Review: Black Panther #1

Black_Panther_1_CoverThe indomitable will of Wakanda — the famed African nation known for its vast wealth, advanced technology and warrior traditions — has long been reflected in the will of its monarchs, the Black Panthers. But now, the current Black Panther, T’Challa, finds that will tested by a superhuman terrorist group called The People that have sparked a violent uprising among the citizens of Wakanda. T’Challa knows the country must change to survive — the question is: will the Black Panther survive the change?

With the launch of the new Marvel universe, Black Panther and Wakanda have been at the center of mankind’s reach into the stars and a lot of the technology that has fueled its premier heroes like the Ultimates. It hinted at Marvel’s embracing Afrofuturism and Wakanda as a beacon and shining example for the rest of the world.

Enter Ta-Nahisi CoatesBlack Panther #1 with art by Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin on the colors. The comic was one of my most anticipated comics of 2016 and the mainstream media attention with Coates is sure to bring numerous individuals to check it out. But, I dare say, they’ll walk away after spending their $5 and most likely will be a bit disappointed.

Black_Panther_1_Preview_2Coates lays out some fine ideas in this issue, but that’s just what is there, ideas lacking a solid narrative to really hook the reader and enough left unexplained to prevent moments intended to create impact from achieving that.

Wakanda is a country under siege with a mysterious force causing the people to become uneasy and rise up. It’s an interesting direction that betrays the image of a country with its act together that’s portrayed in other series, and with a longer narrative, it could be a story that could be quite interesting, a grand scale of a hero balancing leadership responsibilities for a nation. But, with one issue it’s kind of hard to weigh that, it’s just the one issue. And after about 10 minutes I was done reading it and wondering what I just read. It felt more like an intro that could have existed in text for the twelve issue series, and as such it might be fine. But, on its own, the comic feels a bit empty and definitely not worth its $5 price.

But, it’s not just the shallow depth of the read itself, there’s just choices by Coates that make little sense considering what Wakanda is supposed to be. Rights are met with physical assaults instead of a technological solution that might end the riots without injury. A plot involving two members of the Dora Milaje falls flat without a further explanation of who this group is and why the love that is shown is a bit of a “shock.” And of all of the plots, the Dora Milaje one is the one I hope Coates explores the most. But, the narrative too has issues. Ideas are presented in an almost poetic staccato way without much of a flow to bring it together. It’s a disjointed beginning.

The art by Brian Stelfreeze has a solid look to it but like the narrative it feels like it’s empty in some ways with scenes that should feel more brutal and other scenes that should be majestic are literally empty when it comes to space. The Dora Milaje trial is an example. The perspective is pulled back so far it literally feels empty. There’s a grandness, volume, and epic feel that’s just not there. For a country on the brink, visually, it’s not translated as such.

After a long review it really comes down to this, I expected more in many ways. The first issue I’m sure will be much better when read as part of 12, but on its own, it’s a let down not just due to hype, but also due to execution. Coates is clearly still learning, Stelfreeze says as much in an enlightening interview in the back, so I’m sure things will improve. But, for a comic I’m sure Marvel is hoping will bring new readers in, I’m left to wonder if new readers will read this and ask what the point/hype was all about. I don’t see why they’d return other than the high profile creative team. Hell, I want to trade wait after this one issue. Add in the $5 price tag and it’s hard to recommend this.

Story: Ta-Nehisi Coates Art: Brian Stelfreeze
Story: 6.95 Art: 7.4 Overall: 7.1 Recommendation: Pass