Black Panther (2023) #1 Review

No longer the king of Wakanda, T’Challa becomes the protector of an unfamiliar corner of his homeland.

The city of my father. Which is worse – that I am a foreigner here, or that I am a fool?

It’s been three months since the last Black Panther ongoing, and expectations are running high given the brand new status quo. Helmed by Eve L. Ewing, Chris Allen, Craig Yeung, Jesus Aburtov and Joe Sabino, the book is back, and honestly? It’s off to an amazing start.

In this issue, we pick up from where the last run left T’Challa – alone. A king in exile. A hero without a place to protect. Instead of spending a whole arc trying to get him to return to Wakanda, we’re thrust right back into the fold, and the book is so much better for it. For newer readers, as well as people who haven’t been keeping up with the last run, the first few pages immediately bring us up to speed in a natural manner. Instead of falling into an exposition dump, it’s a quick monologue about how he spent his exile before returning, including a nudge to the new Avengers run where he’s a team member. 

The new status quo is fresh, bringing T’Challa down to be more grounded and amongst the people instead of from the perspective of a king. We had something similar in the 2018 relaunch of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther, where he was a commoner before realizing his position as leader and king, but the contexts are different. There he was in space and trying to return to a life he once had. Here he’s not trying to return, but rather, understand.

Taking place within a new city – Birnin T’Chaka – named after his father, allows T’Challa’s introspection to also double as the reader’s viewpoint into this city. It introduces us to this place, some of its people, as well as the state it’s in. It’s a big city, but unlike what we frequently see of Wakanda, which is usually her capital city Birnin Zana and the forests surrounding it, it’s more metropolitan, more cyberpunk. It has towering buildings with neon lights crowding every corner – a big contrast to the more open design of the capital – which helps in setting it apart from previous Black Panther stories both in terms of tone and aesthetics.  The issue itself isn’t all just introspection though, it also doubles as a reminder that the Black Panther is a hero of the people, even if he’s shrouded in darkness, but revealing himself in small bursts. It’s good to see superhero comics slowly returning to their roots of saving the common folk, and this comic is another that does so – I only hope that this continues throughout the run. 

We’re introduced to a new cast of characters – one of them being N’Yobi Umaru, a lawyer who T’Challa’s been investigating. It allows us again to go down to earth, showing him interacting with people in the city and conversing with them. They’re not long conversations, but they immediately give you a sense of community, while also building up the city in small subtle ways without ever having to rely on boring exposition.

Chris Allen’s art looks absolutely brilliant, with really detailed faces, complicated backgrounds and a fantastic Black Panther. Every action sequence looks good, every unmasked conversation has expressions that perfectly convey the mood and tone. Aburtov’s colours and Yeung’s assistance with inking also play a part in what makes this book look so good. Even in far distances, silhouettes are instantly distinct amongst intricate backgrounds, which really sells the “man in the shadows” aspect of Black Panther. Also a big fan of how Joe Sabino does the lettering for T’Challa’s internal monologue, it’s a more distinct – futuristic box. Subtle, but I quite like it.

T’Challa gets a new costume too. What used to be a sleek black suit now has a beige cloth cape, along with a large shoulder pad on the left arm with a Panther face design over it. He also has a leather strap, and claws that come out of the knuckles to really accentuate that this is a T’Challa that changed a lot since we last saw him, and it works effectively.

Concept art for Black Panther’s new costume by Chris Allen

The team absolutely killed it in this issue. Black Panther is back, and off to a very good start. I cannot wait for the next issue, and for what’s in store in this book.

By Zero

Big fan of storytelling through the B-Theory of time.

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