By Ryan Desaulniers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
All comic series are, in their own way, their own brand, and with a brand comes the idea of offering consistency in the same way that you expect a Big Mac to taste like a Big Mac, no matter where the McDonald’s is. So Spider-Man makes quips and deals with great responsibility, Batman broods, Deadpool makes pop culture references. We expect it. And while creative team changes in long-running series may offer variety, some hallmarks generally remain. Fifteen issues into the Ta-Nehisi Coates run of Black Panther, the consistencies are starting to wear on me as a reader.
Coates always bring his analytical mind to build some incredibly thought-provoking ideas to the braoder strokes and essential questions running underneath the hood of this title, and I appreciate that to no end. However, it’s difficult to connect with these questions when the delivery mechanisms disengage the audience. In issue 16, for example, Shuri attempts to repel a group of wampa-esque creatures called “the Vanyan” by using magic she learned on the spiritual plain to resurrect the corpses of Wakandan warriors from times past. Thematically, it’s a lovely idea: as the nation transitions into its new future, it must confront its polytheistic roots while reclaiming the culture, stories, and rituals which make up its deepest-sewn fabric. What bothers me is that the last large arc climaxed with the souls of deceased Wakandan warriors/Panthers being summoned to do battle, and the dead-guy ex machina pattern begins to grow predictable as a solution.
Another consistency is that of the art being inconsistent. For example, the first sixteen pages of this issue and the latter half seem like they’re drawn by two different artists, which I think hurts this issue and the series in general. Page 16 comes in with this interesting page:
We see Shuri drawn with love, looking like she’s carved out of stone, some non-traditional panel structure holding the page for a change, as she recapitulates what’s happened in the arc thus far and even what’s transpired in this issue. With the fight scene preceding this looking bland and unspecific, hamstrung by low stakes, and finishing in a very familiar way, I personally wish the creative team started here so as to give us more time with the shaman Zawavari or — better yet — a deeper exploration of the relationship between King T’Challa and Storm. Storm’s inclusion definitely played as a highlight. Hopefully, next issue’s return of artist Chris Sprouse can help ameliorate some of these nagging inconsistencies and raise the rest of this arc to the consistent heights of Coates’ Black Panther and The Crew.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?