REVIEW: Black Panther: World of Wakanda #1 – “Dawn of the Midnight Angels”

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BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #1
Writers: Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey & Ta-Nehisi Coates
Pencillers: Alitha E. Martinez & Afua Richardson
Colorists: Rachelle Rosenberg & Tamra Bonvillain

Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 11/9/16

Black Panther: World of Wakanda takes readers back to the origins of the Midnight Angels, back when Aneka and Ayo first met in the Dora Milaje. Sparks fly as soon as the young recruit Ayo meets her new captain Aneka, but neither woman recognizes exactly what they’re feeling…yet.

Plot: Aneka is tasked with training the newest Dora Milaje recruits, and finds that one in particular is so proud that she must be humbled. This initiate is Ayo, who refuses to bend before Aneka’s will and thus intrigues her all the more. Just as Aneka is drawn to Ayo and channels that feeling into aggression, Ayo feels and does the same. As months go by and Ayo’s training deepens, so does her bond with Aneka. But how that bond may be tested or strengthened once the initiates become full members of the Dora Milaje has yet to be revealed.

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Though the main focus is on Aneka and Ayo, the first issue also introduces characters such as Mistress Zola and Initiate Folami in an effort to weave a world that spans more than just events leading up to the current Black Panther run. There is even a second story, “The People For The People,” detailing Zenzi’s backstory and opening up the world of Wakanda even more by exploring its rivalry with Niganda.

Story: While there aren’t a great deal of plot developments in the first issue of World of Wakanda, the main characters are all fleshed out very convincingly. Even without knowing much about Aneka’s youth or life before the Dora Milaje, her struggle against developing feelings for Ayo is both believable and compelling. At the same time, it’s easy to connect to the fire within Ayo and want to see her hold her head up with pride even when others caution her to be humble. Not much time is spent on the war that the Dora Milaje end up in, but it’s clear that next month’s issue will deal with more action and intrigue now that the protagonists are more developed. There’s also a few mysteries, such a Folami’s motivation when it comes to her training, that will hopefully be revealed soon.

Zenzi’s story, meanwhile, hits on the death of her parents and the journey she undertook in crossing the border from Niganda to Wakanda. The generations-old resentments she carries with her take root in both countries and it becomes clearer how she ends up trying to topple Wakanda’s monarchy. What still remains to be seen, though, is how what caused native Wakandans to want the same thing.

Both stories end on the cusp of a major battle or revelation, having barely scratched the surface of the Midnight Angels and The People respectively, and thus preparing the audience for how Ayo, Aneka and Zenzi will take the paths that lead them to to Black Panther in the future. Despite telling two very different tales, Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey prove how adept they are at bringing complex characters and detailed worlds to life. Ta-Nehisi Coates brings his intimate knowledge to the table, ensuring that this prologue flows seamlessly with T’Challa’s story in the “present day.”

Art: Both pencillers are new to me, while the colorists feel like old friends, but all the art is top-notch in this first World of Wakanda issue. Not only do the protagonists have several distinguishing features, but even the background characters are drawn with so many different expressions that it’s easy to decipher what they’re thinking at any given time. The backgrounds are also exquisite: richly colored and painstakingly detailed in Ayo and Aneka’s story, while Zenzi’s tale is filled with dreamlike backdrops that resemble watercolor paintings of a sunset. The stylistic difference serves to set the defenders of Wakanda apart from the reformers, but both are visually appealing. 

Joe Sabino’s lettering, as well as the title pages, tie both halves of the issue together and make it feel whole. Even the map page of Wakanda and the description of its history seems a work of art, acting as a general textbook lesson while specifically painting a picture of Zenzi’s motivations.

Verdict: Black Panther: World of Wakanda is off to a great start. It’s a perfect compliment to Coates’ Black Panther run, while still able to stand on its own. The first issue also hints at future glimpses of Queen Shuri and a younger T’Challa, which is sure to entice readers hoping for more of their dynamic.

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