reflection

John Ridley and Juann Cabal are off to strong start in Black Panther #1, with a well-paced and intriguing opening chapter full of political intrigue and espionage.
Writing/Plot
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Letters

Review: BLACK PANTHER #1 – Wakandan Intrigue

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Writer John Ridley and artist Juann Cabal’s highly anticipated start to one of Marvel’s most popular series is finally here with Black Panther #1. With colors from Frederico Blee and letters from Joe Sabino, this first chapter following Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run is a slow but engaging book that examines the fallout from T’Challa’s recent decisions as King of Wakanda. With tight, thoughtful scripting and clean, high-fidelity visuals, this new entry point is off to a great start.

“Secrets from T’Challa’s past have come back to haunt him! Fresh from returning from his travels in space, Black Panther receives an unexpected and urgent message from a Wakandan secret agent! Now T’Challa must race the clock not only to save his agent, but also to keep his true agenda under wraps. Because if the truth comes out, it could cost T’Challa everything…”

Writing & Plot

John Ridley focuses on some of the more intricate aspects of the current world Wakanda exists in with Black Panther #1. The direct results of decisions made in Coates’ run, as well as plans set in motion during T’Challa’s time as sole ruler of Wakanda, make up the bulk of this comic’s plot. T’Challa’s decision to plant sleeper agents in world governments, making Wakanda a democratic country, and, to a lesser extent, his place with the Avengers, are all touched on here. However, the first of these is the main focus and what makes this issue feel like the start of an espionage thriller.

Ridley makes the wise choice of not focusing too much on the least interesting aspect of a Marvel character comic – the ties to the Avengers. T’Challa’s involvement with Marvel’s titular super-team has always been generally tenuous, and Ridley seems interested in keeping it that way. The comic’s opening is a pretty cut-and-paste action sequence with Black Panther and some other Avengers (Cap, Thor, and Doctor Strange) as a sort of attention-getter. It’s also the worst part of the book. As soon as the King gets back home and the political stuff hits, the comic improves drastically. The small but heavy hits of action between lengthy conversation sequences feel like explosive punctuation. The more espionage-action structure of this issue makes it feel like a Mission: Impossible  film rather than a superhero comic.

Despite the amount of dialogue, Ridley’s script never comes across as overstuffed or laborious. All of the dialogue is consequential and genuinely compelling. There’s no exposition, and every conversation comes off as both great dialogue writing and important information. This is a well paced and intelligent script and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Art Direction

The kinetic action scenes, detailed environments, and character animations in Black Panther #1 are due to the pencils of Juann Cabal. His clean, thin pencils and conservative use of inks/shadows make for a bright visual experience with a lot of “pop.” I find Cabal’s style to be reminiscent of Mikel Janin due to their use of a sort of digital style and very little inks. His characters are given considerable personality via how detailed he draws their facial animations. This is especially effective given how many one-on-one conversations there are in this book. My only complaint is that, at a couple of points, his characters look a bit same-y. However, this isn’t very obvious  and can easily be looked past.

Cabal’s action scenes, which are few in this comic, are directed and drawn with cinematic energy. Cabal a small number of panels to convey events on a page. This approach makes his action scenes look like big set pieces rather than intimate fights. This isn’t a problem at all, it’s just a note on his approach.

Colors & Lettering

Frederico Blee’s colors are the explosion of life that really grabs your attention to this comic’s interior. His bright, hyper-energetic palette is what makes this issue a high-fidelity Marvel comic experience. While it may not suit everyone, the digital filter-esque use of color brings huge of energy to Cabal’s pencils. For better or worse, Marvel’s comics have been taking a lot of creative suggestions from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here, at the very least, it makes for a very pretty comic book. The lettering from Joe Sabino is solid, and does exactly what it is supposed to do. There’s solid SFX lettering and he fits Ridley’s lengthy dialogue into speech bubbles in a manner that is tidy and legible.

Verdict

Black Panther #1 is a tight and intelligent start to this new chapter for the King of Wakanda. John Ridley’s script glosses over the more mainstream-friendly moments to focus on political intrigue and tense espionage storytelling. The visuals from Juann Cabal and Frederico Blee are bright and attention grabbing, even if they don’t entirely fit the kind of story they’re in. Be sure to grab this new start point when it hits shelves on 11/24!

 

Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.

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