Written By: John Ridley
Art By: Juann Cabal
Colors By: Federico Blee
Letters By: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: November 24, 2021
Black Panther #1 finds T’challa back on Earth, promising to give more time to the Avengers. His promise doesn’t last long when Wakandan sleeper cells around the world are being picked off by a mysterious enemy.
Was It Good?
One of the challenges with writing comic reviews is separating the negatives of a comic due to flaws (bad pacing, bad art, etc.) from creative choices a reviewer may not like. Black Panther #1, thankfully, has very few flaws save for one glaring plot hole, and there are definitely some strong creative choices that may not be to everyone’s liking.
The general premise surrounds T’challa aka Black Panther returning to Earth after his ascension to Emperor of the Intergalactic Empire. He still retains his title of King of Wakanda but the power structure has shifted to a more democratically elected governing body and his role serves largely as a figurehead. Let’s just say T’challa is basically in charge of everyone and everything at this point, and he acts like it, especially with the Avengers.
In the opening scene, Black Panther arrives to stop an invading horde of beasts with regenerative powers. It’s clear on how he issues commands to every teammate present, including Captain America and Thor, that he’s in charge and what he says goes. Admittedly, the way Black Panther orders the Avengers through the fight and the way the Avengers simply abide by the orders unquestioningly seemed out of character for the Avengers. The Avengers have always had “leaders” but there’s was always a sense that the team members followed orders based on mutual interest with a willingness to speak up if the situation called for it. You don’t get that sense here, and it’s offputting.
That said, the opening scene establishes the dynamic well with the Avengers and gives readers enough exposition to catch up on the character of Black Panther.
The main crux of this story surrounds T’challa’s very, super-secret plan to plant sleeper agents in every major country to act in Wakanda’s best interests when he sees fit. The sleeper cells are trained to influence and, if necessary, disrupt or assassinate on T’challa’s command in the name of protecting Wakanda’s global interests. Here, we struggle to delineate between flaws and preferences because this is a creative choice to paint T’challa in such an authoritarian way that pushes him very close to becoming a despot. It’s just out of character enough for Black Panther to be uncomfortable but justifiable enough given his recent ascension that it could simply play into the character’s growth. When you are a Space Emperor, petty constructs like the freedom and democracy of a single country on a single planet may seem trivial. That said, some readers may find this version of T’challa very offputting.
Of course, the sleeper cells are found out by a nefarious group (not yet named) and T’challa has to track down who’s killing his agents before a) the truth of what he’s done is exposed and b) more agents die. It’s not a bad premise, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out. However, there’s one major plot hole that’s too big to ignore. If all your sleeper agents are in trouble, why not simply send them a message to evacuate their posts and come home immediately? Why go undercover, solo, to find each of them one by one. The more you think about it, the more you realize it makes no sense to have a network of sleeper agents without a covert way of contacting them quickly, and it weakens the whole premise.
Overall, I like the art in this issue. The action scenes have plenty of energy and interesting camera angles in the panels. The colors pop, and the lettering is excellent. There’s nothing really to criticize about the art, and it’s a great-looking comic.
Black Panther #1 focuses on T’challa’s evolving roles as Emperor and King. The authoritative choices he makes may be a bridge too far for some readers but it is, at least, an evolution of the character. The comic sets up an interesting story with plenty of action and drama, but there is a major plot hole that may be difficult to ignore. In all, there’s plenty of good and a little bad in this first issue with a different take on the character that may be more divisive than anticipated.