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Black Panther #1

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist Brian Stelfreeze
Color Artist Laura Martin
Marvel Comics

The Black Panther has probably never been as popular as he will be next month. His brief appearances in the trailers for Captain America: Civil War suggest the movie version is going to be the kind of powerful charismatic figure that people want to read more about, and Marvel is smart to capitalize on this by relaunching his book under the pen of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates has written extensively on the topics of race in America through columns in The Atlantic, The New York Times, and several standalone books. How does his first comic book come across?

Well, it’s not a comic book yet. It’s really good, and I think it’s going to get there, but at this point it is wordier than it needs to be with the divine artistic team of Stelfreeze and Martin. And it suffers from some dull storytelling in recent years – the flood, the war with Atlantis, the Doctor Doom miniseries, the Infinity crossover, even the death of Black Panther’s sister have all been cool ideas but duds in the execution. Until I read the recap page of this issue, I had forgotten most of these stories, and they happened fewer than three years ago.

Where this book excels is the promise. The plot is that T’Challa has lost serious credibility and pride by the losses of recent years, so he is trying to reconnect to his people. But a tribe seeking to rebel has a metahuman empath turning more of the subjects against their king, and a pair of the Panther’s personal guardswomen have defected with some high-tech armor, unwilling to support the harsh ways his stepmother has enforced Wakandan law. This is going to boil into a rich political thriller. The characters are wise and the dialogue is arch in a way that fits the regal needs of this plot. Over the next few issues, I predict Coates will shorten his speeches and let his artists move more of the action pieces instead of just illustrating his script. In the meantime, this is a great book on its own. Pick it up now at Ultimate Comics in Raleigh or Chapel Hill!

-MATT CONNER for Ultimate Comics