Black Panther 2

Black Panther #2 was released in comic shops across the nation on Wednesday, but it is beginning to feel as though Ta-Nehisi Coates would have been better off writing a novel called T’Challa instead. Marvel’s decision to experiment with a political commentator may be a noble one, but the company will need more than three variant covers to inflate sales in the future if Coates doesn’t make some editorial adjustments.

Black Panther 2 preview
Marvel is going to need more than three variant covers in the next year to sell copies of Black Panther if Mr. Coates doesn’t pick up the pace.

My review of BP #1 noted that there was a lot — perhaps too much — going on with “A Nation Under Our Feet.”  T’Challa returned to Wakanda to reclaim his kingdom; Shuri, his sister, died (or, rather, is trapped in a place “between” life and death); two members of an “elite female royal guard” stole “midnight angel” suits and vowed revenge against men who abuse their power; and T’Challa tried to revive his sister.

BP#2 is just as dense:

  • Readers learn more about the Nigandan plot to overthrow Wakanda.
  • The Midnight Angels save captured women in the Bandit Compound in Northern Wakanda.
  • Aneka and Ayo cuddle again and further plot their revenge.
  • Black Panther confronts the “witch” who has been poisoning the minds of Wakandans, but learns that she is really a “revealer” who forces repressed feelings to the surface.
  • A shaman and an academic, old friends (soon to be rivals?) discuss how “the weak” should “marshal justice against the powerful.”
  • Shuri finds herself conscious on the “plane of Wakandan memory.”

In many ways, BP is set up to be a book that is almost totally devoid of fun:  T’Challa — a man who must bear the weight of family history, his nation’s history, and the needs of those currently alive — even says, “heavy is the head… [that wears the crown].” Given that, it would be strange to criticize the author for being too mired in politics and philosophy when the book dictates a mastery of both fields of study. The problem, therefore, is likely something else.

The reason why BP continues to be an awkward title is not because readers are introduced to John Locke or allegories to real-world crises (e.g., Boko Haram kidnapping and raping women). The problem with BP is that Coates is juggling too many balls at one time.

Instead of spending time on Aneka and Ayo, perhaps Coates should have solely focused on the “mysterious woman.” That is six pages in BP #2 that could have been devoted to T’Challa, his new enemy (who does have a cool power), or his sister.

Instead of spending time in Hekima Shule (a school), why not plant the seeds for introducing a major Marvel villain? I want to see Black Panther face off against Sabertooth. I want to see Black Panther in hand-to-hand combat with Crossbones. I want to see Black Panther battle Blackheart.

What I do not want to do is read a BP comic book that focuses for 12 months on how much Aneka and Ayo love each other — even if the writing is technically sound.

Mr. Coates is an intelligent man, but at some point in time it will be a stupid decision not to use the rich Marvel rogues gallery at his disposal. If there is not a major Marvel villain in the book — or even the hint of one — by the sixth issue, then this reader will move on to another title.

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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.

16 comments

  1. This comic sounds stupid. I don’t like Coates to begin with, since he’s yet another Sharpton-esque race hustler. T’Challa deserves a better writer than him. There are plenty of prose fantasy/sci-fi authors they could take a look at and hire them to write on one of their titles, but instead they go for a guy who wants reparations. And I agree with you: what’s the point of writing a comic in the Marvel Universe if you don’t utilize familiar villains like Crossbones or Sabretooth?

    Oh, and in case, I didn’t say it already: congrats on your Hugo nomination.

    1. “I agree with you: what’s the point of writing a comic in the Marvel Universe if you don’t utilize familiar villains like Crossbones or Sabretooth?”

      My own personal bias is that I primarily like reading about characters who are operating within the United States. I don’t gravitate to books that are in space (no pun intended), and it would probably be a tough sell to get me interested in, say, a Captain Britain title. 😉 Since my general tastes fall along those lines, then I need another “hook” to keep me interested. Having some well-established Marvel villains would easily do the trick.

      “Oh, and in case, I didn’t say it already: congrats on your Hugo nomination.”

      Thanks. The nomination was a pleasant surprise. I’m still trying to decide if I want to go out to Kansas City this summer… That’s a lot of cash to drop for a single weekend.

    2. “My own personal bias is that I primarily like reading about characters who are operating within the United States. I don’t gravitate to books that are in space (no pun intended), and it would probably be a tough sell to get me interested in, say, a Captain Britain title.😉 Since my general tastes fall along those lines, then I need another “hook” to keep me interested. Having some well-established Marvel villains would easily do the trick.”

      The nice thing about the Captain Britain/Excalibur title of the 1980s and 1990s was that it had Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler on the team so there was familiarity there. I haven’t read the recent Guardians of the Galaxy comics or any of the other space titles (I did read a bit of the recent Silver Surfer title and was less than impressed), so I don’t know if they have an audience surrogate type character that helps ease things along.

      “Thanks. The nomination was a pleasant surprise. I’m still trying to decide if I want to go out to Kansas City this summer… That’s a lot of cash to drop for a single weekend.”

      Yeah, I’ve actually read that WorldCon is kind of boring. Who knows? Maybe someday when I’m published we’ll both be on the Hugo ballot. Although, to be honest, I don’t care about winning awards as long as I entertain people and give them a product they enjoy.

    3. “Yeah, I’ve actually read that WorldCon is kind of boring. Who knows? Maybe someday when I’m published we’ll both be on the Hugo ballot. Although, to be honest, I don’t care about winning awards as long as I entertain people and give them a product they enjoy.”

      That would be cool to see you at WorldCon one day, Carl! 🙂 We’re on the same page in terms of awards, etc. The thing that was cool about the Hugo nomination was that it allowed me to see my “invisible audience,” as I may have said in another thread. It essentially confirmed some of what the data was telling me but that I couldn’t quite prove with what WordPress gives me.

      I think if someone is nominated for a “Fan” award then maybe they should get a heads up if they won or not. If I was getting paid to write science fiction novels or reviews, that would be one thing — but the content I produce doesn’t really put money in my pocket. I would like to be gracious enough to be there and accept the award if I win, but at the same time it’s a big chunk out of my paycheck. I already have to fly to Chicago this summer for a wedding, so buying an extra plane ticket and hotel room for two nights in Kansas City is a tough call. I guess I’ll look at my finances in early August and make a game-time decision.

  2. If your flight attendant looks like Dan Slott, get off the plane.

    More seriously, a story like this BP needs an audience surrogate. T’Challa has a distancing persona, Then setting it in central Africa (however imaginary) distances the story even further. Then strongly featuring and semi-celebrating an immoral relationship adds further distaste.

    1. “More seriously, a story like this BP needs an audience surrogate.”

      Boom. That’s the way I should have more succinctly articulated it in my response to Carl. Well put.

    1. “P.S. If you will, expect a villain named Salgood Trens to show up in ASM, who hates all women, gays, and ethnic minorities.”

      I thought his name was Goulad Sterns. 😉

  3. “More seriously, a story like this BP needs an audience surrogate.”

    I agree. The comics have one in Everett Ross, Martin Freeman’s character from “Captain America: Civil War.” I think he’ll probably show up in the Black Panther movie next year.

  4. It’s just “writing for the trade” again isn’t it? Those issues that spend all their time fleshing out every corner by constantly painting the lead elements in one and springing them out of their box about four issues later. Sounds like this one needs a bit of an editing job to place certain scenes in the middle portion.

    Not keen on Captain Britain eh Doug? I don’t quite think he ever reached the heights of Alan Moore’s stint with the character, and that was way back in the 70s, and they never take great advantage of his connection to X-Men’s Psylocke.

    1. “Not keen on Captain Britain eh Doug?”

      Haha. Well, it’s not that I don’t like him. It’s just that I don’t know if I’d be willing to drop $5.00 an issue on his adventures.

      Actually, I would love to write a Captain America/Captain Britain Team-up. 😉

      I think that would be cool given our nations’ respective history together, alliances, etc. I think there are some pretty cool stories that could be told, but unfortunately I’m guessing the editors at Marvel would complain it would be “too imperialistic” or something lame. How dare someone write a positive story about two western nations and the principles that bind them together.

  5. I am, admittedly, very new to the world of comic books. I have read some of the Christopher Priest BP, but I don’t have a long history with the character. So maybe that affects my perspective.

    But I’m totally loving this Ta-Nehisi Coates stuff.

    My limited experience with superheroes is that it’s very easy for authors to fall into a trap of writing a story that is just a variation on, “Villain attempts atrocity, disrupting status quo. Hero uses awesome powers to defeat villain and return status quo.” So personally, I would not be especially excited to see a classic Marvel villain show up. My fear is that it would lead to a story I already know and am not particularly interested in. I much prefer stories like Civil War, with shades of grey and debatable morality. I want a story where the adversary is motivated by something more interesting than, “Because I’m evil!” And I think Coates is delivering.

    My feeling with Christopher Priest’s stuff is that he almost made Black Panther TOO cool. It’s not just that Black Panther never loses; he never even sweats. In Coates’ work, BP really has to grapple with the challenges being thrown at him. The “Revealer” forces BP to consider that much of the anger his people feel against him is justified. The people he “saves” say of the criminals, “These men were providing for us.” I like that this isn’t something T’Challa can punch his way out of. I like that this isn’t a problem he already knows the answer to. I like that it’s something he can’t deal with without growing as a person (and character).

    I also really like that we’re getting a taste of how hard it would be to be responsible for a nation.

    I do agree that there’s a lot going on. I had to reread both issues to really appreciate them. And if it ends up being more storylines than Coates can fully do justice to, maybe I’ll end up wishing he’d gotten to write a novel instead too. But for now, I’m really enjoying myself. I love the Midnight Angels. I love the shaman and academic’s exchange. And I’m really loving the new Black Panther.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Mudd Grizzly. I appreciate it.

      “In Coates’ work, BP really has to grapple with the challenges being thrown at him. The “Revealer” forces BP to consider that much of the anger his people feel against him is justified. The people he “saves” say of the criminals, “These men were providing for us.” I like that this isn’t something T’Challa can punch his way out of. I like that this isn’t a problem he already knows the answer to. I like that it’s something he can’t deal with without growing as a person (and character).”

      Those are all very good points. I agree. It really just boils down to personal preference for me in terms of wanting to see some classic Marvel villains. I think those can be done in a complex and layered manner that also feels fresh. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll give Black Panther until the sixth issue for sure before I make a final decision about pulling a plug. And hey, if Ta-Nehisi Coates ever does write a “T’Challa” novel then there is a good chance that I’ll buy it! 🙂

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