The Black Panther You Never Knew About in Black Panther #1 "Book 1: Many Thousands Gone"
Ta-Neihisi Coates and Daniel Acuña have shipped Black Panther #1 into uncharted territories. T’Challa, Nakia, and M’Baku are back and they’re in space! We’ve always known Wakanda had advanced technology, but Coates escalates this idea to a whole new level. Our story begins with a revelation completely unknown about the Wakandans, “Two thousand years ago, a detachment of Wakandans established a small desolate colony on the outer edges of the cosmos.”
Acuña’s art makes it clear that this is a Science Fiction tale. We immediately see densely packed futuristic cities of the Wakandan Empire. Unlike the Wakandans of Earth, these space-fairing travelers hardly resemble the Wakanda we have grown to love. They are like the Romans of space and act as a warmongering empire that seeks to extend their control to the vast distances of the cosmos. If you’re worried that this is a boring political tale, you would be dead wrong. From start to finish, Acuña’s art takes us on a thrill-ride of non-stop action. Exposition by Coates is light and tells only enough to narrate the action while giving small hints of the framework of the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda.
Our story's protagonist is an unknown prisoner of the Wakandan Empire. Forced to labor in the mines, his condition tells us of the Empire’s cruelty. As this character develops, he reminds us of Spartacus, a character who acts and feels like a champion, but without the knowledge of his heritage. He could even be a king, but who he is and how he arrived at the prison is unclear, as the minds of all prisoners have been wiped. As the issue continues, we are taken on a wild prison escape sequence that feels familiar for fans of X-O Manowar.
Acuña’s use of blues and purples give the comic book a look of cyberpunk meeting 1984. The panels feel claustrophobic and lively as our prisoner attempts his escape, while the Empire’s drones are ever watching for dissidents. As a reminder we are in space, the stars are always present in the background. Joe Sabino’s lettering fills the pages with plenty of dramatic sound effects that compliment the kinetic action of Acuña’s artwork.
Black Panther #1 is a completely new story and the perfect jumping on point for movie fans who have never read a comic. No backstory is required. Longtime Black Panther fans might find it hard to digest how far from tradition this Black Panther story is, but if you’re willing to go in with an open mind you will be rewarded.