Review: Black Panther #1
I love a good political thriller. There’s a tense paranoia that often accompanies them that keeps readers on their toes. In Black Panther #1 we get a debut that takes those aspects and infuses superhero action. After a galaxy spanning previous run helmed by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Panther is back on Earth dealing with a changed Wakanda. Now a fledgling Democracy, T’Challa must abdicate some of his power to Parliament while also being threatened by decisions he made as King.
John Ridley steps in as the new writer for the character bringing his mix of action, politics, and thought-provoking moments. T’Challa is now split in his duties across multiple fronts. He’s still the Chairperson for the Avengers. He’s still the King of Wakanda. He’s also the leader of the galactic society we met in the previous volume. And, he’s still Black Panther. Ridley makes sure to emphasize this is an individual being pulled in numerous directions and neglecting some duties because of that. He’s not completely focused on everything he needs to be and it’s impacting him.
As a leader in multiple fronts, he’s attempting to balance his role. That includes a new Wakanda that is attempting to become a Democracy, putting T’Challa in the awkward position of figuring how to balance his previous role and allow Wakanda to find its next steps.
And that’s an interesting theme in Ridley’s opening. Wakandan sleeper agents are being hunted and murdered. These are individuals placed throughout the world because T’Challa does not trust Democracy. As he puts it, while an ally can be elected today, an enemy could be elected tomorrow. It’s an interesting first issue on multiple fronts. It paints a man who is weary of the political direction in his own country, hinting we might see an adversarial government elected in the future. It also acts as a reflection of our real world challenges not just in the United States but beyond. That you can elect leaders who are not just bad for our own nation but those we once considered friends. Ridley as expected leaves us a lot to chew on.
Juann Cabal‘s art is solid. There’s some fantastic moments full of action and heartbreak and those are balanced well with the moments that are more focused on reflection. Cabal is joined by Federico Blee on color and Joe Sabino on lettering. While the comic looks great there’s also a lack of flashiness to it too. The enemies in the opening battle are kind of generic and the fight overall is good but lacks an epic feel about it. Where the art stands out is those quieter moments that lead to a surprise. There’s a solid capture of body language of the characters that really emphasizes what’s going on. Hands on top of each other or just sitting and talking, it nails down the little more emotional moments. And those moments get a punch as the action kicks up interrupting them.
Black Panther #1 is exactly what I was hoping for in a series written by Ridley. It delivers just enough to chew on and think about while setting up an action mystery that feels more thriller than spandex superhero action. After a galaxy spanning epic, the comic comes home in a more grounded, down-to-earth, focus of a man who may be split in too many directions and whose past decisions are coming back to haunt him.
Story: John Ridley Art: Juann Cabal
Color: Federico Blee Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.95 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review