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Judging by the Cover – Our favorite Black Panther covers of all time

Robert, Trevor, and Eric share their favorite Black Panther covers of all time.

Most comic book fans have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to buy every week when they visit their local comic shop. With that said, there’s still a lot of fun to be had just glancing at the week’s new releases and taking a chance on a book that looks promising. That’s where covers come in-a fantastic image can make the difference between trying something new or saying, “Nah, not this week.”

In anticipation of Avengers: Infinity War, we’re publishing special editions of Judging by the Cover. We’re focusing on various characters who have left their mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, and who will be featured in the crossover film event this summer. This time, we asked our contributors Trevor Richardson, Robert Reed, and Eric Cline to share their favorite Black Panther covers of all time.

Trevor’s Picks:

Black Panther Vol. 4 #21
Art by Gary Frank

I’m living for the drama of this Gary Frank cover. There’s a lot of movement here from the flow of T’Challa’s cape behind Namor, to the splashing water, to the ribbons twirling off Namor’s trident. The King of Atlantis’ wild expression is also great and makes me want to find out how this brawl goes down.

Black Panther Vol. 6 #12
Art by Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin

I can’t talk about favorite Black Panther covers without including one by Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin. This cover has great symmetry and I love dividing it in half to further emphasize the distance between T’Challa and the Dora Milaje at this point in the series. Though I feel like I never got the Panther vs. Dora fight I wanted when reading the “A Nation Under Our Feet” issues, I love seeing this visualization of T’Challa and Aneka meeting on equal, yet divided ground.

Black Panther Vol. 1 #1
Art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby’s run on Black Panther was buckwild and it shows in the covers. What is that frog? Is that woman wearing a head piece or is that a huge hairdo? Why is that little mobster-looking man waving a gun around? I love how silly and over-the-top this cover is and it fits the tone of Kirby’s crazy take on the Panther well.

Robert’s Picks:

Black Panther Vol. 3 #1
Art by Mark Texeira

This is my favorite Black Panther cover and I frankly can’t see anything topping it. It is the cover that grabbed me and introduced me to the character. I was still pretty new to comics at the time, and I had only recently learned that the art on the cover didn’t always match the art inside. Fortunately, this is one of the times that the art in the book is reflected on the cover. Mark Texeira’s evocative image of T’Challa running up the side of a building at the reader calls attention to the hero. Who is this guy? And if you read it, you’d begin to find out. You also get to see T’Challa run up a wall in the issue, so at the very least you get what you see on the cover.

Black Panther Vol. 3 #49
Art by Sal Velluto, Bob Almond, and Jennifer Schellinger

I’m a big fan of when covers capture the tone and hint at the thematic material of the book itself, and that’s what this beauty by Sal Velluto, Bob Almond, and Jennifer Schellinger does. While the image of T’Challa sailing alone into the sunset is powerful, it doesn’t at first seem to match the contents of the issue. The finale of sorts to the main section of Priest’s run (the last thirteen issues introduce a new character, Kasper Cole, as the lead character), Black Panther #49 sees T’Challa face off against M’Baku and the forces of the Jabari tribe.

What makes this cover work is the way it plays into the conclusion of the issue, when T’Challa, driven by anxieties about his own ability to control his kingdom without becoming a dictator, abandons his throne and disappears. It’s a challenging ending, and this cover captures the somber farewell perfectly.

Black Panther Vol. 6 #9
Art by Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin

Artists Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin have had great covers throughout the most recent volume of Black Panther, but their cover to issue #9 is my favorite. The minimalist cover draws attention to T’Challa and Shuri, highlighting their sibling bond and the way it stands independently of everything else. The “Nation Under Our Feet” story by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, and Laura Martin sees T’Challa heartbroken by his inability to save his sister, causing him to lose focus and almost lose his kingdom in the process. When she returns, it is after her own personal journey in the spiritual plan of the Djalia. This cover captures the importance of them being reunited, signaling the change of the tide in the story.

Eric’s Picks:

Black Panther Vol. 4 #1
Art by John Romita Jr.

I’m a huge John Romita Jr. fan so I’m biased saying this, but this cover is iconic. T’Challa lunging forward with that intimidating face? Awesome. That background with the plains, trees, and horizon? Beautiful. This image is just really cool all around.

Rise of the Black Panther #1
Art by Brian Stelfreeze

I chose this cover for a regular iteration of Judging by the Cover back when the issue came out. As I said at the time:

Brian Stelfreeze’s beautiful cover tells the titular character’s life story. We see T’Challa as a child standing alongside his father, and it’s literally part of what makes (the image of) the grown T’Challa who he is now. The blues, violets, reds, and greens are all beautiful, and the pink petal details are simply divine. The presence of additional figures around T’Challa and his father is also a great touch, as they help to visually communicate the high expectations placed upon T’Challa as he took on his father’s mantle. Said mantle’s legacy is further embodied by the panther statue in the right corner. Overall, this cover is just stunning. Not only is it an amazing piece of artwork, but every inch is covered in a thought regarding who (and why) its central subject is.

Black Panther Vol. 6 #9
Art by Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin

My Stelfreeze (and Martin) love is showing, but when it’s right, it’s right. This cover is beautiful in its simplicity. T’Challa and Shuri’s bond is conveyed with no words, and the birds flying out of and away from Shuri’s back are stunning. The limited color palette (blue, black, and white) helps unify the different elements of the image as well.

Do you agree with these picks? Let us know in the comment space below!


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