Black Panther’s first story arc comes to a powerful, emotional, and fitting ending as various threads are wrapped up and the future of the title character and Wakanda is decided. Not all the paths to this moment were clear or steady but the destination and the journey were worth the wait. T’Challa and Wakanda are left in some very interesting places, continuing to change both more than they have in years for the better.
Wakanda’s future is at stake when the forces of democracy, monarchy, and oppression collide in a war that has been brewing since the very first issue of this volume of Black Panther.
Since the very first issue John Ridley has not shied away from painting T’Challa as a very flawed human being, yet still a hero at heart. Far too often when we marginalized groups get representation in any form of media, the characters can be far too ‘good’ morally with minor flaws. While yes, we want the virtuous heroes that look like us, we want the complicated, flawed, complex characters that are often found amongst the majority white heterosexual cisgender male population of characters.
I fully appreciate that at the end of this story, T’Challa is not forgiven or allowed to move beyond his truly deep sins that brought this battle upon Wakanda. His suspicion/paranoia was not rewarded as his best friend was killed, he remains a former King, his ex-wife/love Storm distrusts him, and his people have no desire to have him around. Much like many other heroic characters his ego and power led T’Challa down a path and he cannot just turn around and go back to the way things were.
There are going to be proverbial wounds in Wakanda that will not heal from this storyline, and it’s going to be very interesting to explore some of that in the upcoming Wakanda miniseries and potentially within Black Panther itself. It will especially be interesting to see where the Black Panther goes without his country and without the power base he’s used to, now that he’s going to crawl back to the Avengers he semi ran away from to kick off this storyline.
One of the best things that have come from this arc is that Ridley is giving us a T’Challa we have not seen either ever or in quite some time. A character that is getting the same chance of so many other Marvel heroes, dealing with their own flaws and trying to claw their way back to the top. It’s a formula that Daredevil writers have been able to perfectly handle for like the last twenty years straight.
While there is part of me that wishes this arc could have had one or even two consistent artistic teams through the eight issues, overall, the mix of artists, in the long run, was not a jarring type of artistic change. We were given consistency with the final three issues of the arc as Stefano Landini and Matt Milla have handled the art and colors. There is a great bit of energy that Landini brings to the pages, both in the really action-packed pages of this issue as well as the quieter contemplative character moments. I love when the facial expression/emotional panel close-ups are done in varying ways including just shots of eyes or lips to convey the feeling or moment.
Speaking of panels, the paneling choices are so good here with the black space borders and panels taking on a variety of shapes. Squares and rectangles in some cases but in others, they are angled in elongated or smashed sort of styles with characters allowed to burst right out of the panel limits.
This is a very emotional and dark/dangerous story right now and Milla’s colors match that as they can be bright to fit the style of Wakanda and also superhero stories but also muted with lots of darker shadows. In various panels, the background at times is really faded/muted splashes of color allowing the characters and the foreground to pop even more. While leaving it so that once they are in Wakanda proper things take on an even brighter tone.
Another consistent area of the series has been the great lettering work of Joe Sabino, flowing naturally and energetically through the pages. There is a standard amongst the more normal levels of conversation on display, but Sabino makes sure other tones/volumes are clear by letting yells or whispers or other types of utterances grow/shrink as needed. Right alongside a lot of well-placed, colorful, and impactful SFX that make sure they are heard and felt as soon as one notices them on the page.
Black Panther #8 is now available from Marvel Comics.