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I enjoyed this second volume in the new Black Panther series.
This story jumped right into the action, since the characters were introduced in the first volume. T’Challa appears much more conflicted between leading his country and protecting his people. Meanwhile, he needs to try to get his sister back from Wakanda’s collective memory, which is like an in-between world.
The Black Panther has to face all of these challenges, so he brings in some help from other superhero friends. I loved the cameo appearances by other Marvel superheroes. He asks Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man for help. He also brings his friends Storm, Eden Fesi, Luke Cage, and Misty Knight into Wakanda. It was interesting to see him interact with these other familiar characters.
I also enjoyed the two vintage comics at the end of the volume. They show the original comics featuring the Black Panther, so we can see how he has changed and how he has remained the same over the decades. This is a great second volume in the series!
This volume contains the middle portion of a three-part story arc written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The books included are “Black Panther (2016)” #5-8 and “The Black Panther: Jungle Action” #6&7.
As the subtitle suggests, the fate of Wakanda is at stake and King T’Challa, a.k.a. the Black Panther, must find a way to keep his nation from falling. Public displeasure with T’Challa is being exploited by a man named Tetu who heads a revolutionary group called “The People.” Tetu is allied with a powerful psychic named Zenzi and—in contrast to the populist message his organization’s name suggests--the arms dealer Ezekiel Stane. However, while the might of Tetu and his allies represents a dire threat, the greatest challenge might be from a beloved scholar named Changamire, who holds both the moral high ground and the voice of reason. As Tetu sought to coopt ex-Dora Milaje members Aneka and Ayo (now called the Midnight Angels) to gain legitimacy as well as their strength, he also seeks to get Changamire in his corner.
As the main plot of political intrigue unfolds, there is a subplot involving T’Challa’s sister Shuri who is trapped in the Djalia—Wakanda’s plane of collective memory. For a time T’Challa is forced by events to set aside his desire to get his sister back in order to battle Tetu both outright and by rekindling goodwill in the hearts and minds of his people. However, Shuri’s lessons in the Djalia, delivered by a griot in the form of her mother, are interspersed throughout the story, and by this segment’s end T’Challa finds it impossible to delay his search any longer.
Coates presents us with a human T’Challa, one who makes mistakes and whose mistakes exacerbate the threat to Wakanda. His most notable mistake is allowing himself to be talked into convening a council of “counter-revolutionary” experts who, in fact, consist of heads of the security apparatus for several corrupt regimes. His only saving grace is that Tetu has even more skeletons in his closet. T’Challa has to deal the best he can with situations in which there is no clear high ground, and that makes for a more intriguing story than one normally associates with superhero comic books. By the end of this Volume, it seems that Black Panther—along with his allies Manifold, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Storm—has turned things around by defeating Stane and uncovering the lair of “the People,” but then one realizes how fragile Wakanda remains.
The two bonus books “Jungle Action” #6&7 are from the early 1970’s and feature an earlier challenge to T’Challa’s throne from his archenemy Erik Killmonger. I can see why these two comics were included. Said books might be viewed as influences on this story, but there may have been better choices. At the end of the third volume (reviewed concurrently), there’s material from a 2013 run that offers great insight into why T’Challa is on the outs with his people. For those of us who pick up select stories (i.e. not all-reading fanboys), the insight offered in Volume 3’s supplementary material would be useful earlier in the reading process. (Preferably it would be in Volume 1.) The first volume includes a single book from “Fantastic Four.” It’s fun to read because it’s Black Panther’s introduction into the Marvel-verse and it shows us how formidable Black Panther is as well as letting us in on the secret that Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. However, I think knowing why the Wakandans are so disgruntled would help make Coates’s story more powerful.
As it’s a comic book, I should mention the artwork--even though I have no particular insight into graphic artistry—comic book or otherwise. All I can say is that I liked the art and found it effective and clear. I viewed the book in black-and-white, so I have nothing to say about color palette.
I enjoyed this arc and thought this section of it had a good balance of peril and victory for our hero. I’d recommend it broadly. I don’t think you have to be solely interested in comic books or the Black Panther character specifically to find this story intriguing.
Wakanda is faced with a triple threat. First, there is a rebellion and terrorism coming from the south in Niganda led by Tetu and Zenzi who wield magical powers. They speak of ending the monarchy but seem more maniacal. Second, two former Dora Milaje have conquered Jabari land to create a new society based upon empowerment of the people. Third, T’Challa must not only find a way to put down these insurgencies but also win back the people that have been wracked by one war after another, lawlessness, and a faltering in the belief in the Panther God and the royal family. Without creating a sense of nationalism again, the wars may be lost even if they are put down.
On the side, Shuri, the Queen has been lost in a limbo and is going through spiritual training on what it means to be Wakandan. That parallels T’Challa’s own struggles.
This was a great follow up to A Nation Under Our Feet Book One by Ta-Nehisi Coates. He took the Panther story and made it his own turning everything on its head. Instead of the proud and independent Wakanda that was usually portrayed, everything was falling apart and there was the open question of whether T’Challa could bring it back together.
There's a whole second half as well that includes two issues of the old Jungle Action that first introduced Killmonger plus lots of additional artwork.
With the new Black Panther movie looking astonishingly good from its trailers, a timely Amazon sale sent some of the recent comics starring the King of Wakanda tumbling my way. Well, I suppose from 2016, so not the most recent - but the run by Ta-Nehisi Coates has been raved about by fellow fans of T'Challa so it was about time I took a look. I've long been a fan of Black Panther - I tend to gravitate towards heroes who aren't mighty gods or universe-menacing Phoenixes - and so the combination of genius scientist and stealthy warrior has long appealed. I'll confess, though, that I'm awfully glad that I bought book two at the same time as book one. Coates takes his time to find his feet with his story - or rather, more to the point, he has a big story to tell but sometimes in volume one rushes through the actual telling, and you end up piecing a couple of the parts of the tale together in your head rather than reading it on the page. He's much more in his stride by the second volume, so if you find yourself put off a little by the opening collection, stick with it, it comes together much better as the issues go by. The story itself tackles the tale of Black Panther as king, fighting to hold together his kingdom from threats within and without. He isn't all-seeing or all-wise, rather he's a man underneath the legend, making political choices that might not always be for the best, but are mostly made with the best intentions. The tale tackles issues of nationalism, identity, monarchism and democracy - weighty matters that go beyond the usual supervillain hokum of many comics. Sometimes, that strays into territory of infodumping, but as I say, the method of telling the story keeps improving. I'm not terribly sure it will serve as a great introduction to readers for the Black Panther movie - but it's a powerful look at the world the comics character inhabits - with a wider landscape than his stories are often afforded.
Mr. Coates once again crafted a beautiful story of how a king has to walk the line between doing what is right for his nation and what is right for himself. Looking forward to reading more of this story line.
Ta-Henisi Coates' dialogue is what makes this book superior. The heightened language of the character immediately informs the reader that these are not ordinary comic characters. The language is an excellent companion to Wakandian material technology, together providing firm evidence that this is the most advanced civilization in the world. But Coates also know how to have fun.
With dramatic cliffhangers, fun team ups and steady doses of action Black Panther is a breezy and enjoyable read. And if someone ever looks down on you for reading a comic, just let them the dialogue...that should shut them up😉
It's difficult for me to say I am enjoying this comic. The learning curve to this world is steep, and even after reading the first book, who's who is not entirely clear to me. This is a very political work, though it does not take the obvious political bent one might expect. T'Challa uses the means of a dictator to hold onto power, though even his enemies are not quite the democratic stalwarts they might have people believe. Still, are we supposed to root for T'Challa? He is an unclear person, lacking emotional connection with the people and the reader. For a superhero comic, one thing this story lacks is charisma, and even bringing in outside superheroes like Storm and Luke Cage does little to change this. T'Challa's search for his sister was also confusing. This is my first Black Panther story, so maybe my lack of knowledge of the Black Panther universe is what is holding me back, but while I appreciate the intellectual pursuits of Coates, a little more accessibility would be nice.