The former queen (and Black Panther’s sister), Shuri, has been killed in the aftermath of Secret Wars and T’Challa has been reinstalled as king, but in name only. While he is off Black Panthering the real power it seems is T’Challa’s step-mother, Ramonda, who rules as queen and supreme judge. In her judge capacity Ramonda orders rebel warrior to be put to death, which leads to her lover breaking her out of prison and sets these two up as the series antagonists going forward.
T’Challa does not do much at all actually, and seems distracted throughout the majority of the issue. The reason for this is revealed at the end, but the action seems to take place around him rather than because of him.
In the past T’Challa/Black Panther has been portrayed as always in control and always a step ahead of everyone else around him. Here he has doubts and is unsure of his actions. I find this a much more dynamic and interesting way to handle him as a lead. And this works to the story’s advantage.
Rather than this being a straight super hero story what we get is a story of Wakanda as a whole. The inner workings and political intrigue of the country is the main focus. This is a nation that has in the past been portrayed as a paradise, a utopia, with the people following their charismatic leader with unwavering loyalty. But this is not the case now. The inherent problems with monarchy and absolute rule are beginning to show.
Yes there is a lot of setup here, but it never seems rushed or bloated. It is obvious the Coates is building a long-form here but we do not feel cheated, and we are given some nice character moments and dialogue.
And I have to acknowledge Brian Stelfreeze’s art…it is stunning. Just beautiful panels, one after an other. He adds a dynamism and emotion that just propels the story forward. His pacing and dramatic beats are perfect for Coates’ writing. Can’t say enough about it.
All-in-all this is a great start. I didn’t know what to expect with this issue but it turned out to be exactly what I wanted. A beautiful, well written political drama with just a hint of super heroing.