No other series at Marvel has been promoted better this year than this week’s new release, Black Panther. That’s a statement I never thought I would make! When the publisher tapped popular author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic) to write the series, Marvel took advantage of the opportunity to create a comic that could reach more than just Wednesday Warriors. Then, the addition of artist Brian Stelfreeze (Batman Versus Bane) as series artist cemented the fact that this comic was going to be a smash. Coates was a couple steps ahead of the competition when he cited the premise for the series on The Atlantic. He carefully noted that this run is not a complete continuity wash of other Black Panther comics, but rather his attempt to honor what came before and start something new in Wakanda.
Not to be left out, fan favorite Star Wars Episode VII character Poe Dameron has a new monthly series beginning this week as well. EPIC.
Black Panther #1
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Colors: Laura Martin Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino Design: Danny Mederos Logo: Rian Hughes
This is another comic that immediately kicks things off with a recap page and events that are directly affected by previously established continuity. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Like I mentioned, Coates said he aims to honor Black Panther’s history– not rewrite it. Indeed, you don’t need to know much going into the book, as Coates deftly uses Black Panther’s past to welcome new characters to the family.
Immediately upon opening the pages of Black Panther #1, readers are going to be struck by Denny Mederos’ excellent design. The title page makes me think I’m looking at a Jonathan Hickman comic! This immediately sets Black Panther apart from some of the competition, and the reader hasn’t even reached the first page yet!
The book quickly jumps on the ball, with the first page introducing us to T’Challa’s fractured state of mind. After the destruction of Wakanda, writer Jonathan Hickman (Avengers) never got the chance to resolve the chaos in T’Challa’s home nation before the chaos of Secret Wars enveloped his complicated narrative. The T’Challa we meet is a product of that chaos, torn between his duty as king to an ailing kingdom and Avenger of a scarred world. The choice to hold onto Hickman’s post-Secret Wars continuity for this book is an interesting one, as it again distinguishes Black Panther from most All-New All-Different books– perhaps the idea of a king without kingdom is simply an interesting dramatic conceit to Coates.
Stelfreeze exerts lots of wonderful kinetic energy in this issue. His art is constantly moving, framing characters in the most dramatic ways possible. There’s a reason why he’s such a well regarded name, and that reason is on display throughout this whole book.
Coates also sets the stage in this issue by expanding upon the different characters in Wakanda. The author checks in on some familiar faces, but also fleshes parts of the world that have been ignored or never seen before. The amount of world building present in this comic is admirable, as some currently creating Marvel series are too afraid to create or really dig deep enough into the backstory of these characters to offer up something substantial to the readership. There’s even a new villain with morally grey goals topical to our real world society. She’s interesting, but Coates did not dig deep enough into her this issue in order for her presence to strike fear into the reader. In future issues, seeing the author build this new character into a fully-fleshed out Panther adversary would serve the hero well.
In the tradition of writers like Jason Aaron, Roy Thomas, Don McGregor, Stan Lee, Reginald Hudlin, Jonathan Hickman and Christopher Priest, Coates is able to channel that classic voice of T’Challa and further expand his world in an exciting and unique within this brand new story arc.
Verdict: I think you should buy this one.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1
Writer: Charles Soule Artist: Phil Noto Writer/Artist: Chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Under Marvel’s stewardship, Star Wars comics have remained incredibly consistent, and happily, the new Poe Dameron #1 continues the tradition! In reading the story, I was incredibly surprised at where author Charles Soule started Dameron’s story, placing it at a location that seems to be rather close to the recent Star Wars film. Author Greg Rucka fleshed out his backstory a bit in Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire (one of the most terrible named comics in human existence)– however now author Charles Soule has the distinctive opportunity to flesh out Dameron’s time as a resistance pilot.
The author utilizes all the best pits of interaction between Dameron and BB-8 and adds some new and familiar cast members. In addition, the author gets to toy with the status quo for Leia Organa. This is all a nice addition to the Star Wars canon, but ultimately wasn’t very distinctive compared to some of the other Star Wars series Marvel is presently publishing.
Noto has some heavy-lifting to do in this comic with the inclusion of all the different vehicle chases. Matt Fraction has spoken at length about how difficult it is to position cruises in the right way within the scope and vision of comics, but this issue proves that Noto and Soule have a strong working relationship between writer and artist that allows for clarity within these sequences. Leia and company look fantastic, as Noto’s experience drawing Star Wars in the past makes his work feel striking and confident.
While this story might be missing a little something, I wouldn’t mind digging into this corner of the Star Wars Universe monthly. With the last page cliffhanger, there’s always room for next month’s issue to really mine the conflict from the story. Chris Eliopoulos’ extra story was extraordinarily charming and worthy of the additional page count in the series.
Verdict: Worth a look, not a buy!
Next week is busy as well, with the inclusion of Gwenpool #1 and more– see you then!
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics