Artist: Leonardo Romero
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover: Sam Spratt
Publisher: Marvel Comics
A review by Nico Sprezzatura.
You know her from Letitia Wright’s star-making performance in 2018’s Black Panther, but when T’Challa goes missing, who else is qualified to rule Wakanda in his stead? Look no further than this week’s Shuri #1 for answers.
Shuri #1 actually connects to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ current Black Panther storyline in a rather substantial way — with T’Challa lost somewhere in space, the onus falls on Shuri to assume her older brother’s title as the ruler of Wakanda. Since Coates (and Marvel) have been coy about T’Challa’s status in his own title, it’s pretty surprising that they essentially give away the “twist” here. But that’s a whole other topic. We’re here to talk about Shuri!
As alluded to above, the greater narrative thrust of this new Shuri title —in which she’s forced to become the new Black Panther in T’Challa’s absence— isn’t exactly a new one. Shuri has already been a Black Panther in the past. That was before she (and her older brother, for that matter) starred in a mega-blockbuster. The Black Panther name is bigger than ever in popular culture, which makes Shuri’s ascension to the mantle such a big deal, even if it obviously won’t last very long. But even in discussing that aspect of the series, it only happens in the closing pages. What really makes Shuri #1 shine is writer Nnedi Okorafor’s characterization of both Shuri and her fellow Wakandans, and the joint artist effort of rising talent Leonardo Romero & superstar colorist Jordie Bellaire.
Recently of the Dora Milaje-centric Wakanda Forever storyline, Okorafor has really been getting a chance to sink her teeth into the world of Wakanda this past year, and her affection for the fictional African kingdom shows here. Much like Letitia Wright’s portrayal in the Black Panther film, this Shuri is inquisitive, playful, and inventive, which aren’t necessarily qualities that Shuri previously displayed in some of her earlier appearances. All things considered, I think Okorafor does a good job of welding Shuri’s original personality with the newer Shuri that more people are familiar with. It can be risky to let movies and television influence how a character originally from a comic book is portrayed in their primary mediums. Here I think it actually helps make the character (i.e., Shuri) more layered and interesting.
And you can’t talk about Shuri without mentioning Romero and Bellaire, who make for a cracking artistic team together. Their shared work on Kelly Thompson’s Kate Bishop Hawkeye series was top-notch, so the Romero-Bellaire reunion here is much appreciated. Romero’s style is equal parts retro throwback and contemporary, calling to mind the likes of Chris Samnee, whom he actually replaced for a brief run on Mark Waid’s recent Captain America. His take on the Letitia Wright’s Shuri is also worth noting, as it perfectly captures Wright’s youthful energy to the character.
Bellaire’s colors, on the other hand, are exceedingly warm, reflecting Shuri’s personality and optimism. She also renders a particular, formative moment in Shuri’s early life with a vastly different palette that visually signals the shift from present to past. But generally speaking, her Wakanda is full of life and color, which is what you’d expect from the place onto the page.
With one of Marvel’s newest breakout stars at its core, Shuri #1 is the start of an exciting new series that deserves a place on your pull list.