Black Panther #1 (LGY #173)

Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Daniel Acuña
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Daniel Acuña
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by Nico Sprezzatura

Ever since Black Panther became a mega-blockbuster earlier this year, T’Challa’s profile has never been higher, with plenty of content to keep fans sated. In this week’s Black Panther #1, Ta-Nehisi Coates continues his epic run with the Wakandan King, but is it a jumping-on point that actually delivers as an introduction for new readers?

I haven’t actually picked up the last year’s worth of issues, but Coates’ Black Panther has been a fascinating experiment. For starters, Coates didn’t have a background in writing comics (or fiction, for that matter) when he was tapped for the gig, and Marvel has done a lot of that kind of hiring lately. Sometimes it really works out for them (Saladin Ahmed’s Black Bolt), but other times it’s a little more mixed (Gabby Rivera’s America).

I’d say Coates’ initial Black Panther run fell in the middle of those extremes, at least when I was buying it monthly. While I liked his character work, I felt Coates’ plotting could’ve been better, and that it felt a bit overly wordy at times. After reading Black Panther #1, however, it seems learning on the job has worked out tremendously for Coates, because this issue is gooooood.

How does “Black Panther in space” sound to you? Because that’s precisely what “The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda” is about. After waking up as an amnesiac slave in a spaceship somewhere in the galaxy, T’Challa is thrust into the middle of a cosmic rebellion. Alongside two soldiers named M’Baku and Nakia —sound familiar?— it’s up to him to figure out what’s going on, and how he can get out of it.

While Coates’ initial span of issues were very grounded in socio-political themes, this issue is pure superhero space action. There are aliens! Laser guns! Cat uniforms! It’s a completely bonkers turn for T’Challa, and I’m super intrigued to see where Coates takes this new direction moving forward.

A lot —if not most— of this issue’s success can be attributed to new ongoing artist Daniel Acuña, taking over from Brian Stelfreeze’s impressive run on the title. Acuña’s art has such a distinct look to it that makes reading Black Panther #1 worth mulling over.

While Coates’ scripting has massively upgraded since he began, Acuña’s visual storytelling does a lot of the heavy-lifting. The tone here particular reminds me of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s inaugural Black Widow issue, which was very light on words but packed with action. Black Panther #1 is still wordier than the latter, but it’s such a breezy reading experience that you almost don’t notice how quickly it goes by. His layouts are also very clear to parse, and make for unusual pages that are still intelligible as your eye travels through them. Just from this #1, it seems Coates and Acuña are a great match for one another.

If I had to critique anything, I would say that it took me a while to realize what exactly was happening — partly because I’m not up-to-date on Coates’ run, but also because its media res nature forces you to pick up the pace without an explanation. But even then, there’s a brief recap page at the front and an explainer in the back that helps contextualize the proceedings that came before it, so it’s not a huge thing. If you have any interest in Black Panther, it’s not that hard to catch on.

The Verdict: Buy it!

In this week’s Black Panther #1, Ta-Nehisi Coates begins the next chapter of his run with T’Challa in action-packed, spacefaring form.

Nico Sprezzatura
Nico Frank Sprezzatura, middle name optional. 24. Schrödinger's writer.

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