Superherodom Encroaches in Black Panther 18

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Panther 18

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther has always vacillated between concerns for greater Wakanda (civil unrest, history, religion) and more straightforward superheroics. It perfectly captures the multiple directions T’Challa is always pulled in, blowing up the typical Marvel interpersonal dramas into matters of state. In recent arcs, those two worlds seem even further apart, as issues almost seemed to alternate between these two concerns. The results have been fantastic — the previous two issues represent opposite ends of that spectrum, and are among the strongest Coates has written — but threatened to split this book into two series running in parallel. That is, until issue 18 reveals that everything might be connected, after all.

I have to hedge on “might,” because, while the monsters T’Challa and Shuri battle in this issue are definitely a construct of their enemies (who include Klaw and Ras the Exhorter), it seems likely that the other monsters have been very real. Then again, when dealing with enemies like Zenzi and Faustus, relying on how things “seem” may not yield the most accurate results. At the very least, seeing Ras the Exhorter hinging with Black Panther’s growing team of enemies (The Sinister-er Seven?) suggests that their tactics may now include spreading appealing disinformation to the Wakandan masses. That’s a timely villainous MO, disseminating “fake news” to foment unrest in a country, and something that would be particularly effective if these bad guys were simply fanning the flames of instability to cash in somehow.

This issue enjoys an embarassment of riches on the art front — both Chris Sprouse and Wilfredo Torres are credited with pencils — but I’m most impressed with the colors by Laura Martin, whose rendering technique seems to change throughout the issue to best suit the moment. There’s an intriguing mix of gradients and more kind of acrylic-looking hard edges, but all of it looks fantastic. Check out how she handles the two-headed monster-constructs:

Monster-Constructs

The Wakandan figures in the background are not only more muted in color; they’re much more simply rendered, keeping our focus on the freaky monster things in the foreground. It’s subtle stuff, but it makes these dialogue-free panels remarkably legible.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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One comment on “Superherodom Encroaches in Black Panther 18

  1. Damn, that final page excites me. Things come together perfectly. This arc has been a little messy with how many different elements have existed (thankfully, the quality of 16 and 17 individually help deal with that).

    But it so easily comes together for the reveal of one of the best supervillain teams ever. I am often in awe of Coates’ work, whether it is his political work (has anyone read his recent ‘The First White President’?) or the complexity of the themes he brings to his comics. But I am very rarely in awe of the actual storytelling of his comics. He is still adapting to a new medium.

    But this is such a perfect example of a villain team. A team dedicated to , essentially, information terrorism (hell, the only villain missing from this line up is Putin). Old or new, all fantastic villains that don’t feel mere grunts but are each, individually, big deals.All distinct, but all so fitting. You understand why they would all be together. We’ve seen many of them connect before, but it is with the reveal of Klaw that it all truly comes into shape. All led by the living embodiment of colonial exploitation. A perfectly executed dramatic reveal.

    This is a team dedicated to subverting Wakanda through acts of terror and misinformation. And seeing such a great villain team assembled is a dramatic masterstroke.

    Though god, Klaw has always been a great villain thematically, but he really, really needs a redesign. Everyone else has great designs that fit their character, but Klaw’s is so bad, it really hides what a great villain he is in the first place

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