By Arpad Okay. Let’s pause for a moment to praise Brian Stelfreeze. While most of the attention surrounding Black Panther is deservedly focused on its author, Ta-nehisi Coates — among other reasons, Coates has written an inclusive, progressive comic that redefines the potential of the mainstream while remaining a thoroughly enjoyable tights comic for the five percenter set — Stelfreeze gives all these quality words form that is equally mighty to behold. His use of shadow, the black on the page, is unparalleled. It is the level of art all writing deserves. Stelfreeze’s film noir illustration, coupled with Laura Martin’s jewel tone coloring, is a cut above.
But everywhere in Black Panther the execution out-performs the expectation. The show continues to be stolen from T’Challa by the Midnight Angels. Ayo and Aneka, former royal guard on the run, continue to do what the crown will not. The Midnight Angels are dedicated to hunting down the men who prey on the people. They are engaged in doing what superheroes ought by protecting those who need it the most. But the way they do it, meeting violence with violence, that isn’t justice. It’s what set them at odds with the crown in the first place. They aren’t agents of balance, they’re angels of vengeance. And we the readers are asked to decide if their retribution is a fair punishment for committing atrocities. Isn’t violence what makes the bad guys bad? Yet I stand firmly with #TeamMidnightAngels. Black Panther doesn’t tell me how to reconcile these feelings. It is opening a dialogue instead of bolstering an opinion.
And then it steps beyond that. Got your bearings on the moral dilemma of the Midnight Angels? Have any feelings on T’Challa being too busy pursuing the evil wizard opposing his rule to deal with how this struggle affects his subjects? Put them on the shelf, because there are more ideas and worlds to explore. It’s a dense story, never rushed, but very busy. Once you have your bearings, an unseen door opens and a whole new branch of the tale is exposed. Science. Magic. Political intrigue and epic action. Love, family, tradition. Black Panther promises to have it all. What’s more, it promises to make it all count.
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze.
Colored by Laura Martin.
Lettered by Joe Sabino.
8 out of 10