By Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Black Panther 170 is by all measures a climactic issue. Indeed, with so many of T’Challa’s villains and allies joining the fray, the bulk of the issue has a decidedly “Battle of the Five Armies” feel to it, which artist Leonard Kirk captures in all of its chaotic glory.
We may suspect a quieter, more personal denouement down the line — Klaw, Stane, Faustus, and Zenzi are nowhere near this fight — but this feels like the big army battle before things tighten back up to Black Panther tracking down the villains and rescuing his kidnapped friend. We think we know where this is going, but then writer Ta-Nehisi Coates yanks the rug out from under us on a stunning final page turn. [Major spoilers after the break!]
For months, the “previously, on Black Panther” copy has reminded us of Asira’s kidnapping, though we’ve barely seen her since, and progress in her rescue has been decidedly slow-going. Maybe eagle-eyed readers would have smelled a rat, but I was so distracted by the dozens of other fires on T’Challa’s radar that it never even occurred to me to expect this:
That is, Asira was Ras the Exhorter the whole time. This raises a ton of questions about how and why, but for now, I’m content to revel in the daringness of that twist. It’s obvious enough that I’m sure some know-it-alls might have called it months ago, but again, Coates had kept so many plates spinning, I barely noticed Asira’s now conspicuous absence from those issues. But what excites me most about this twist is how it changes the game of the resolution. T’Challa is no longer charging into the castle to save the princess — he’s reconciling with the princess’s betrayal before heading in to confront the villains for their other crimes. It’s a great twist that disrupts all of our expectations for the narrative going forward, keeping us on the edge of our seats especially when think we can sit back.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?