Black Panther #1

This is the newest thing I've ever reviewed. That's because it came out today. It's a quick read, worth your time, and your five dollars. If you're in Jackson, go to Offbeat and pick it up. Tell the Black Panther of Madison County that I sent you, and you'll get a special no-prize. 

I've written about comic books before, but let's be fair - I didn't like what I was reading for a lot of reasons. But this Black Panther #1 is different. It's written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has not written comics before.

He's written poetry and beautiful books, and that shows on every page. There's no lengthy diatribes in crimped print, you get terse, tight prose, no wasted words.

This was my first encounter with Brian Stelfreeze, and I want more. Coates's lack of text balloons and boxes lets Stelfreeze use simple beautiful lines all over the page, leaving big pools of black ink, deep shadows, and THICK lines. It evokes complex and detailed illustrations with a style like the writing - nothing wasted, just enough detail, no clutter. Your mind gleefully commits to closure, brings still images to life and motion.

It's not cartoony, nor is it overburdened with unnecessary realism. The spacious lines and figures let Laura Martin's colors inhabit big, sprawling spaces, filling each page with deep rich pools of black, purple, and red. Outside, there's bright blue skies, Wakandan technology bleeds weird neon energy.

It's not just the writing that's poetic, it's the ensemble. These creators have an understanding of comics - it's a soap opera in broad strokes, evocative, emblematic, symbolic. They're doing that, all the right details are there, nothing's jammed in the works, every sparse detail seems important without being weighty and overwrought.

The first act doesn't end on a cheap cliffhanger, it doesn't weigh you down. It sets you up, though, like the Black Panther would.

I'll be in the store the day it drops.