Black Panther #2

For my review of Part 1 of Black Panther, look here.

Before we get to the review, there's something I would like to point out about Black Panther #1, if you saw Civil War, which I enjoyed. In Black Panther #1, there's a little talker with Brian Stelfreeze that mentions Wakandan technology.

If you can't read this, CLICK TO EMBIGGEN.

If you're watching closely, you see Black Panther use his Kimoyo band in Civil War. That's all. Anyway, onto the review.

Black Panther #2

This is a slow build. The good things that I said about the last issue are still all true - the prose is tight and spartan, the inks are strong, the colors are big. As I predicted in my last installment, the story is slowly coming together, though to be fair, some ground must be retreaded, as one must often do in comics, given the episodic nature of the medium.

The actors we saw moving against T'Challa are still in play, the rogue Dora Milaje in their Midnight Angel armor, (which looks like a cross between a beetle and a predator) the mysterious Zenzi (who gets a great technicolor mind-fight scene this issue) the bandits, all are slowly moving toward a showdown with Black Panther, who seems to be spending a lot of his time getting his groove back.

In the past, some (but not all) comics writers tended to treat Wakanda as though we, the readers, were also forbidden from setting foot in the nation. Coates isn't doing that. We're seeing Wakanda, and Wakandans, and they're not happy with their king. They've got a lot of reasons not to be - after the events of the last Black Panther run, the marriage to Storm, the fights with the Scrulls, Doctor Doom waging a war in typical sinister fashion, Thanos's Black Order - things have not been well in Wakanda.  As an aside, you should read Doomwar. It's got some great Doctor Doom scenes, which are my favorite scenes.

There's a nice, extended fight scene in the middle that's also a meditation on the actions of kings that Coates pulls off nicely. There's a poetic conversation between a professor and a shaman. These scenes, and similar ones from the first issue, are the highlights of the books so far, letting Stelfreeze show off his composition chops and excellent panel-framing, while Coates writes freely.

It's a small thing, but I do like the way Black Panther's helmet flows onto his head. The curlicue circuitry and glow seem both high-tech and uniquely "Wakandan." It has the shapes and colors and some design elements of Africa, but some of Jack Kirby - it is it's own fantastic thing. The art and writing play up the technological advancement of Wakanda in a world where our current tech is catching up to what the comics of the seventies showed on the pages.

Other highlights? The redesign of the Black Panther garb - it looks like a damn panther. Anytime Stelfreeze draws fire. The looks on the faces of the kids. The "Black Panther playing with children" statue outside the school. The letters page, which a friendly and well-informed alternative to internet comments and forum trash talk.

Since I'm just going on now, let's point out one last thing: There's only three visualized sound effects in both issues - a "boom" in a prison cell in the first, a breaking window and a ringing phone in the second. Stelfreeze's art and neat lines draw the action efficiently enough - and the Black Panther is silent enough - that we don't need the "WHACK" and "CRASH" at all. The sounds are all drawn away into vibranium, that energy is stored in our minds, and we use it like a kimoyo band, illustrating it ourselves, providing that lasting detail.

I almost never urge people to spend money, but Black Panther's worth the small investment. Go down to Offbeat, or whatever local comic book shop you can, as long as it's not the one where they treat you like dirt for buying something different.