‘Wakanda’ #1 gives us two fantastic looks at the well-known characters that inhabit this powerful fictional land and an in-depth look at the history and culture that makes it stand apart in the Marvel Universe. Giving readers a better look at this nation without the filter of seeing things from the Black Panther’s point of view is a fantastic choice and pays off wonderfully already.
Just in time for the return of Wakanda on the big screen, Marvel Comics has an aptly named miniseries ready to focus on the most well-known characters from the powerful fictional African nation. With Black Panther/T’Challa having his own series, it’s only right that the first issue of Wakanda turns its focus to Shuri and her place in a rapidly changing country.
Stephanie Williams does a fantastic job at really diving into Shuri here and giving us a view of how she is coping with the exile of her brother and Wakanda’s full change over to a democratic country. We got some of that during the big main arc over in Black Panther, but that was T’Challa’s story whereas this is Shuri’s story and a really nice family story. Even with those ties to current goings-on, Williams does a solid job of making this a pretty straightforward story and new reader-friendly, especially since much of it is a mother/daughter conversation with a break in everything for some superhero action.
I must admit that I got quite a chuckle out of Rhino disguising himself as an actual rhino as a way to sneak into Wakanda. He’s definitely a hard character to nail down these days because we’ve seen him playing ‘nicer’ with Miles Morales at times but also still falling into the villain/mercenary role such as here. While to some it would seem to break continuity or whatever, I actually think it works to the point that most of Spider-Man’s usual rogues are not outright cackling mustache-twirling evil people, they have layers like an onion (or an ogre).
I have a feeling that we’re going to be seeing Shuri taking on a big spotlight again soon in the comic side of things, and after what Williams has done here and over at the distinguished competition with Nubia, there is no doubt that it’s her that should be the writer of whatever comes next for Shuri. Sign me up for that series right now, make it happen, Marvel!
Paco Medina is a great choice for the art here because his artwork really hits a lot of those superhero elements quite naturally while also being very heavily focused on the people and emotional side of things. We get some really great shots of the characters; my favorite was the silly grin on Shuri’s face following her stomach growling in front of her mother Ramonda. There is plenty of detail and depth all around, aided by the great inking work of Walden Wong and Elisabetta D’Amioco, making this world feel very open and lived in.
Speaking of heaviness, we get a lot of that within the color work of Bryan Valenza, where the night scenes feel very fully like night and have a ton of weight to them and even the indoor or day scenes have a shadowed or feeling to them which makes the bright colors pop even more. We get a Wakanda that is vibrant, but not too over the top or overwhelming, just enough that it feels natural and beautiful and beyond the rest of the world but still within the realm of the possible.
Within the second half of the issue, we get the first part of a multipart “History Of The Black Panthers” which is just utterly fantastic. Evan Narcisse gives us a story that beyond the first and last framing pages, is majority told through expositional caption boxes as Ramonda regales the children of Wakanda with the history of the first Black Panther. It’s given great energy as Ramonda is a solid storyteller, which makes it very exciting to follow even with the caption boxes fluttering across the pages to tell the story.
Much of this is because Natacha Bustos and Jordie Bellaire are just doing some extraordinary work here. All of the pages are just so well thought out and designed with panels on some and full-page montages that merge and blend together on others, giving the history a whole new vivid life on the page. All of the colors are bright and vivid but again not overwhelming or too bright as they shift around, and different colors take prominent roles from yellow to purple to red and others. Every single panel or space has a purpose, and so many stories are being told clearly on the pages but never in a way that takes away from any of them or in a way that could leave a reader confused.
Across both stories Joe Sabino brings full life to the words, doing lots of fun little things with the lettering, especially in a lot of the dialogue/exposition. Some of the dialogue lettering is just slightly different from each other, changes helping set volume or tone, while others (namely the ancient Avengers team) are so wild and different in style or coloring, or spacing. Also, gotta love some really fun in-your-face SFX that sell the sound that one should be hearing as they read the comics, giving that extra bit of life to any moment on the page.
Before I wrap this up, props to the backup creative team for making me actually excited to see the ancient Avengers who as a group I haven’t been entirely sold on at times. In this context, they were really interesting to see.
Wakanda #1 is now available from Marvel Comics.