In Marvel Comics’ Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #1 (on sale 9/18), writer Jim Zub introduces readers to a motley crew that has the potential to be the next Guardians of the Galaxy. T’Challa’s hand-picked operatives may not seem like the most organic team but this unit of these disparate personalities could flourish with Zub at the helm.
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #1
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Lan Medina
Color artist: Marcio Menyz
Letter: VC’s Joe Sabino
When putting together the team’s roster, Zub combines elements of the Marvel Universe’s strangest sections. Most readers are familiar with Okoye, T’Challa’s bodyguard and the leader of the Dora Milaje. Likewise, Ka-Zar and Janet van Dyne, also known as the Wasp, are recognizable heroes. But you’d be forgiven if seeing the other members ― Gorilla-Man, the Man-Wolf (John Jameson III), Broo and particularly Fat Cobra ― sends you on a frantic Google search. These characters aren’t household names and that’s the way Zub likes it. As the writer of Champions, he turns similarly underutilized heroes and makes them crucial players in the story. You might not know a lot about the Agents of Wakanda right now but it’s only a matter of time before some of them become breakout stars.
Zub doesn’t try to establish the Agents as Marvel’s next major team; instead, they’re framed as the J.V. Avengers. T’Challa, the founder of the unit, all but says so himself: “…Our duty as Agents of Wakanda [is to] gather intel for the Avengers but also to deal with immediate hazards the Avengers cannot contain.” This statement can be interpreted two ways; either the Agents are scouts who also handle emergencies the Avengers are too busy to deal with or T’Challa’s team is a group of operatives who are capable of saving the day when the Avengers aren’t available. Heck, the truth may lie somewhere in between. Establishing the Agents as a legitimate group will be one of Zub’s most pressing challenges but he’s on the right track after one issue.
As it currently stands, though, these are relatively obscure characters so, especially early on, Zub’s characterization of them will be vital to the series’ success. In the first issue, Zub focuses on Janet, John, Fat Cobra and Okoye. (The other members, plus Agent Roz Solomon and American Eagle, are smoothly excluded because they’re all on separate missions elsewhere.) It’s easy to see what role each of these main characters will fill on the team; Janet leads the team from within because she’s a seasoned veteran, John could be a liability because he can’t fully control his powers, Cobra likes to eat and fight and Okoye acts as the level-headed commander who gets down and dirty with her team as needed. Add T’Challa, the formidable King of Wakanda and Chairman of the Avengers, to the mix and the team’s distinct dynamic becomes even clearer. These general ideas begin to individualize the members of the team and they will allow Zub to continue to flesh out these characters.
By beginning the issue with an action scene, Zub and the art team add some lively energy to the story right away. The Scavengers, a standard group of armed goons, are on the Agents’ radar because they’re trying to steal lost S.H.I.E.L.D. technology. Artist Lan Medina and color artist Marcio Menzyz make the resulting high-speed car chase feel like it’s right out of a movie. Medina draws smoke coming from the tires and you can practically hear the roar of the car’s engine as the thieves attempt their escape. Medina and Menyz also make the impact of John’s Vibranium bullets look even more devastating; when he shoots one of the Scavengers, the bullet causes the crook’s armor to explode. A red background on impact and a similarly scarlet blast for the weapon makes the weapon’s impact feel palpable. Plus, by making the Man-Wolf look particularly monstrous with rage-filled eyes and a scary snarl, Medina and Menyz complement Zub’s script when Jameson loses control and almost kills a Scavenger. Using italics, bold font and a blood-red outline for the speech bubbles, Letterer VC’s Joe Sabino makes Jameson’s bestial dialogue frightening, too. Each member of the art team adds supplement the strength of the script, which shows that Zub, Medina, Menyz and Sabino are a cohesive unit.
While we can’t definitely say that Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda will be successful, the first issue offers plenty of reasons for optimism. The eclectic group of heroes has the chance to stand out in a crowded Marvel Universe and, based on the reveal at the end of the issue, it’s fair to think Zub has ambitious plans for the series.
What’d you think of Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #1? Where do you hope the series goes from here?