Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist + Colors: Daniel Acuña
Cover: Daniel Acuña
Published: June 27, 2018
Black Panther is back and Black Panther is action packed. Do you enjoy the Death Star trench run and daring pilots? Your milage with this issue could vary depending on how you think about those things, but broadly the action in this issue is very solid. The opening page offers a bit of a refresh and some new info following on from the first issue. The band of Rebels opposing the Intergalactic empire of Wakanda is know as The Maroons, and it was two years ago that they added the fighter now known as T’Challa to their ranks. It probably bears repeating here the tagline of the fighter even though we don’t know what it means yet, “A king who sought to be a hero, a hero who was reduced to a slave, a slave who advanced into legend.” This kind of suggests that something happened to T’Challa (and maybe Wakanda more broadly) that reduced him from his position as leader of Wakanda). Did his ambition outstrip his ability in some way that left him reduced and vulnerable to becoming a prisoner/slave of the intergalactic empire. If/How this new story is related to Coates’s previous Black Panther run is still entirely unknown, but there are brief glimpses of a woman who appears to be Ororo/Storm floating around our hero’s memories (she is wearing the same red dress as Ororo did in the final issue of Coates’s previous Black Panther run). This nods pretty strongly towards some sort of connection between the two series, but still this is speculation.
To get to exactly what did happen in issue #2, well not a ton. The heroes known as T’Challa, M’Baku, and Nakia (’the heroes known as’ is just to qualify that we don’t exactly know who they are/were yet) are invading a planet controlled by the empire to clear a path to the surface. They realize very quickly that they are very outmatched but instead of aborting the mission T’Challa ignores protocol and continues with the invasion. What follows is a very frenetic and beautiful couple of pages where T’Challa, in his small craft, dances with the enemy patrols above a sleek futuristic settlement. The buildings are gray with intermittent yellow lights and huge flat surface that meet at hard edges and odd angles. The sky is low and black with stars twinkling behind the the ships that move in and out of focus with increasing velocity. Blue and purples lasers fly between the ships as T’Challa, M’baku, and Nakia systematically whittle down the enemy ships despite being outnumbered. This description does not nearly do enough justice to the brilliance of Daniel Acuña’s art in the first half of this issue. It’s all motion and destruction, invoking the Star Wars trench run or the bounty hunter chase above Coruscant, with sharp lines and blurry forms letting the motion come off the page. The end result of their persistence is the wreckage of the almost the entire planetary fleet and T’Challa uninjured, but in a downed ship. Nakia’s final reminder to him as they rescue him and the rest of the fleet makes their way to the surface is that ‘everyone needs backup.’ She is of course not wrong, but why does T’Challa not know this yet? One of the more critical lessons/arcs of Coates’s previous Black Panther run was T’Challa learning to relinquish control in order to be a be a better leader (that is stating it very roughly and without much nuance). If this is that T’Challa what has caused him to forget everything, or have the previously learned lessons from Wakanda been lost wholesale?
Following all this action, the book cuts to the throne-world of the intergalactic empire where the potential villain of the piece (Lord N’Jadaka) makes their first appearance in shadow on a throne. They are a hulking figure dressed in a black and yellow with spotted texture panther suit that seems a part of his very being. How this person came to power and who they are is unknown, but we can begin to understand how he has retained power as, upon learning of the infiltration, he eviscerates the counselor who delivered the news of invasion by The Maroons. The suit flows off of him in black tendrils (kind of like Venom) enveloping the counselor and squeezing the life from him. It is not a bloody scene but it is horrifying to see the counselor become elongated and screaming. We saw the prison labor camps that are used to support the empire in the previous issue, and now we understand a bit more the type of person that has allowed The title of Black Panther and the nation of Wakanda to become fascistic and totalitarian. Where this story is going (and when, as we’re not sure where it fall on the Marvel timeline) and if will be a story about how a nation falls or a lost leader is redeemed (or something else entirely) are still unclear. There are any number of ways it could go and interesting political/ethical themes it could get into, but for that we will have to wait.
We talked about the art a little in the ship battle and there aren’t really the words to do justice to how good it is. The two other stand out pieces from this issue are the aforementioned Black Panther suit. It has this additional shifting spotted pattern that sorts of flows around the suit suggesting a sort of elemental nature to this suit and the person who wears it. The other standout feature throughout the issue is just the coloring in general. There are lots of bright red and blues and purples (the laser blasts, detail on faces, accents on uniforms) that draw your attention around the page in a book that uses black very liberally. Daniel Acuña’s singular artistic vision perfectly compliments the storytelling and seeing what he is draws next is as exciting as further story developments.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 8