By Travis Trombley
These are great questions, and they provide plenty of thought-provoking momentum to propel the narrative across the 12 issues of personal and political strife.
I’ll be honest, until this run, I’d never read a Black Panther book before, but such a heavy question handled by a thinker of such repute piqued my interest. Well, that and my excitement for the forthcoming Black Panther film. And I think Marvel, at least in part, planned this book for people in that latter category: newcomers to Wakanda, as it were. It’s a book meant, at least in part, for folks who want an introduction T’Challa and his kingdom (or peeps who see the film and want more Panther afterwards, as it seems Ryan Coogler took more than a few cues from this collection, both visually (the look of Wakanda and its technology, as well as the narrative focus on being a "good man").
This being the Atlantic journalist’s debut in comics, Coats described working in the medium of comics more like writing poetry than prose. That inclination is evident here in beautiful, occasionally wandering narrations that are accompanied by panels of striking beauty by Stelfreeze. Into this framework, Coats’ gift of language, his awareness of culture, and his interests in philosophy and history are all evident throughout the entirety of this text. But, like poetry, it may require a second readthrough, as some pacing issues and visual tracking hiccups make some plot and character beats a little tough to follow.
From the first panel, Coats hits the ground running by placing Wakanda in a state of revolution. We start off with a miners’ revolt turned violent, quelled by the Black Panther, but at the cost of a major PR blunder. The laborers represented the start of a grander rebellion against the king, whom they see as unfit for a monarch’s power due to the ways he dealt with some major events in Wakanda’s recent past: the city was flooded by Namor (and not avenged) and later taken over by Thanos and the Cabal. During the latter bout, T’Challa actually left his sister Shuri beyond to fight the invaders so he could retreat in order to work with the Avengers to stop the attack. It was a wise move, but not a very “kingly” one, in the eyes of his people, who see his exploits with the Avengers and the outside world as a betrayal of his duty.