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Black Panther #1

Black Panther #1 | Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates | Artist: Brian Stelfreeze | Color Artist: Laura Martin | Letterer: Joe Sabino | Publisher: Marvel

blk panther cover

It’s not difficult to realize the name of the first arc – A Nation Under Our Feet – was chosen by Coates as a grim foretelling of the challenges T’Challa will face in his quest to restore the faith lost among his subjects. For generations the Panthers were the guardians of the small African nation, creating a system of justice and peace that ensured its citizens would never be in want. While the royal family shepherded their flock to unprecedented prosperity, their freedoms have never been developed like their technological and economic standing in the world.

Recalling the recent history of the tiny yet influential country, it’s understandable why Wakandans want radical change. The unrest exhibited by the citizenry has been rising steadily in recent years, however the heightened resentment directed expressly towards T’Challa and his stepmother/Queen Regent Ramonda is justified. After Dr. Doom attempted to enact a coup, and a brief yet destructive occupation by Namor’s Cabal and Thanos, the country remains unsure of its security and disillusioned about the purpose of the Black Panthers. Are they even necessary today… and do they cause more strife than anything for Wakandans?

In following the development of the series and reading occasional snippets of insight from Coates, readers were confident in knowing the author was going to reach deep into a well of information about African history, political uprisings and contemporary warfare with smatterings of speculative fiction and afrofuturism. In the first page, Coates succinctly established the tone of Black Panther with a poignant and gorgeous triptych by Brian Stelfreeze. In a mere three panels, readers new to T’Challa know the kingdom is in disarray and its king is barely holding on to his crown.

blk panther panel

What one experiences is a story of Machiavellian proportions and establishes a number of antagonists T’Challa must contend with, aside from his self-doubt. As The People rise against the monarchy, their most loyal protectors – the Dora Milaje – are depended upon by the ruling class more than ever. Unfortunately their desperation to restore order gives no one any quarter. If the laws are broken by anyone, no matter their service to Wakanda, punishment will be swift and severe.

Unsurprisingly, the reaction to the monarchy’s stance is met with a violent response by its most fervent enemies and closest allies. The introduction of two Dora Milaje, Ayo and Aneka, not only showcase their dedication to one another and voracity for defending Wakanda, but also the promise of being two formidable opponents for the errant T’Challa. As his support crumbles underneath his feet, the king looks to restore his most trusted partner before Wakanda is completely lost to him.

In regards to its technical and artistic merit, Black Panther is simply beautiful. Digital comics may be the gold standard from here on out, but this is a comic book every enthusiast will feel compelled to hold in their hands and relish like in the days of yore. Brian Stelfreeze has consistently been one of the most dynamic artists in the industry with his sharp, clean designs, sweeping action and expressive single panels. It’s quite apparent in the first issue that the series is a labor of love between Coates and Stelfreeze as each shares a passion and confidence in one another’s talents in advancing the story with vigor and energetic effect.

blk panther panel 1

As brilliant as Coates and Stelfreeze are in crafting a Wakanda that is splendorous and rife with intrigue, the addition of Laura Martin ties everything together with a masterful stroke. A true color artist as titled in the issue, Martin’s savvy is on full display. The weightiness of the subject matter is lightened from the wash of colors Martin employs from cover to cover. Truly, Black Panther is a visual marvel.

As close to perfection as a series can come. It’s only the first issue, but all signs point to Black Panther being an intensely satisfying read every month. After all the months of anticipation, Coates’ first book did not disappoint in the slightest. Congratulations to all involved!

Don’t forget to email with the subject line “okay to print” to let your comments and suggestions be known.

Black Panther #1
  • 10/10
    Plot - 10/10
  • 10/10
    Dialogue - 10/10
  • 10/10
    Art - 10/10
  • 10/10
    Back Matter - 10/10
About Rexlor Graymond (493 Articles)
Rex Graymond is 24.6kg tripolymer composite, 11.8kg beryllium-nickel-titanium alloy. Constructed in Northern California. Loves comics and films almost as much as pancakes. ALMOST.
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1 Comment on Black Panther #1

  1. Great review. This comic was awesome. Coates said this was probably his weakest issue, so I can’t wait to see what he has coming. I picked up 3 copies.

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