Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates / Artist: Chris Sprouse / Marvel Comics
I’m one of those writers that stays on message boards and social media groups, keeping my ear to the ground about various comics that I write on more often than not. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther run is easily one of the most divisive comics I’ve seen in years. The best thing I can come up with to comment on it is that just because something’s “not your cup of tea”, that doesn’t make it bad. This is a comic aimed at a very specific type of storytelling. If you’re looking for your standard pseudo beat-em-up, this is not your book. There are perfectly good Black Panther books available for you out there.
With all that said, Coates’ political thriller is what the kids affectionately refer to as “lit”. However, most of that intrigue takes a breather in Issue #8 to declare last call on a long standing plot point: Shuri’s tenure in Wakandan purgatory (or whatever). There are a few pages devoted to T’Challa adjourning his team up with The Crew with all the appropriate feels in all the right places. I really appreciated having these moments with The Crew mainly because I like the idea of there being this sense of community among all the Black heroes. I mean, I subconsciously keep a running tally of all the Black people in any given room and those are just relative strangers. I could only imagine the camaraderie between Black people who all voluntarily run into harm’s way every day.
Meanwhile, the resolution of Shuri’s hero quest gets slightly talky (as her plot has been throughout the series), but it doesn’t take away from the overall awesomeness of the ending or what it suggests for later installments. Coates’ penchant for prose is unlike anything else happening in Big Two comics right now so it’s nice to have some of that classy narrative being resurrected in the medium. Visually, Chris Sprouse is handling his business, maintaining a lot of the aesthetic established by Brian Stelfreeze. He did an amazing job with the transition to the other side scenes and managed astounding work depicting Shuri in all her majestic glory at the end of her quest. That along with the wonderfully expressive faces during the whole exchange with The Crew justifies the four bucks on its own.
Bottom Line: Coates is churning out a page turner that doesn’t need a fist fight on every page to prove that T’Challa is an effective and cerebral yet conflicted hero. Also, applause is in order for giving Shuri (possibly) the level-up she so deserves.
Reading Black Panther? Catch up on other reviews of the series here.