Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Colors: Laura Martin
Cover: Brian Stelfreese + Laura Martin
Published: March 28, 2018
What can lingering resentment and hate be used to accomplish? This is some of the subtext running through issue #171 of Black Panther in regard to the Asira as Ras the Exhorter plot line. In the final pages of the previous issue it was revealed that T’Challa’s former romantic partner Asira has been playing the part of Ras the Exhorter, encouraging unrest and instigating violence in Wakanda. She is now being held in Wakanda’a capital in a lab that keeps her constantly unconscious and in a dream-like state. She is joined in this dream state by (former?) member of the Dora Mlaje Okoye, as well as some sort of manifestation of her Ras the Exhorter identity. This identity has been removed from Asira and quarantined, evidence of what her conflicted/angry feelings towards Wakanda have given rise to. But before her story is explained, T’Challa, Shuri, Eden, and the rest of the group have their final confrontation with Klaw, Zeke Stane, and the others who have been working to undermine Wakanda. One thing that should be cleared up from a previous issue is the purpose of the robotic midnight angel suits T’Challa and Queen Romonda had built for the Dora Milaje. It was put forward in the review of issue #169 that this was a drone army. It is revealed in this issue that they are not drones but weaponized flying suits built for the members of the Dora Milaje to pilot (it is still true that they were built without approval by the government council, but that seems a non issue currently). Klaw has an army that moves around on flying assault platforms so that the confrontation with the midnight angels and Eden transporting people around the battle has a great degree of verticality. But ultimately it comes down to T’Challa versus Klaw with the Black Panther systematically drawing him away from the battle and into an open field. Klaw uses the enhancements provided by reverbium to absorb/minimize all of T’Challa’s attacks, but his use of an imitator material has also left him exposed. Working with Dr. Franklin they isolated some type of frequency that when activated crumbles Klaw into a number of tiny pieces and ends the battle immediately.
As mentioned in previous reviews, one of the prevailing questions that has been driving T’Challa is trying to determine what Klaw’s involvement has been in the spiritual/godly problems that have plaguing Wakanda. He and Dr. Franklin definitively determined that Klaw was creating portals and originators from hard sound technology a few issues back, but was this an opportunistic move by Klaw or part of larger coordinated plan, and who was ultimately in charge. After Klaw is defeated, the story cuts back to Asira still in the dream state conversing with Okoye and explaining what Zenzi and Tetu where doing. It was Zenzi who found Asira and extracted the ill feelings she had towards Wakanda into something that could be made solid by Dr Faustus and Zeke Stane. This is idea that anger or resentment can have a life of its own, or can split your being into to seperate identities is really interesting. The way we generally talk about anger is very anthropomorphic. It’s a thing that needs to be sustained, to be fed in order to continue to exist, which is very different from the way we talk about happiness or joy. Those are spontaneous emotions that we seem to accept will come and go, spring up and then leave. But if anger is this other sustained form then it makes sense that an identity can be formed around it. And in the Case of Ras the Exhorter that form has the power to disrupt, and motivate destruction. Maybe this is sort of a cautionary tale about how hate can be used to tear things down (I am very uncertain how/if this plays into the larger story about the originators and origin myths), but whatever hard thing Faustus and Stane created using Asira (the being seen earlier in the dream state) it was not temporary or under their control. Ras the Exhorter, Zenzi, and Tetu never served the narrow desire of Klaw, but served the will of another power, the Adversary, who appears to Storm and Shuri as Zenzi breaks Tetu out of his prison cell.
It was mentioned previously but the art of the battle scenes in this issue was very cool. Both sides have flying capabilities so the action is very vertical which is a something that doesn’t happen in a lot of comic book action. The midnight angels were confronting Klaw’s men on the attack platforms, but Eden was also transporting people around the platforms for surprise attacks. Even with the added dimension of the battle the action and position of the characters was still easy to follow (which doesn’t always happen even if everyone is just on the ground). The confrontation between T’Challa and Klaw also had a very interesting ebb and flow as the Panther attacked strong with his claws, spear, or the stored energy of his suit and backed off in order to slowly draw Klaw out. It’s a great sequence as T’Challa looks mostly on the back foot until he suddenly isn’t. The Adversary on the final page has a really interesting and menacing look and it will be interesting to see what Leonard Kirk and Laura Martin get to do with him and that confrontation in the final issue of this current arc.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 7