For readers like me interested in Captain America 3: Civil War, Black Panther #1 is a good issue to introduce you to the King of Wakanda, T’Challa.
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and art by Brian Stelfreeze, A Nation Under our Feet part 1 presents us with a conflicted T’Challa, who is struggling to keep the most technologically advanced country in the world, Wakanda, under control. The once peaceful kingdom has been the battlefield of many recent events. Suffering from all the bloodshed and disappearance of their previous Queen, Shuri, the citizens of Wakanda no longer believe in their ancient traditions and are crying for revolution.
The Black Panther, noticing a coup is developing among his vibranium miners at the Great Mound, jumps into the crowd in search of a green clad woman at the source of the rage, but loses her. T’Challa feels disconnected from his people and the way he handles the situation is criticized as if he were acting as a soldier, not a king. He wants blood so badly that he becomes unaware of the state of the kingdom he rules and doesn’t treat repairing the faith in citizens as the priority.
The masterminds behind the coup, Zenzi and Tetu, belong to the Nigandan Border Region. Zenzi is the woman our titular hero seeks and she does not control the citizens she meets in any way. She simply reveals to them their deepest thoughts with her powers and they act out in response. Tetu appears to be the head of the region and what he seeks is a reborn Wakanda, rebuilt from the ground up.
There is even conflict within his elite royal guard, the Dora Milaje, which is made entirely of women. Aneka, the captain, is at the heart of the tension because she overstepped her duties and murdered an outraged chieftain. She is sentenced to death by Ramonda, T’Challa’s stepmother, and is later rescued by her lover, Ayo, in a stolen prototype suit. The two throw away their loyalty to the country, claiming they will never serve the king again.
This story takes an interesting approach to introducing Black Panther to readers. Instead of pitting him against one of his rogue’s, the conflict is centered around his character and how he rules Wakanda as King. We get to become invested in the rich setting and experience a completely different culture, which is where the team of Coates and Stelfreeze shines. The citizens of Wakanda feel real and their cries for revolution makes their strife relatable to today’s world.
This is Coates’ first try at writing a comic and I’m very excited to see him develop. He’s a great fit for Black Panther because of his background in black-culture literature and has the potential to be the definitive writer for the character. I expect that this Black Panther run will take the character in a number of new uncharted directions.
Stelfreeze’s art propels the story forward. I love the way he’s adapted the feeling of an advanced civilization into a tribal-based culture. Everything looks sleek and simple, which reflects the design for Black Panther’s costume. There were no stunning spreads in this issue, but I look forward to seeing Wakanda fall from it’s rising internal conflict in the future.