Previously in Black Panther #6
There’s plenty that could be analyzed and dissected about what’s in store for Wakanda in the coming issues of Black Panther. Issue seven began with the anticipated arrival of The Crew, which featured Manifest, Misty Knight, Storm, and Luke Cage. Thanks to T’Challa playing to Ezekiel Stane’s ego, the King was able to get the jump on him and his cronies, setting the stage for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ first big battle involving Marvel powerhouses. Although the first few pages of part seven of ‘A Nation Under Our Feet’ were exciting and gave readers a greater connection to the Marvel universe, this issue presented the concept of power in a myriad of ways. Be it how it’s wielded by the enhanced or mutated, imbued in words spoken to elicit emotional responses, affects the psyche of those spearheading opposing ideologies and lastly, strengthens the resolve of the suppressed and abused.
As an avid historian, reading Black Panther every month has been thoroughly enjoyable experience. Its articulated through-line on the persistent philosophical struggle between freedom and equality and the men who lead their charge reminded me of an oft-used quote from Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men”. Regrettably, T’Challa’s actions in previous issues have only proven Sir John Dalberg-Acton’s apodictic observations have chilling permanence. Still, nothing compares to the callous machinations and cruelty inflicted on Wakanda by the figurehead of The People, Tetu.
The keystone to the latest quagmire occurring within Wakanda is Changamire, whose history with the royal family and association with Tetu and The People give him unique insight on the possible futures (and maladies) all of Wakanda may endure.
The fruits of Changamire’s teachings now sit proudly before him, with Tetu comfortably assuming a seat of power among those who wish to purge the Jambazi from the Golden City. Now the passive teacher has become an active participant in his nation’s future and is fearful of either side becoming the victor. The ire Changamire feels for the taifa ngao is deep-seated and immovable; never will he trust any of them or T’Challa again. Sadly, the hope he laid entirely in Tetu’s hands has been squandered after he discovered his pupil is willing to kill innocents in order to advance his cause. And from the way Tetu ended his conversation with Changamire, the worse is yet to come.
Ultimately the most inspiring chapter in issue seven involved Shuri and the reawakening of self, as inspirited by the griot and its retelling of Old Wakanda’s ancient stories. In perhaps their final conversation, Shuri and “Ramonda” recall the myth of Oronde, son of Yaa, daughter of Akosua, First Born of the House of Adofo. Uncertain why the story of Oronde came to her unexpectedly, Ramonda encourages Shuri to evoke the details of his life and the challenge given to Oronde by a cheetah. In spite of Shuri’s bewilderment to her crystal clear recollection of Oronde’s tale, the griot was confident that her student was subconsciously aware of the proverb’s significance. Like a blinding light, Shuri finally discovered the answer to her discord within her and gave it voice.
Yet again, Coates deftly embeds profound elements of African sociopolitical history within this fantastical setting, giving an entirely new audience that may not be as adept in our history, concepts and sayings like ‘Amandla’ would hopefully draw inquiry among readers who will discover the term used as a call and response among South African activists from the 1950s onward. “Amandla” in Xhosa and Zulu roughly translates as ‘Power’; when shouted, others reply with “Ngawethu”, ‘to us’. The impassioned would continue to chant these two words proudly and repeatedly, crying out for all to hear the African saying for “Power to the people.”
From the moment Black Panther’s first issue hit the stands, it’s been a true pleasure to read and the anticipated book in one’s pull list. In little time, Coates has managed to construct a vibrant yet overwrought and knavish kingdom layered with players of considerable depth and frailty. Although the war for the heart of the nation has been given prominence, the true fight to restore Wakanda’s soul – by a woman who traverses the realms of the living and the dead – is a journey that must succeed for sake of the people’s social and spiritual identity. Or else all will be for naught.
Black Panther #7