14 April 2017

Catching Up On Comics: Black Panther

Over the past couple of years, I've fallen way behind on my reading. I'm working to correct that as I start focusing on conquering my to-read pile. 

Good Grief.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book One
"What is a king without his people?", Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze ask the hard questions in the first four issues of their run on Black Panther. T'Challa has had a rough number of years from being removed from his place on the throne in favor of his sister Shuri,  a blood feud with Namor that dominated Jonathan Hickman's New Avengers, a Thanos' led invasion of his kingdom and having his world literally ripped apart in the fantastic Secret Wars. Now the status quo has been reset with his ruling over Wakanda as its rightful king.

But A Nation Under Our Feet is not about T'Challa, the Black Panther. Instead its focus is on the women around him, both those aiding him and those who reject him. Two former members of Black Panther's all-female bodyguards, the Dora Milaje, have become vigilantes in an increasingly unstable society. That society is being stirred to revolution as another enemy begins building a militia. The Black Panther is shown to increasingly be at a loss in this age that rejects kings.

Stelfreeze excells with the visuals for Wakandan culture and technology. Shots of T'Challa suiting up are particularly a favorite of mine. With a mix of tribal and Kirby, Stelfreeze is successful at building a world booming with clean industrial possibilities while still tied to a traditional way of life. He also does some heavy lifting with making a number of "talking heads" scenes dynamic as Coates lays his story out. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates is probably the biggest crossover writer to comics since Stephen King contributed to the early issues of American Vampire. There are the expected occasional stumbles with crossing over into the comics medium, namely Coates' pacing is a bit scattered at times. That said, his story is intriguing due to its politics and efforts at world building. This is not a showcase for T'Challa, the Black Panther. Instead, it is what it means to be a woman in society, what it means to be a man in society, what happens when your government fails you, and what does it mean to be a king in this modern world? 

A Nation Under Our Feet continues in two more volumes. There are also spinoffs exploring the World of Wakanda and Black Panther working with African Americans in NYC. I look forward to diving deeper into this story as time goes on.

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