Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates / Artist: Chris Sprouse / Marvel Comics
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther is already a divisive one among fans not unlike Christopher Priest’s tenure with the character. Still, it’s hard to deny that Coates is both covering ground long neglected and also breaking new territory. The author of Between the World and Me is offering readers an intimate, intriguing birds eye view of what is shaping up to be the fall of Wakanda.
The sixth issue of the Coates run sees things turn up in a major way. T’Challa has spent a lot of time caught off guard but is beginning to see and understand the way his enemies are forming against him. Also, Shuri is still on her journey through…(so far, I’ve narrowed it down to) elsewhere. At this point, it’s hard to deny that Coates’ approach to the Black Panther has mostly been a success. However, the thing about playing the long game like he is means that not every issue is going to be an outright home run across the board. The prose that’s made this book such a good read thus far has a couple moments in the second half of the book when it gets in the way a bit. Oh, and I mean that literally.
It fills up the panel to a point where it starts to obstruct the artwork slightly. Shuri’s time with her “mother” messes with the pacing a bit and makes it sort of hard to get back into the main action. Chris Sprouse stands in for Brian Stelfreeze on the art side of things and he ends up being more than just an adequate fit for Coates’ script maintaining and expanding on the aesthetic established by Stelfreeze. There are a few panels when you can tell he’s struggling to make room for Coates’ epic prose which is an understandable problem (though I LOVE his voice for the Panther’s internal narrative). Still, Sprouse does a masterful job of zooming in on epic battles and putting right in the middle of the mess.
Bottom Line: It’s obvious that Coates is still learning when to get out of the way and let the book show more than tell, but his prose style is solid and Chris Sprouse was an inspired choice as an artist to stand in for Stelfreeze.
8 Intense Chadwick Boseman stares into the distance out of 10
Reading Black Panther? Catch up on other reviews of the series here.