Nagging Consistency in Black Panther 15

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?

One comment on “Nagging Consistency in Black Panther 15

  1. I didn’t have that much of an issue with the resurrecting dead thing, because I saw two very different moments. One was the payoff to a story arc, while this issue’s was just establishing the new nature of Shuri’s power. This wasn’t supposed to be a big moment, just exploring how Shuri’s powers are connected to the history of Wakanda. Her magic is the recreation of Wakanda’s culture (with seemingly an interesting, geospatial quality. Shuri’s magic appears to be shaped by the exact history of where she is). THis fight wasn’t meant to be important, so the fact that Shuri can pull that out of her hat doesn’t matter. It is everything else in that fight taht is important. In fact, I think it is noteworthy that the first arc ended with ghosts (the minds of the dead), while Shuri summoned the bodies (no mind, just physical bodies). Two very differetn meanings, thematically.

    But Black Panther is getting harder and harder to read. Especially knowing that there seems to only be space for one Black Panther book, and the superior Black Panther and the Crew isn’t it. This book is always interesting, but Coates struggles to dramatise the events of this book is continuously clear. Combat scenes are a frequest weakness, not really ever going anywhere until they suddenly end, and Coates can’t dramatise important details properly. Zawavari’s fall doesn’t feel as impactful as it should. Not a great moment of horror, just the feeling that we have reached the next plot point. It really shows just how importantexecution is.

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