Two thousand years ago, colonists from Wakanda set out to explore the galaxy. To the outer edges of the cosmos this group went, and while surviving and building their colonies, the space-traveling citizens of Wakanda outlasted the harsh brutality of the galaxy while following the beliefs of Wakanda. However, as time went on, the colonists took their belief of self-defense to an extreme, with the belief that self-defense meant the conquering of all foes.
Black Panther #1 opens with an imprisoned T’Challa on the planet Goree. The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda reigns supreme, and the king of the small African nation is just a slave waking up to his duties in the vibranium mines.
T’Challa has other ideas and escapes. Though he fights like a warrior, T’Challa is captured again and his future looks bleak. When the rebel group Maroons come to free the slaves to join their resistance, T’Challa saves a fellow slave named Daoud, who tried to kill him before as well as a Maroon soldier.
T’Challa meets with Captain N’Yami, who tells him that he is one of the many thousands of nameless who had their memories wiped. N’Yami christens him T’Challa, a man who was born a king and died a hero.
Black Panther #1 had all sorts of Star Wars vibes for me. From the rebels to the overbearing empire led the Emperor, it made me feel like I was watching some sort of mash-up of the original trilogy. As much as I felt like I had seen this story before, I was caught up in the idea of what would T’Challa do in a situation like this.
Here in lies the brilliance that a writer and artist can have in the outcome of a comic book. Ta-Nehisi Coates as a writer has not only brought the history of Black Panther to this new series, but also the personality of T’Challa that fans identify with. Here in Black Panther #1 T’Challa is a beaten man, a slave who remembers nothing of who he was. The pain he feels as memories of his past keep coming back to him, is something that readers will connect with, and will help them cheer for his success.
The idea of an evil empire is nothing new to the literary world. From movies to books, the ruling class and the subjugation of others is something that will always be a plot device. Framing this story around the notion that this evil empire grew from fellow citizens of Wakanda is a great idea. Braving the harsh reality of being alone in the cosmos, has created some extreme interpretations of the values Wakanda holds dear.
Since writer Coates has set up the story line of an amnesiac T’Challa who still exhibits the ideas of being Black Panther so well, I wondered how artist Daniel Acuna would visualize this new world.
Acuna has taken the story and brought a vibrant spacey feel that not only shows the brutality of slavery, but the use of black in the multiple panels. From the start of the comic, T’Challa is one version of grey with little strength in the color he shows. Grey is a forgettable color that can allow people to fade in the distance. The outward color of T’Challa matches the environment.
Only when he is rescued does his color change. It is in the Maroons ship that T’Challa meets Captain N’Yami, who christens him with his name. With a name comes the true change and by the end of the comic, T’Challa stands tall in dynamic black, in an outfit similar to the one he wore as Black Panther on Earth, looking ready for battle.
As much as the color of the comic caught my eye, the notion that our greatest enemy can often be ourselves is something that we can always examine as readers. The fact that Wakanda sent out explorers who on their own built a massive empire and strayed from the true direction Wakanda followed on Earth, is fascinating. As a parent, I often wondered if what I teach my kids will help them grow successfully on their own. This is a comic about family, and how when the kids are too far away from the parents, given the right circumstances, some bad choices are made. History is filled with stories of nations forming alliances with groups that end up becoming the nation’s worst nightmare.
Black Panther #1 puts a new spin on a classic plot and will make readers cheer along as T’Challa works to topple an empire.