“Killmonger is a tragedy. It’s a tragedy because revenge is inherently tragic.” So says writer Bryan Hill in the afterword of Killmonger #1, the first chapter in a new five-part Marvel story. Hill’s words cut right to the heart of what this book, and the character himself, are about.
Most people reading this will have some familiarity with the T’Challa’s great antagonist (at least since the box-office smash Black Panther earlier this year). But, what really makes Killmonger tick? What helped shape the calculating figure he becomes?
Following the young N’Jadaka after he is kidnapped from Wakanda, the book explores the adult Killmonger’s quest for revenge against Klaue and the country he believes abandoned him. It’s the story of a man whose flaws will ultimately lead to his own destruction.
Bryan Hill shows himself to be a true master dramatist with this book. Killmonger #1 is the first act of a tragedy in the Shakespearean sense. And, like any good protagonist in a story like this, Erik has tragic flaws.
Throughout the book, we see him overplay his hand and allow his confidence to sabotage his plans. Then, of course, there is his single-minded obsession with revenge. We witness Erik’s first steps down the path that will define him, going so far as to quote Moby Dick as he meditates on his hatred. And like Captain Ahab, this is what will ultimately take him down.
Hill suggests the true root of Erik’s desire, even beneath his justified resentment of Wakanda for their silence in the face of injustice, lies in his own fear. “Erik, despite all his power and ability, won’t allow himself to face his fears,” Hill says. “And that’s why this ends the way we all know it will.”
But, even though we know how this story will end, it’s fascinating to watch it unfold.
Artist Juan Ferreyra employs a softly focused style for Killmonger #1. The work has an illustrator-like quality, which comes through strongest in close-ups of characters. There is a level of fine detail present throughout, though, with gorgeous yet minimal backgrounds and designs.
Everything has a sense of motion and energy to it. There are few static panels. Even in quieter moments, you feel the tense weight of the story carry through.
Ferreyra’s art is a pleasure to look at throughout Killmonger #1, even in some of the most brutal sequences. For example, there’s one part of the story in which a character has a particularly nasty encounter with a window. But there’s a sense of refinement even among the gore of the scene.
Killmonger #1 is brilliant storytelling, pure and simple. It’s the story of a man consumed by his desire for revenge; a classic drama in contemporary setting. Highly recommended.