Black Panther 1

Marvel Comics announced months ago that it would hand the reins of Black Panther to Ta-Nehisi Coates — a guy who believes the U.S. should consider paying reparations to modern black Americans for injustices inflicted upon their ancestors. At the time I said I doubted I would read the book, but ultimately I could not resist seeing how the activist would perform. Black Panther #1 is certainly a fascinating read, but not all of the reasons will make Marvel’s editors happy.

Comic book fans will soon get to see T’Challa, warrior king of Wakanda, on the big screen in Captain America: Civil War. That excitement has propelled Black Panther #1 to impressive sales (300K), but the question at hand is whether or not the book will have staying power. My prediction is that if Coates keeps T’Challa in Wakanda for an extended period of time — while boxing out other top-tier Marvel characters in the process — it will sink under its own weight.

Here is where things stand as of BP #1:

  • T’Challa has returned to reclaim his kingdom after an extended absence.
  • The king’s sister, Shuri, assumed the throne while he was gone but died during an invasion by Thanos.
  • Wakanda has an “elite female royal guard” called Dora Milaje that assists T’Challa in protecting the kingdom. One of them, Aneka, is sentenced to death for murdering a village chief known for abusing women.
  • A mysterious adversary planted seeds of deception across the nation, which pits citizens against one another.
  • Ayo, one of the Dora Milaje, breaks Aneka — her lover — out of prison. The two don stolen “midnight angel” suits and vow some form of revenge because “no one man should have that much power.”
  • T’Challa tries, unsuccessfully, to resurrect his sister from the dead using Wakanda’s advanced technology.

Readers who say, “It seems like there is a lot going on here,” would be correct. Coates is asking his audience to stick with him as he maps out Wakanda’s history and a whole host of characters. The author’s intelligence and organizational skills are evident throughout the book, but it remains to be seen whether the journey will actually be fun. Black Panther has gravity, but too much gravity can be highly unpleasant.

Black Panther

T’Challa’s mother tells him at one point in the book, “It is not enough to be the sword, you must be the intelligence behind it.” That is a great message, but my fear at this point is that Coates’ desire to write a cerebral superhero may cause him to needlessly sacrifice the kind of action and adventure that translates into return customers.

Take, for example, Wakanda’s “midnight angel” lesbian lovers. There is no doubt that Coates will give them more respect than deceased dictator Moammar Gadhafi granted his “Amazon Guards,” but guys like me have no desire to drop $5.00 per issue reading about the heartache of Aneka and Ayo over T’Challa’s rule.

Likewise, liberation movements along “the Nigandan borer region” may work for an issue or two, but at some point in time Wakanda’s internal politics become just as boring as anything George Lucas dished out during Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones.

Black Panther Aneka

Black Panther #1 is a worthy experiment on Marvel’s part to see if political commentators can make the transition from academia to the Marvel universe, but the jury is still out on whether it should be added to your pull-list at the local comic shop.

I suggest checking out this blog (shocker) over the next few months before making a financial investment in the book. If Coates produces a winner, then you will certainly read about it here.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

15 comments

  1. Just reading the dialogue from your posted images inspires me to read the book for unintentional humor alone.

    “…I track not the body, but the SOUL within!!” LAWL

    “…Does he even CARE Aneka? Did he ever CARE?!” OH DEAR GOD

    This is the kind of stuff that inspires ‘hate-filled’ vulgar youtube parody. Hopefully somebody will get on that.

    1. I didn’t address it in the review, but another point that somewhat annoyed me is that T’Challa’s internal monologue is like some generic fictional king instead of an intelligent guy who wields a ton of power: “And so there is war … and so the hate spreads … but I have not forgotten my name.”

      You start expecting him to start say, “For I, the king, shall see to it that the joy and splendor that is Wakanda is never sullied by the vipers in our mist.”

      It’s weird in a book that takes place in a modern-day setting — on Earth. If I were that guy’s subject and he started speaking to me like that, then I’d kind of want to punch him in the face, too. 😉

  2. I’m a big fan of the guy’s articles, mainly because he wrote a nice little piece criticising Marvel for how they handled One More Day and championing Peter and MJ as a couple, so I sort of want him to succeed based off those opinions. I quite liked the issue, I’m sure he’ll find a good balance between action and politicking in time,there’s been worse books from Marvel that have let that slip through in recent years

    1. “I’m a big fan of the guy’s articles, mainly because he wrote a nice little piece criticising Marvel for how they handled One More Day and championing Peter and MJ as a couple, so I sort of want him to succeed based off those opinions.”

      You’re a fan of his political pieces because you like his opinion on Peter and MJ’s marriage? That seems to me how one ends up defending the indefensible. I can give the guy a thumbs up for getting it right on a comic book, but I’m not going to suddenly say I “like” articles calling on reparations for black people because of it.

      “I’m sure he’ll find a good balance between action and politicking in time.”

      I don’t mind if politics are involved in terms of discussing broader philosophical questions (e.g., What role in the world do monarchies play in 2016?), but I don’t want him “politicking.” (i.e., shoving his personal views down my throat.)

      My other concern is that the book will get so bogged down addressing local threats that readers will not be given enough of the fights they want featuring classic Marvel villains.

    2. Sorry Doug, did’nt mean to surprise you with that…I probably should delve deeper into the guy’s catalogue before praising something populist from hi, I’ve told you before how I’m not too politically savy so a lot of the things that are prone for debate and whatnot go over me sometimes.

    3. “Sorry Doug, didn’t mean to surprise you with that….I probably should delve deeper into the guy’s catalogue before praising something populist from high, I’ve told you before how I’m not too politically savvy so a lot of the things that are prone for debate and whatnot go over me sometimes.”

      There is no need to apologize to me for your opinion, zariusii. 🙂 I just think you’re getting into a dangerous realm when you take to a man’s political fare because you like what he says about a specific comic book. In many ways this blog exists to show how easy it is to fall into that trap.

      As much as I like you, I needed to push back on that one.

      Coates’ is a very well-read guy and his delivery can be welcoming, which makes it that much more important to slow down and unpack what he is saying. It may sound nice to the ears, but when you break it down it is actually quite disturbing.

  3. Given what I’ve heard about this guy (ironically it was soon after the announcement I heard some different commentators talking about this writer – and not in relation to comics) I will wager an issue of the comic that eventually white people are going to be the villain. I’ll wager 2 issues that it will probably be a white US businessman.

    1. “I will wager an issue of the comic that eventually white people are going to be the villain. I’ll wager 2 issues that it will probably be a white US businessman.”

      Well, you will certainly hear about it from me if that is the case. My initial plan is to go with the first six issues and see how it goes. If people are interested in the reviews, then I’ll continue to stick with it through 12. Right now traffic is pretty good.

  4. “Likewise, liberation movements along ‘the Nigandan borer region’ may work for an issue or two, but at some point in time Wakanda’s internal politics become just as boring as anything George Lucas dished out during Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones.”

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t like the boring Senate scenes in the prequels! It was like watching C-SPAN: Coruscant.

    As for me, I’ve no desire to read this, largely because it’s being written by a guy who thinks white people owe slavery reparations. I find that laughable, especially when you consider that my ancestors immigrated here from Scandinavia in the 1890s, thirty years after the Civil War ended. So they had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery. Neither does anyone alive today.

    “Given what I’ve heard about this guy (ironically it was soon after the announcement I heard some different commentators talking about this writer – and not in relation to comics) I will wager an issue of the comic that eventually white people are going to be the villain. I’ll wager 2 issues that it will probably be a white US businessman.”

    Yeah, and knowing Marvel, they’ll probably make him look like Donald Trump.

    1. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t like the boring Senate scenes in the prequels! It was like watching C-SPAN: Coruscant.”

      That’s a good way to put it! Haha. 🙂

      “I find that laughable, especially when you consider that my ancestors immigrated here from Scandinavia in the 1890s, thirty years after the Civil War ended. So they had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery. Neither does anyone alive today.”

      Wrong, Carl. You must literally pay for the sins of some other guy’s great, great, great, great, great grandfather. Heh.

    2. And the original plantations are gone, or were sold and sold again, so that the current owners are not the 17th century owners. What’s he going to do, collect money from the elementary schools and Bojangles that are located on that land today?

    3. “That’s a good way to put it! Haha.:)”

      It was the best comparison i could come up with it! Ha ha.

      “Wrong, Carl. You must literally pay for the sins of some other guy’s great, great, great, great, great grandfather. Heh.”

      LOL. Sadly, there are people out there (Coates included) who think that way. A while back (I think it was after the South Carolina church shooting), my local paper advocated that Obama create a “National Sorry Day” for African-Americans and Native Americans. Basically, their rationale (if you want to call it that) was that “Australia has one for the Aboriginies, so we should have one too.”

    4. I don’t agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ politics. It seems a rather extreme stance to call on the U.S. to consider paying reparations to modern black Americans for injustices inflicted upon their ancestors. You can’t blame the current generation for injustices perpetrated by previous generations. It’s not logical.

      I’m also not sure how getting Obama to create a “National Sorry Day” for African-Americans and Native Americans would work. I can only comment on what I have seen to be a positive thing here in Australia. The first National Sorry Day was held on May 26, 1998, which was one year after the tabling of the “Bringing Them Home” a report about the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

      As an Australian, I’m only too aware of Australia’s racist past, due to the implementation of various government policies. It’s unfortunate that the ramifications of those policies are still being felt today in modern Australia. I have been working as a Youth Worker with Aboriginal high school kids for over five years now. Most come from very remote areas and have traveled approximately 1500 kilometers to complete their education in the city. Every year it’s great to see these kids graduate and get jobs.

      My grandparents & parents immigrated from Italy in the late 50s / early 60’s. They arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs and worked pretty damn hard to achieve everything they have today. Back then there were no government hand outs to newly arrived immigrants as there is today.

      On the 13th of February 2008, more than ten years after the “Bringing Them Home” report was tabled, the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, tabled a motion in parliament apologising to Australia’s Indigenous peoples, particularly the Stolen Generations and their families and communities, for laws and policies which had ‘inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians’.

      Most Aboriginal people I know thought it was great the Prime Minister apologized on national TV for injustices done by previous generations. It wasn’t a blame game or finger pointing, it was simply a recognition and acknowledgement of that history, but more importantly it was a day of healing and reconciliation.

      In fact most Aboriginal folks I know would prefer if the day was called Reconciliation Day. They don’t want to dwell on the past, but rather move forward as a nation with all Australians.

      Sorry if my rant went a little off topic.

      The full history can be found here if anyone is interested.
      http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/sorry-day-stolen-generations

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