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The United States End Its Free Trade Partnership with Wakanda

It wasn’t meant to be as the United States has removed Wakanda from its list of free trade agreement partners. The fictional country is no longer listed on the Agricultural Tariff Tracker maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

The USDA said they used the comic book country in their testing and forgot to remove it when the service went live.

The listing featured hundreds of data points for the country involving various goods.

Ruled by the Black Panther, the nation first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 in July 1966 published by Marvel.

We await to hear about the US’s official stance on Latveria.

(via NBC)

Review: Black Panther #1

In Black Panther #1, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and new series artist Daniel Acuña leave the political intrigue and labyrinthine plotting of Wakanda for the the space operatic world of the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda. The basic backstory is that a small space colony of Wakanda grew into a powerful empire complete with a caste system, mindwiped slaves called Nameless, and a resistance movement called the Maroons featuring freed Nameless, who take the names of Wakandan heroes from the past, like Nakia, M’Baku, and even T’challa. However, Coates doesn’t bog down this first issue in exposition and turns in one of his least talk-y issues of Black Panther and leans on Acuna’s skill with gestures, body language, and choreography to do the work. The final result is a book that feels like a “Fresh Start” and is primal and pulpy like Star Wars or Conan the Barbarian.

Daniel Acuña is truly a gifted artist, who has a refined, almost Euro Comic approach to architecture, setting, and color palette and also crafts acrobatic set pieces that pop off the page using classic cartooning techniques. Acuña’s art is beautiful, but not stiff. When T’challa is in battle, he uses a blend of horizontal and diagonal panels to show his quick reflexes and finds the most interesting part of each blow he lands thanks to a fantastic use of motion lines. The first eight pages are all action and set the pace for the rest of Black Panther #1, which is an archetypical story of a man with no name and a faint memory of the woman he loves trying to get home at all costs possible. The increasingly blurry flashbacks to Storm connects the narrative to the previous volume of Black Panther and add an extra layer of emotion and mystery that doesn’t seem to be resolved any time soon.

There is a little bit of realpolitik and some worldbuilding in Black Panther #1, but Ta-Nehisi Coates’ plotting is more Star Wars original trilogy than the prequels in tone with fights, escapes, connection to past legacies, and a crack group of resistance fighters battling an autocratic, overextended, and definitely evil empire. Although he is a badass and almost leads a one man slave revolt (Almost being the key word.), Coates and Acuña probe T’challa’s vulnerabilities throughout the book, and sometimes, it seems that anger is all that he has left as he fights one of his fellow prisoners while Acuña turns on the reds. These skills, rage, and faint memories of home are able to be channeled and weaponized by the Maroons, who through their costumes and ideology of freedom, act more like real Wakanda than the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda. Even though there aren’t many of them, the Maroons enter in a blaze of glory and raise the mood of Black Panther #1 as T’challa finally has some backup. (And his name back.)

Whereas his first two years of writing Black Panther focused on T’challa as monarch, Ta-Nehisi Coates uses the new space operatic setting of Black Panther #1 to narrow in on T’challa as hero and legend. Daniel Acuña’s art and colors are virtuosic from the gorgeous spacescapes to T’challa getting beaten within an inch of his life. He has mastery over both cinematic and intimate moments, and the book is worth picking up for his visuals alone.

Story: Ta-Nehisi Coates Art: Daniel Acuña Letters: Joe Sabino
Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

For Conscious Nerds: When the Television Revolution is Not Enough (or My Review/Love Letter to Black Panther)

WAKANDA FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This was the battle cry that has been heard around the world since Black Panther debuted in theaters and the world has not been the same since. This is what fans all over the globe have come to realize that we now see the “normalization” of the superhero genre, that all of us can be heroes, and it is not quite monochromatic as Hollywood would make us believe.

As nerds of color, much like our brothers and sisters, we have yet to see a hero that feels like they belong to us, until NOW.

In the past year, the rise of Black Lives Matter due to the rise of hate crimes, unjust police killings, and devaluation of black bodies has been felt everywhere, so as good art does, it starts to reflect what has happened in the world. This reality has been seen in docu-series such as Time: The Kalief Browder Story and Strong Island. Then, shows like Shots Fired and the recently released Netflix series Seven Seconds has further enforced why people of color feel like they are the target as their lives are constantly prescribed to their surroundings. This is where children of color, like other kids, had to find superheroes who they could identify with and for the longest time, most of us has had to find the altruistic values which echo who we are.

For me, it has been, Batman, who I saw on Superfriends, as I fancied myself smart and I wanted to be rich, maybe one day, but life made sure to let me know that I am not white, and I will never have the same privileges. This finding of heroes like me changed when my Dad introduced me to comics, which is when I found the world to not be so monochromatic, but a kaleidoscope of funk, as I found Power Man, Black Panther, Black Lightning, Turok The Dinosaur Hunter, and many more which are still part of my cherished pull boxes and of course, it became even more blessed when Milestone Comics came on the scene . As I grew older, there were variations on the Black superhero no television and in the movies, but none that any of us would love to dress up as, until Blade made a splash back in the 1990s. Since then, it has become quite monochromatic once again, with the sprinklings here and there, like Falcon or War Machine in The Avengers movies, but not one with them headlining.

Television has been more progressive in that sense, showing prominent storylines and featuring regular characters occupied by actors in shows like Arrow, Runaways, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Smallville, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That is why shows like Luke Cage and Black Lightning are so important, both shows very different than every other genre show from their respective studios, and each embodying the culture from which their character is from, from the music, the sights and their villains, as the days of making the black version of something, has for the most part come to a close and these characters silver screen portrayals showcase superheroes that feel and look like us.

This is why when it was first announced that Black Panther was going to have his own movie, I had my doubts since John Singleton and Wesley Snipes tried to travel this road back in the 1990s but when I heard they were getting Ryan Coogler, who directed one of my favorite movies Fruitvale Station, I had a feeling it was in good hands. The main thing I wanted to know is how they will bring Wakanda to life, so when the trailers started to hit the internet, as this rendering (below) is what felt the nation would look like, but the vision that Coogler ended up putting on the screen, exceeded my expectations

Which reminded of a book I read about Timbuktu and its king, Mansa Musa who was thought of be the richest man in the world. Then there is the look of the costumes:

Each costume pulled from tribes across the continent of Africa: Zulu, Masai, Himba, Mursi, Surma, Igbo, Basotho, Yoruba, Ndebeleh, and Touareg tribes. The filmmakers did not only stop there they infused the Wakandan language with two different mother tongues, Xhosa is a Nguni Bantu language with click consonants and one of the official languages of South Africa, which was the spoken Wakandan language but the written Wakandan language was Nsibidi which were used by the Igbo peoples, and all the actors made it sound cool. This leads me to the stars of the movie, primarily, the women, who are the strength of the movie.

The character of Nakia, as played by Lupita Nyongo, whose character became the villain known as Malice in the comics as her advances to T’Challa proved to be unsuccessful, but in the movie she still has his heart. Then there is Okoye, as acted by Danai Gurira, who proves to be T’Challa’s right hand which is equal to what she is in the comic books. The character of Ayo as played by Florence Kasumba made her presence known in Captain America: Civil War. Here she still caries gravitas but I am one of those disappointed comic book fans who had hoped her storyline form World of Wakanda would have carried over. The legendary Angela Bassett of course plays Ramonda who is T’Challa and Shuri’s mother in the movie. In the comic books she was a stepmother to T’Challa and T’Chaka’s third wife. Lastly, clearly the breakout star of the movie, Letitia Wright who plays Shuri is not only T’Challa’s sister, but she acts as Q to T’Challa’s James Bond. in the comics she eventually takes over the mantle of Black Panther.

Now let us get to the men, let me start with Ulysses Klaue, who doesn’t resemble his character at all, as played by Andy Serkis. His arm cannon comes close what he has in the comics and feels like a nod. Then there is Agent Ross, as played by the brilliant Martin Freeman. In an average movie his character would have played the “white savior”, but as can be seen throughout the movie, he was the one needing saving. M’Baku silenced him in his court but he did end up using pilot skills to shoot down the plans carrying weapons. The character of T’Chaka, as played by John Kani and Attandwa Kani (yes they are father and son) although dead , looms large throughout the film, for a reason I will get to in a minute Then there is the character of N’Jobu as played by Sterling K Brown, brother of T’Chaka , probably replacing Siya in the comics, who held the title after T’Chaka. This version betrays Wakanda as he sees their seclusion as overprotective and his death drives Killmonger to his returning to Wakanda. The character of W’Kabi as played by Daniel Kaluya serves as T’Challa’s best friend and in charge of National Defense, much like in the comics. Zuri, played by Forrest Whittaker serves the same purpose in the comics but looks vastly different than he does in canon., and plays a huge part to the plot. M’Baku as played by Winston Duke is largely different from how he is portrayed in the comics, as most fans know his “Man-Ape”, which is racially insensitive and connected to ethnic slurs, but his portrayal here is probably one of the most balanced in the film.

Eric Killmonger as portrayed by Michael B. Jordan looks vastly different from his character in the comics but is probably the best villain the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen as the reasons why he is so good because he was complicated. His intentions were not of his own self-interests but to empower indigenous peoples around the world, in New York, Hong Kong, London, which incidentally are the same places Doctor Strange has sanctums. Therefore, I feel he really is an antagonist, one who likes to see better results but takes extreme measures to get there, which underscores the rise of oligarchs around the world, one where their extreme measures cause power shifts.

Lastly, there is T’Challa as portrayed by Chadwick Boseman whose nonverbal acting and poise made him the perfect actor to take on the mantle and undergoes the hero’s journey as he leaned on the end of T’Chaka about keeping their borders as he says in the end scene” the wise build bridges, the foolish build barriers”.

Now let’s get to the major themes, as the plotline is tied to one lie, one which T’Chaka, Zuri and N’Jobu are all tied to, one in which one of them dies, and this is the reason Killmonger comes to Wakanda to take the throne, shows that lies have long lasting effects. This film also talk of the differences between Africans and African Americans, as no line speaks volumes to difference in ideologies , when he said “bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped ship, because they knew death was better than bondage”, as the difference between Eric and T’Challa, is one watching black lives being diminished by the lack of access to power, money and technology like herein America while some parts of Africa have flourished better. This movie more than proves to the world that movies having most people of color can make money if it is good. The other thing about the movie is this is one the few MCU movies which are self-contained, as you don’t see another character, except for Bucky, in the final post-credits scene. Lastly, the reception the movie got before audiences even watched the movie was powerful, as either they cosplayed or dressed in African Dashikis or other African clothing, to express their love for the movie, as can be seen below:

The movie was simply fantastic, the best movie I have seen this year, and best movie to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and one I will watch again. Until then I am booking my flight to Wakanda.

An Encomium to the Black Experience: Why I am excited to see Black Panther

Colonized, broken, subservient, destitute, poor and reliant on aid. These are the common motifs that typically come to mind  when some give an errant thought to the continent of Africa. There is a deep history, explaining aspects of these considerations, mostly colonial but they are not the whole picture. Africa has a rich legacy, a cultural tapestry that stretches back to the dawn of time, achievements that have been unsung or even suppressed. I have been doing a lot of reading lately, mostly on literature that have undertaken a bold and honest look at the history of humankind. I have been studying how the legacies of colonization persist in modern day vestiges of prejudice and systematic disenfranchisement. I have also been looking at how language and narrative can exhibit and perpetuate invented divisions. Two books come to mind here and I would love to suggest them to you, They are Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harrari and Dialogical Self Theory by Hubert Hermans, and Agnieszka Hermans-Konopka.  

The former is an exquisite exploration of the journey of humankind, showing the many paths we have taken, niches we have settled in. It is exhaustive and holistic account of the different cultures that have been weaved, as well as how our tools, worldview, philosophy, most importantly how empire has shaped both the earth and ourselves. The latter takes a look at how language and narrative can either build bridges and understanding of the “other” or perpetuate divisions we have come to know. The book does an amazing job at explaining the source and drivers of threat perception upon the globalized stage. Critical to this is the examination and distinction between Monological and Dialogical communication. Monological being a top down and rigid form of discourse that limits the bandwidth of communication. Dialogical communications opens all possible channels, is inclusive and seeks to holistically deal with misperceptions, born from countering positions. 

Racism and prejudice are sterling examples of monological communication. Communication that serves to assuage a perceived grievance or rationalizations oriented towards a particular end, typically division, suppression dominance or protectionist impulse. Think here of the Trump White House’s worldview on immigration, or the attitude of noblesse oblige that continues to plunder African through the Charitable Humanitarian Complex” I count myself very fortunate to have lived in a country where my personal encounter with racism has never gone beyond the threshold of mere offence. My life has never been threatened, nor my personal or professional pursuits limited due to my race. Nevertheless I recognize that a system of suppression and oppression are firmly in place with various degrees of manifestation. As a black male in Canada, I cannot discount the full and complete legacy of  dispossession and disenfranchisement that continues to be the plight of my aboriginal brothers and sisters. Nor the strained relations between law enforcement and many people of colour as well as other vulnerable minorities. There is a system and it persists.

Black Panther, a story of the technologically superior and unconquered super power of Wakanda, is a welcome opportunity to buck the exaggerated and monological narrative surrounding Africa and perhaps other culture served the same treatment in history.

I do not know as much as I should about my deep ancestry, but my Grandmother has told my family she is descended from the Maroons. A group of West African slaves taken to the greater and lesser Antilles to fill the void left by the indigenous genocide that took place there. I am very proud to know that the Maroons were among some of the first slaves to revolt against their cruel masters in Jamaica. Knowing that I have that blood in my veins has been everything for me. For years I have pondered at the level of cultural and spiritual dispossession that European colonialism has dealt to my people, I have wondered about the cultural traditions I was torn from as a result and the Gods I have not had the opportunity to worship. My orientation towards Africa has always been a curious wonder, deep longing and pain that I do not know it as well as I should.  When I think about achievements like the Library of Alexandria, and the strength and monuments built by many on the continent I wonder about the real life Wakanda’s that have evaded modern western history’s record, narrative and respect.

Will there be some who are put off by this film? Of course, the symbol of the Black Panther and Black Panthers has always been controversial and weary by those determined to subvert and twist it for some of the reasons listed above, none of that will detract from the beauty and majesty of this re-presentation of black culture.

What I am most excited for is the generation of black boys and girls who will look to the big screen and see towering and talented heroes who look just like them. I look forward to those seeking reconnection and a homecoming, I look forward for the dialogical discourse that this film will no doubt launch. I look forward for the raising of a voice so often distorted or muted in the media.  I look forward to the day when parents no longer have to warn their children about walking at certain hours or wearing hoodies….they can wear capes….they can learn science. They can clothe themselves in vibranium, be bulletproof and achieve epic feats.

Whether in Marvel’s Wakanda, or DC’s Vathlo Island (Krypton), Afrofuturism is a welcome balm for those seeking reconnection with their motherland, inspiration and an invitation to a deeper understanding of race relations.

If we can confront historical grievance and misunderstanding in an inclusive and dialogical way, without suppression, there is no limit to what we as a human species can achieve or heal. I am proud of this opportunity, and it moves me deeply. Wakanda Forever!

I wrote this after watching Kendrick Lamar‘s video All the Stars, featured on the Black Panther original soundtrack. It almost brought me to tears. Take a look, a beautiful tribute to African dress and culture.

Captain America: Civil War to Kill this Character

With each and every Marvel, or any comic book movie for that matter, there are consistent ramblings about how someone major will die. This happened earlier this year with Avengers: Age Of Ultron; rumour had it that Black Widow will die, then Hawkeye, then others. In the end a character did die, indeed. Now it’s Captain America: Civil War who is to start killing off characters. A big problem lies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe–nobody ever dies, for good anyways. In The Avengers it was Coulson, then Loki, then Bucky Barnes, then Pepper Pots, then Nick Fury… the list goes endlessly.

With the subtitle for Captain America being Civil War, there cannot be such a conflict without any major losses, it needs to have atrocious death–or deaths, otherwise there will be a lack of tension and stakes. Now, it all depends on what one defines as major. A while back, it was announced that Black Panther–T’Challa–will be making his first appearance in the MCU. Apparently, his father, T’Chaka, will be in the film as well. It is precisely the latter who is allegedly going to axed.

In Age of Ultron we already caught a glimpse of the magical Wakanda with Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis), who is an enemy of T’Challa’s in the comics. What’s more, back in May, the same site, Heroic Holywood, also teased that Black Panther will be after the Winter Soldier. Is Bucky who kills, is framed for killing, T’Chaka? Only time will tell.

What is your opinion? Who do you think will die in Captain America: Civil War? Make sure to let us know in the comment section.

Almost American