The future is female in this week’s Marvel Rundown as breakout Black Panther cast member Shuri steps into her own solo series! Can she step out of her big brother’s shadow in the process? Plus, the Rundown favorite title The Unstoppable Wasp returns with a brand new mini-series. But has the new mini lost a step from the previous volume? The Marvel Rundown starts now!
Written by Nnedi Okorafor
Illustrated by Leonardo Romero
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Joe Sabino
Alexander Jones: Shuri #1 is here! After receiving more notoriety than ever the breakout star of Black Panther is helming a solo title. Plus, the creative team features Marvel rising star Leonardo Romero and author Nnedi Okorafor. What did each of you gentlemen think of Shuri’s solo debut?
AJ Frost: Alex, Joe, great to be back with ya for another exciting week of Rundown Madness. Here’s the thing: The Shuri of the Black Panther film was one of my favorite parts of it. As a character, I thought she brought a quiet strength to the movie; as a symbol for young girls (and boys!), I thought she couldn’t be beat. But this book, even though it tries to appeal to that idea of Shuri as a paradigm-shifting leader of Wakanda, just didn’t hit the mark for me. It was a well-constructed book and there was nothing terrible about it, but it didn’t go that extra step of making me feel emotionally connected to the story or the action.
Joe Grunenwald: Greetings, gentlemen. I’m with AJ on a lot of what he said about the MCU Shuri. I think a lot of the character’s appeal in the films comes from the way actress Letitia Wright plays her, and I was curious to see if the character could stand on her own without that actress inhabiting her. The good news is I think she can, but that doesn’t save this comic from being, unfortunately, pretty dull.
Frost: There’s such a wide template for this character. The creative team decided to do something safe, which isn’t bad, but it’s not exciting either.
Jones: I agree. I think some of Shuri’s interesting personality ends up getting drowned out from the rest of the title. I think there’s a certain level of ambiguity surrounding the setting of Wakanda that the film broke out of to give readers a more definitive take on the setting. This issue is heavy on exposition and the nature of Wakanda as a whole. I was pretty disappointed by the reading experience.
Grunenwald: My biggest problem is that this entire issue takes place in the shadow of T’Challa. Basically everything that happens to Shuri here—and there’s not a lot, which is another issue—is because of T’Challa and something that happens to him. Obviously, the characters are linked, but I was hoping to see a story about Shuri that wasn’t defined completely by her relationship with her brother.
Frost: That’s an interesting idea, Joe. As we know from past arcs, and certainly from the movie (which is not directly connected to the comics canon but which most readers will know as a frame of reference), Shuri’s most admirable trait is her independence and her vision for Wakanda. Now, there’s a lot of narrative space dedicated to Shuri’s chafing under Wakanda’s rules of royal decorum, but as you said, Joe, it’s all in relation to her brother and her role in the hierarchy. Her agency is squashed by forces that she has no control over. And (somewhat spoiler) while that’s discussed near the end of the book, the journey there isn’t particularly gripping stuff. What do you all think?
Jones: This issue definitely attempts to dive into Shuri’s psyche but unfortunately only does so via narration and limited exposure to the remainder of the cast. There were lots of interesting cast members in the film and I wish they were fleshed out better. I definitely agree with your sentiment about her not having enough agency in general.
Grunenwald: I liked that we got a glimpse of some of those characters towards the end of the issue, as well as some new ones with what seems like a lot of potential. The ending of the issue is really where the interesting stuff begins, which is great and it makes me want to read more…but it’s not great for the preceding 20-odd pages of exposition and setup. Writer Nnedi Okorafor doesn’t have a ton of comics-writing credits to her name, and I think her relative greenness shows in the slow pacing of this opening chapter.
Frost: Yeah, this was definitely editor-mandated material, hitting all the right marks so new readers know what’s up before delving into the real part of the story. That works so much better for the trade than the single issue, however.
Grunenwald: I just think there’s a way to present all of that exposition in a more narratively interesting way. Even just rearranging some of the scenes in the issue could have helped with that. My structural issues aside, I think Okorafor has a solid grasp of Shuri as a character, and a nice ear for dialogue.
Jones: Maybe this should have been a double-sized issue. I will say that the comic definitely did not work the way it was presented. Maybe the story that Nnedi Okorafor was telling was too big and laborious for just one chapter of comics. However, that is a tremendous allowance to give to a writer. I agree with what you said about her dialogue, Joe.
Frost: All good points. A double issue may have alleviated the narrative challenges, but it also might have been too much space and could have meandered off. It’s hard to tell.
Grunenwald: What did you gents think about the art?
Jones: Leonardo Romero is a titan of comics. He is the new Chris Samnee and everything he draws is exceptional. This issue is no exception.
Frost: The art was good and had a nice sense of weight to it. Your Samnee comparison is really on the money in terms of the aesthetic, but I can’t help but feel that once I finished the issue, the art receded from my memory.
Grunenwald: I really love Romero’s work. He definitely has a very Samnee-inspired style, and I’m on board for it. I loved his work on Hawkeye, and I’m glad to see him again here.
Jones: Joe is backing me up here.
Grunenwald: I don’t know that I’d call him “the new Chris Samnee,” but he’s very good. Maybe he’s the new Chris Samnee while Chris Samnee is taking a break from full-time comics.
Frost: Haha. I’m in agreement with y’all in terms of appreciating the art. But I only appreciated it in the moment and don’t think it had any lasting effect on me.
Jones: Romero is very good. He is great at giving secondary actions to characters and giving individuals a great sense of place and location. He allows for the script to come alive and seem slightly less non-descript and vague than it actually is.
Frost: To each their own!
Grunenwald: The pages of Shuri testing out her nanotech wings are so full of energy. I’m a sucker for ‘first flight’ scenes.
Frost: That was a highlight of the book for sure. If only the rest could have soared to those heights.
Jones: I think Romero is an excellent talent who gives 110% to every single project he works on. What are your final thoughts, gentlemen?
Grunenwald: I agree with AJ’s earlier comment about this issue working better as part of a trade than as a standalone story. The art’s great, and the characterization is solid, but the overall story is too slow and a little too weighted down by dependence on T’Challa for me to wholeheartedly recommend. I’d give this one a BROWSE.
Frost: I really, really wanted to love this comic and share it’s greatness with the world. But, in the end, it was underwhelming and didn’t live up to its potential… at least for now. This is BROWSE from me as well.
Jones: As much as I love Romero’s art it is hard for me to recommend this to anyone. I’m going to do the usual and just give the full issue a SKIP. There are plenty of other Marvel titles that demand your attention which make it difficult for me to give this installment even a borrow.
Final Verdict: The Rundown is divided again! Joe and AJ say BROWSE, Alexander says SKIP!
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Illustrated by Gurihuru
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Alexander Jones: AJ, Joe. My favorite comic book of the last few years The Unstoppable Wasp is back! What did you think about Nadia Pym’s new mini-series?
AJ Frost: This new iteration of The Unstoppable Wasp is, to me, cut from the same cloth as The Unbelievable Gwenpool in terms of tone and style (this last point is primarily because of the main illustrating team Gurihiru). For the most part, this book was a breezy read that really felt like a sugar rush. Lots of energy, lots of fun, but not substantial in any way.
Joe Grunenwald: Have you ever read a comic that you know is objectively well-done, but that you just can’t get into? That’s how I felt reading the first issue of the previous The Unstoppable Wasp series, and it’s how I felt reading this new #1. It’s good! But it’s not for me.
Jones: I think the biggest thing setting this series and past comics apart is the undying positivity of The Unstoppable Wasp. I don’t feel like readers are given a great sense of that gesture in this issue and get the impression author Jeremy Whitley is just trying to move the plot along. That being said, I think this is still cute and pleasant. Being a fan of the previous series, I definitely see what he is going for and how he missed the mark. Let’s be honest, losing Elsa Charretier is a blow to the comic despite the greatness of Gurihuru.
Frost: You said it, Alex. Elsa is one of the best artists in the industry and her work is absolutely stunning. Gurihiru is not bad of course and occupies a different artistic sensibility, so I would consider this more of a sidestep than a missed opportunity. To sum up this book, it’s pleasant and fun, yes, but it also does have some interesting story elements to it too. I think the creative team has awareness enough that no one needs a dark Wasp story. This is a nice antidote to a lot of Marvel’s brooding books.
Grunenwald: I agree with both of you that the tone of this book is refreshing. Gurihiru’s art definitely lends itself to that. And I appreciated that Whitley gets right into things. The issue begins in the middle of a robbery and takes off from there. There are no dull moments here.
Jones: Let’s be honest and say that this installment doesn’t really fit some of the best issues of the series to date and spends lots of time introducing older concepts and ideas previous issues already established. The last debut for the series impressed me a whole lot more and it didn’t hurt that Charretier drew that issue. I feel like the pencils were so good the series has left me spoiled.
Grunenwald: See, I didn’t notice any of that repetition. I also only read the first issue of the first volume and have very little memory of even that. I think it’s a strength how accessible this comic is given that it’s a continuation of a previous series.
Frost: This is solid stuff. I mean, Elsa’s work can’t be beaten, so it’s not really fair to judge this side by side. I think the Wasp is an enjoyable ride that never bothers itself with being great. Just fun!
Grunenwald: Whitley does a nice job introducing all of the characters, with descriptive captions giving readers enough of a snapshot to get them going and characterization that reinforces the intros. I feel like I have a pretty good feel for each of the characters, and there are a lot of them, so that’s saying something about how well it’s done.
Frost: It’s nice that the art style feels almost like it’s taken directly from an anime. There’s definitely a wonderful sense of movement and scale, which are musts for any Wasp book.
Jones: It is good that the art style looks like an anime. However, I can’t shake the idea that there is something more from the art in this series that was not properly explored by Gurihuru. There’s something about this particular character that makes her stand out from the other Champions and newer cast members. I’m not sure this issue or the artwork got that idea across.
Grunenwald: I can see where you’re coming from, Alex. There’s nothing particularly ‘super-genius-y’ about anything that Nadia does in this comic. She drives extremely recklessly and then engages in some pretty standard superheroics. If you know more about the character going in, I can understand how this could’ve been a letdown in that regard. And maybe I’m just an old man but I actually found the reckless driving kind of off-putting. She could’ve hurt Jarvis!
Frost: The recklessness of youth. It was almost too cartoon-y to take seriously though, Joe. Even for the Avengers butler!
Grunenwald: It is really over-the-top, and I get what it was trying to accomplish character-wise for Nadia, but it didn’t land for me, and it felt out of place against the rest of the issue. But again, I have a very strong feeling that this comic is Not For Me, so I can’t really hold any of that against it. I want books like this to be out there for the people who want to read them.
Frost: That’s definitely a mature thought that some in the community should emulate, Joe.
Jones: I think that this series should be able to appeal to you if it is executed just right. If this was as good as the initial comic I think we would universally be all on it.
Frost: I’m with you there, Alex!
Jones: What is everyone’s final thoughts on the issue?
Frost: While it was definitely fun and light, it didn’t grab my attention in a way that made me think it was significant. Giving this a WEAK BROWSE.
Grunenwald: I’m with AJ; I liked the tone overall, and there’s some good character work, but ultimately this book didn’t really do anything for me. It’s a WEAK BROWSE from me as well.
Jones: I genuinely feel that this comic will get better next issue. Let’s give it a SKIP and see the next issue. In fact, I would like to see this exact column again with both follow-up issues. I also can’t believe I’m giving The Unstoppable Wasp a SKIP verdict. What has the world come too?
Frost: Dang! What a weird week for Marvel. And for the Rundown. But as always, it’s a pleasure talking shop with you fellows!
Grunenwald: Agreed. Until next time!
Final Verdict: Joe and AJ say WEAK BROWSE, Alexander says SKIP!
Next week, Gwen Stacy swings back into action in Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1, and Moon Knight hits its milestone 200th issue.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.