The world is being swept up with everything Wakanda and Black Panther thanks to the new movie, but what you see on the silver screen is just one sliver of the history and wealth of stories that Black Panther has. In Black Panther Annual #1, readers are treated to three short stories Back in Black, Panther’s Heart, and Black to the Future Part II. Each covers a different time in the life of T’Challa the Black Panther.
In Back in Black, the setting is the present, and poor Everett Ross is being interrogated over the whereabouts of Black Panther. Wakanda is the most advanced nation on earth, and the Wakanda climate shield, is the hot commodity of the story. Did Black Panther kill a diplomat from Wakanda to prevent this piece of technology from being shared? That is what readers are left to wonder.
Panther’s Heart is a lament for the loss that T’Challa has suffered. His love Monica Lynne is dead, and in death, those that opposed their relationship are now seeking out T’Challa to apologize. T’Challa gains a heart shaped herb, the one that gives him the power of the Black Panther and places it in the casket with his lost love.
Black to the Future Part II is the what if scenario of the future. T’Challa is teaching his grandchild about the past and how he as the Black Panther responded to the many crises that arose. Dr. Doom tried to invade and capture Wakanda but failed. Black Panther finally stopped him, and Magneto. T’Challa’s granddaughter departs and the Black Panther is left alone with the memories he carries of the victories, the trophies of his success, and the memories he has.
Comic books are destined to be long running events and series of issues that have do or die circumstances that can always be erased and redone depending on the decade. Sometimes you have a great series like Secret Empire and you are hooked for each issue, and sometimes long stories are overdone and disaapoint. What makes Black Panther Annual #1 an enjoyable comic and one that I recommend to any Marvel fan, and new converts to Black Panther, is that this comic expands on the story of T’Challa, in three concise short stories. You learn a lot from every word, and more from the images that support that texts in the three timelines.
Back in Black allows us to see the complex relationship between Ross and T’Challa. Both are from very different worlds, but they have a mutual respect. The sarcasm from Ross is typical for the government agent that has had his share of the theatrics and heroics of a superhero. What makes this part of the comic the most interesting is, that when everyone thinks Black Panther killed the courier, and it looks like he may have, a simple explanation is enough for Ross to believe.
Panther’s Heart is singular in its narrative. Black Panther has lost his true love, and in her death, he has been able to reconcile with everyone who doubted their relationship. You feel the pain with every scene. T’Challa’s heartbreak and sorrow is beautifully expressed in artist Daniel Acuna’s work.
Black to the Future Part II is the projected story of what would happen if Wakanda conquered the world. A lot of people would die. What we don’t know is who the enemies were, and if Black Panther was doing the right thing, or did he succumb to his own version of colonialism?
In Black to the Future Part II, I liked the fact that Black Panther could make the villains stay dead, but what I am wondering is why is Iron Man’s helmet in his hall of trophies? Is it to pay tribute to a lost friend, or did Tony Stark become an enemy too?
Black Panther Annual #1 expands the narrative of T’Challa, but it also allows readers to draw some of their own conclusions about Black Panther. When three short stories can have me question the nature of the hero, and then make me wonder about what it might take for Black Panther to move from a benevolent leader to a conquering warrior, that’s a well written comic.