REVIEW: Rise of the Black Panther #1 – “The Beginning”

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Writers: Evan Narcisse & Ta-Nehisi Coates
Penciller: Paul Renaud
Colorist: Stéphane Paitreau
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 1/3/18

With the highly-anticipated film a little over a month away from release, Rise of the Black Panther #1 provides a comprehensive look at the life of young T’Challa, the reign of his father T’Chaka, and the history of Wakanda and its warrior-rulers.

Plot: Rise of the Black Panther #1 opens on Captain America’s visit to Wakanda, in which he sought some of the Vibranium they hide so well and made friends with King Azzuri. Despite the successful outcome of their encounter, other Wakandans are made uneasy by a potential alliance with outsiders. Once T’Chaka is King, he is cautioned not to follow in his father’s footsteps – and to find himself a Queen, of course. Considering that the issue is framed as a the words N’yami left for her son T’Challa, he clearly heeded that advice at least.

But we go far beyond their first meeting, as Rise of the Black Panther #1 welcomes T’Challa into the world and says goodbye to N’yami before finally ending with T’Chaka’s own death.

Story: There is a lot of content to chew on in this issue, seeing as Rise of the Black Panther #1 spans the entire life of a Wakandan King. While there are parts that threaten to gloss over intricate stories a little too easily (somewhat like X-Men: Grand Design has done), Narcisse also takes his time with the more emotional family interactions with Coates as a guiding hand. Given how the current Black Panther run has made next to no mention of Queen N’yami, for example, it’s only right that her relationship with T’Chaka is explored more in-depth here.

N’yami’s fears about her children having to take on the burden of leadership and face unseemly disasters if she marries T’Chaka are not only valid, but serve as a poignant theme for the miniseries and for stories of heroes at large. It’s especially crucial for Wakanda due to their isolationism being threatened by outsiders for the first time, though it would have been beneficial to delve more into Wakanda’s previous tribal wars and how that affected both Nyami’s worldview and her husband’s rule. Nevertheless, her belief that no Wakandan is common and that each part of the country must strengthen the whole does much to inform the man that T’Challa has become – and even creates a loftier goal for him to live up to, seeing how much unrest his participation in the rest of the Marvel Universe has caused his homeland.

The story picks up the pace – but loses much of its nuance – after their marriage. We are shown glimpses of how T’Chaka ruled, and how HYDRA tried to stoke revolution and learned the location of Wakanda. Though several pages are spent on the battle to keep them out, it feels more like an opportunity to show off the art – and have a fight scene – than to dig deep in any other way. Nyami’s death not long after T’Challa is born is tragic, but again feels like it was done in shorthand. As someone not as well-versed in Black Panther lore, I cannot be sure if these specific stories are chronicled elsewhere, but it seems a shame to condense all of her and T’Chaka’s story into one issue. Ulysess S. Klaw and the murder of T’Chaka are more well known, so using that as a stopping point is understandable.

Art: Paul Renaud and Stéphane Paitreau have managed to create a fresh look at Wakanda and the world surrounding T’Challa in Rise of the Black Panther #1. The artwork is detailed and expressive, providing enough visual clues to introduce readers to each location or character while still using colors and shadows in an artful manner that leaves something to the imagination. The warm colors throw the darker moments of the story – such as the attacks from HYDRA and Klaw especially – further into relief and help paint Wakanda as the loving and beautiful place.

The action sequences are drawn vividly, with a fluidity that feels as sleek as the Black Panther himself. As interesting as the backstory itself is, it is the art that draws the audience in.

Verdict: Rise of the Black Panther #1 is a great primer for anyone looking to learn more about Wakanda’s history and T’Challa’s ancestors, especially if you don’t have the time or inclination to read through years’ worth of older comics.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5

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