Comicsly | adverb; in a manner that defies explanation but deserves recognition and praise

Black Panther #170

Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Artist: Leonard Kirk

Colors: Laura Martin

Cover: Phil Noto

Published: February 28, 2018

After the conclusion of the A Nation Under Our Feet storyline the next threat facing Wakanda has been the apparent absence of their protecting deities. This problem has been occupying T’Challa’s attention since before the Legacy event and the return of Klaw. Implicit in the story to this point has been the assumption that something happened to the gods. That they are missing because something in the ancestral or some other plane has gone wrong. But what if they gods left of their own free will, what if they chose to ignore Wakanda. This is the question that Tetu (the head troublemaker from the A Nation Under Our Feet arc) asks Wakanda’s leaders to consider. This is the philosophical meta narrative hanging over this issue as T’Challa and his team fight a losing battle against a swarm of originators and the mystic Ras the Exhorter who has summoned them. As T’Challa, Shuri, Dr. Franklin, Zawavari, and the Hatut Zeraze try to keep the originators at bay, Ras the exhorter summons the restless spirits of the peoples who were previously conquered at the site of the current battle and orders them to attack. As these spirits attack, Shuri is able to connect with these spirits in the ancestral plane and turn them upon the originators. Shuri is able to reach back and quell, for a while, the anger of these spirits redirecting their ire towards the originators. Shuri is unable to hold this connection for very long, and just as it breaks, Manifold appears with back-up (Ororo mainly). She and T’Challa share a quiet moment before Shuri impresses on her the seriousness of the situation. Ororo uses her powers to quickly dispatch the originators leaving T’Challa and Shuri to capture and unmask Ras the Exhorter. Ras is revealed to be Asira, the girl who was kidnapped a fair number of issues back and the girl the Ayo and Aneka were looking for when they were captured.

Black Panther (2016-) 170-006
Coates, Kirk, Martin/Marvel Comics

The fallout from Asira’s betrayal of Wakanda will occur in the next two issues, but how does this play into the Tetu’s ongoing conversation about what happened to Wakanda’s gods. Tetu sees Wakanda as a place where the people have become disconnected from/forgotten the myths of their origin. They have grown complacent and entitled, believing the land to have always been theirs, when the truth is that they were the ones who did the conquering. They took the lands and banished its original inhabitants (the originators) whose only mistake was to show mercy to an ailing group of people. This history of Wakanda was something that even T’Challa was unaware of until of few issues past, sort of proving Tetu’s point about what Wakanda is losing to history. But the gods, one can assume, do not have such short memories, and are perhaps rescinding the aid they once lent to the people of Wakanda who have become to content with themselves.

Tetu’s final warning in this issue is that Wakanda has, “no idea of what we are… What awaits beyond the door.” This warning is occurring at the same time that T’Challa and his group are discovering Asira’s betrayal as Ras the Exhorter. This reinforces Tetu’s claim that Wakanda does not know who its enemy is, and cannot stop it. To speculate and draw out the theme a little, the enemy would seem to be Wakanda’s own history, the land itself. T’Challa’s mother, in the issue when he learned the truth of Wakanda’s history, said something to the effect of, “The conquering cannot make/live in peace with the conquered.” This idea is still very much at the center of this story as the past is intent on forcing its way into Wakanda’s present. That narrative thread has perhaps been lost a little with the way that issue have gone back and forth between focusing on Klaw and focusing on T’Challa. For anyone who has been following Coates’s work the discussion about how the conquering ask for forgiveness and provide reparations to the subjugated is not a new one. Coates has discussed broad answers to this question that have to do more with the redistribution of power in society than a single specific action, but what does an answer to this question look like in Wakanda. This is still very much up in the air and a difficult question for the new government of Wakanda to face.

Black Panther (2016-) 170-012
Coates, Kirk, Martin/Marvel Comics

The art in this book has always excelled when drawing more dynamic scenes or specifically action scenes, and this issue is no exception. The battle in the desert stretches through much of the issue and is always interesting to look at. The way that Zawavari and Shuri perform their magic, which has a very circular shape and distinct colors, is very good. Shuri gets a lot of really good panels as she interacts with the spirits formed from sand. The spirits flow straight from the ground in this very organic fashion as they whip up the wind and cause confusion for their enemies. Even the page where the history of the spirits of sand is depicted uses the colors and temporary shapes of the desert sand to show their story and the change they undergo as Shuri connects with them. The art in the last couple of issues (there was that one that was almost completely devoid of words which was amazing) has been really terrific and the potential of the Wakandan gods to appear again in upcoming issues is something to look forward to.

(Subjective) Score out of 10: 7

Black Panther (2016-) 170-011
Coates, Kirk, Martin/Marvel Comics


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