps the focus this time on the inner workings of Wakanda. One of the main focuses of the series is in on T’Challa’s group of Amazon bodyguards, The Dora Milaje, who have always served the ruling Black Panther in the past. Now they are openly rebelling against him in a bid for independence, and Coates makes it very easy to sympathise with their plight. The elite subgroup of this unit – The Midnight Angels – who get equal focus to T’Challa in particular, are hard to side against as they confront head on the issue T’Challa is reluctant to address.
On the art side, Brian Stelfreeze (best known for his many years on Batman: Shadow of the Bat) does a great job of switching effortlessly between the modern technology-heavy Wakanda to the more traditional aspects of their culture, but particularly excels in the action sequences with the confrontations between The Black Panther and The Midnight Angels being especially intense.
This is a great introduction to T’Challa for anyone who has just seen Captain America: Civil War and is a superb entrance for T-Nehisi Coates into the comic scene, giving us the best Black Panther story since Christopher Priest’s run. Now is definitely the time to delve into the land of Wakanda.
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 is published by Marvel on 27 September (Marvel, paperback, £12.99, 9781302900533)
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is also available from Turnaround (Text, paperback, £10.99, 9781925240702)
To view further Blank Panther titles available from Turnaround, click here.