Review: Black Panther World of Wakanda #1

black_panther__world_of_wakandaWriter Roxane Gay spins a Wakandan love story – its tenderness matched only by its brutality. You know them now as The Midnight Angels, but in this story they are just Ayo and Aneka, young women recruited to become Dora Milaje, an elite task force trained to protect the crown at all costs. What happens when your nation needs your hearts and minds, but you already gave them to each other? Illustrated by industry veteran Alitha E. Martinez.

And in a special backup story, acclaimed poet Yona Harvey explores the true origins of The People’s mysterious leader Zenzi. Black Panther thinks he knows who Zenzi is and how she got her powers, but he only knows part of the story… Illustrated by rising star Afua Richardson.

My criticism of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther run is that it’s a bit too dense at times and doesn’t stand up enough in single issues. You tend to need to know the world of Black Panther to really enjoy it and as a whole his series would play better as a trade than single issues. So, I was curious to go into this new series spinning out of it to see what it’d be like.

Split into two stories the first issue takes place before Black Panther #1 and also it’d seem before Atlantis’ attack on Wakanda. The issue at first is about the Dora Milaje and the growing love that we come into in Coates’ story. It’s a prequel straight up, but you don’t need to be reading one to enjoy the other. And that’s something that really stands out to me about Gay’s story, how self-contained it is. Instead of diving deep into the world of Wakanda, the story is very much an action-romance focused on a growing relationship and new recruits Ayo and Aneka. By focusing on all of that, the story becomes much more relatable as the issue progresses and it turns into a love story. And that’s what it is so far, a love story, and one that’s very interesting to see progress.

Like Coates though, Gay has some issues with dialogue with clunky thought bubbles and some stilted speach that doesn’t flow all that well. I’m sure as we see the issue progresses things will improve, but for me it was noticeable and hampered that part of the issue.

Alitha E. Martinez‘s art is pretty solid. It mimics Brian Stelfreeze’s style enough that the comic really feels like a “sister” comic. There’s some great use of panels and the framing of the various scenes. I’m not the biggest fan of Rachelle Rosenberg‘s coloring (that’s just a personal taste), but the use of shadows is really interesting.

The second half of the comic is written by Yona Harvey (with help from Ta-Nehisi Coates) with art by Afua Richardson and I actually like this part of the comic more than the first half. It focuses on Zenzi and the flow of the story and especially the dialogue are much smoother. There’s absolutely a noticeable difference between the first half and this. It’s a story that stands out and would stand out in an anthology. The story itself is interesting and Richardson’s art with Tamra Bonvillain‘s colors are fantastic. I think Richardson especially does some impressive layouts with callouts in interesting ways. For instance a head is present without the use of a formal panel to box it in. It emphasizes the facial emotion in the scene.

There’s also some cool extras, especially a map to help individuals figure out where things are at in the nation of Wakanda. It all comes together, including intro pages, to create a package of a comic that immerses you in a world from start to finish.

The first issue has its problems, but it’s well worth checking out for what feels like an amitious project and release. While I’m a bit mixed on the first issue, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Story: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey
Art: Alitha Martinez, Afua Richardson
Story: 7 Art: 7 Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review