The (Re)Introduction of Klaw in Black Panther 166

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Panther 166

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

There’s a lot to be excited by in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther run, but one we rarely comment on is that it’s bringing in new readers. As an already popular author and journalist, Coates has an established audience that is much, much larger than the typical comics creator. For evidence, we need look no further than his twitter followers, which number 1-3 orders of magnitude more than most comics creators — heck, he has more followers than most comics publishers. And, importantly, the vast majority of those followers (and Atlantic and Between the World and Me readers) aren’t comics readers. I’ve covered plenty of comics in our 7 years as a site, but tweets about Coates’s Black Panther represent the only times I’ve been asked “where can I buy this comic?” And that’s happened multiple times. Coates is bringing new people to the medium, and that’s something special.

Of course, it also puts him in a bit of an unusual place as a writer. T’Challa is a character with a rich, half-century-long history, and comicdom is notorious for fans who know every bit of that history. How do you reconcile the interests of those fans with those of total neophytes? From the start, Coates has struck an elegant balance, acknowledging many specific beats of that history while also creating entirely new mythologies for the character and his world. No one element represents that better than Ulysses Klaw, whose introduction at the end of last month’s issue crashed one of T’Challa’s oldest enemies into that new mythology. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

Oppression Makes Strange Bedfellows in Black Panther 16

By Drew Baumgartner

Black Panther 16

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

The king who is situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the conqueror’s territory is termed the enemy. The king who is likewise situated close to the enemy, but separated from the conqueror only by the enemy, is termed the friend (of the conqueror).

Kautilya, Arthasastra

Understood more colloquially as “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the above sentiment was first recorded in a 4th Century treatise on statecraft. That is, while we might be most familiar with the concept as its used in interpersonal dramas or forming political coalitions, it was first composed to conceptualize a concept in city-state diplomacy. More importantly, Kautilya is quite specific in when this attitude should be applied — basically, only when the “conquerer” stands to lose nothing from the alliance. Such is the case when T’Challa approaches Dr. Eliot Augustus Franklin (better known as Thunderball of the Wrecking Crew) — T’Challa has nothing to lose, and Franklin has everything to gain from cooperating. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

The Failings of Friendship in Desperate Times in Secret Empire 5

by Spencer Irwin

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

“The power of friendship” is a popular trope in most media. The idea that most situations can be overcome through the bonds we share with our friends is powerful in a lot of ways, but it’s one that never really seems applicable to war or espionage stories like Secret Empire. Make no mistake, Hydra is not going to be defeated by friendship or optimism alone, but in Secret Empire 5, Nick Spencer, Rod Reis, Andrea Sorrentino, Joshua Cassara, and Rachelle Rosenberg do explore the effect pre-existing relationships have on their conflict. It’s not always a good one. Continue reading

Ms. Marvel 18

Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Ms. Marvel 18, originally released May 10th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Supporting characters exist, well, to support — to highlight and contrast the protagonist’s various personality traits. Even when supporting characters deal with trauma and plot twists of their own, creators and readers alike have a tendency to only think of those events in terms of how they effect the protagonist. I’ll admit that I’d been thinking that way of Bruno Carrelli, the (former?) best friend of Kamala Khan, after everything he’d gone through in the Civil War II tie-ins; my number one concern was whether he and Kamala would ever be able to repair their relationship. Writer G. Willow Wilson shines the spotlight on Bruno in Ms. Marvel 18, and by doing so, gently reminds her readers that Bruno is his own man with his own unique struggles that are worth considering and empathizing with. Continue reading

Black Panther 11

Alternating Currents: Black Panther 11, Drew and Ryan D

Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing Black Panther 11, originally released February 22nd, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: Comics is a medium of juxtaposition. We derive meaning from seeing two images next to one another, understanding some causal link that only exists in our minds. The magic, then, is crafting those images such that the reader can piece together the causality in a natural, intuitive way. That includes both the content of the images and the arrangement of those images on the page, which is remarkably complex. Indeed, in his seminal Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud points out that arranging panels is so complex “that even seasoned pros will sometimes blow it.” While the clarity issues in Black Panther 11 have more to do with content than layouts, I feel this sentiment is particularly apt, as the issue was drawn by not just one, but a veritable army of seasoned artists. It’s odd to argue that this artistic team failed to make this issue clear, but I’m afraid that’s really the lynchpin upon which all of this issue’s problems turn. Continue reading

The Ultimates 2 4

ultimates-2-4

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Ultimates 2 4, originally released February 15th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. […]

Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. […]

Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.

Aristotle, “Rhetoric”

Drew: I’ve never studied philosophy, or even public speaking, but even I’ve heard of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the three modes of persuasion Aristotle describes in the excerpts above. Obviously, “heard of” is a pretty far cry from understanding, but to my lay mind, Logos — the mode that relies on logic — is often held up as the purest form of persuasion, as it hinges on facts rather than our emotions or faith in whoever is making the argument. But, of course, it’s difficult to truly ignore the impact of Ethos and Pathos — we’re emotional, social beings — so it’s possible for something to feel like Logos when, in fact, it isn’t (a phenomenon we call “truthiness”). Moreover, dubious Logos may shore up its logicalness by being distractingly lacking in Ethos and Pathos (a phenomenon we might call “fuck your feelings”). This is all very messy, and is threatening to turn into an essay on political discourse, but I brought it up to address the appeals characters make to one another in Ultimates 2 4 — all modes are on display, including a “logical” argument built on such shaky ground that its arguer feels compelled to call itself “Logos.” Continue reading

The Ultimates 2 1

ultimates-2-1

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Ultimates 2 1, originally released November 23rd, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: It’s odd that we have a concept of ideas that are “ahead of their time” — that is, it’s odd that ideas are so often rejected only to be later praised that we have a phrase to describe the phenomenon. Optimistically, the fact that those ideas can be reappraised suggests that you can’t keep a good idea down, but the other side of that coin reveals how common it is to reject good ideas in the moment. Indeed, the very fact that those ideas can later be proven to have value illustrates that the initial problem wasn’t with the idea, but the people involved in implementing it. Maybe it comes down to personalities involved or the politics surrounding an idea, but good ideas can be rejected for reasons totally unrelated to the quality of those ideas. Those mistakes may be corrected by history, but often over the course of generations. To me, the best way to speed up that process, unlocking the value of good ideas sooner, is to constantly reevaluate our decisions, never defaulting to the assumption that the “best” idea always wins. Such is the case with the idea of the Ultimates — the politics and personalities involved may have prevented that idea from reaching its fruition the first time around, but that doesn’t mean it should be discarded completely. Continue reading

Black Panther World of Wakanda 1


world-of-wakanda-1Today, Ryan D. and Patrick are discussing
Black Panther: World of Wakanda 1, originally released November 9th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Ryan D: Max Landis wised me up to “narrative potential” in a video from a while ago, but ever since then I can’t help but notice when a topic just screams with possibilities. This is the gift which is being presented to the collaborators of the new series Black Panther:World of Wakanda. Spinning directly off of Ta’Nehisi Coates’s current, ambitious run with the titular character, this series promises to flesh out the vibrant, complicated African nation in a way that will supplement the overarching story being told. While Wakanda may be the world’s most developed and advanced society — at once reaching forward as a progressive power-house and at the same time sitting comfortably in its heritage — it is also a nation recoiling from siege and tragedy. The opening chapter of World of Wakanda shows us two different glimpses into the prelude which lead to the current Wakanda read in the comics, one of a particular volatility, and thus far I think one of these two narrative paths is a much more gratifying path to follow.

Continue reading