Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romero, and Jordie Bellaire take Shuri on a journey of self-exploration (and space exploration) in Shuri: The Search for Black Panther. Collecting the first five issues of Shuri’s first solo series, The Search for Black Panther is a volume that welcomes a wider audience while also tying into Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ongoing epic in Black Panther.
The volume begins with Shuri sending her brother and Manifold off on a space exploration mission. When they don’t make their scheduled contact, Shuri finds herself being tasked with the matter of ruling her country. Okorafor does a fantastic job capturing the strife inside Shuri. She is weighed down by her own history with the crown and the mantle of Black Panther — a mantle that she died in.
Leonard Romero’s artwork also beautifully captures the drama within Shuri. The heavy lines allow for bold expressions and powerful poses. One thing that definitely surprises, though, is the detail that Romero is able to achieve with these bolder lines. The clothing on characters throughout the volume is wonderfully varied, giving the Wakandans a sense of culture and personal identity at the same time.
Jordie Bellaire’s beautiful color art only makes this tapestry more wondrous to the eye. Vivid purples and blues help the characters pop off the page, while the use of ambers in the exteriors is breathtaking. When the volume takes the readers off Earth, Bellaire opts to use magenta for an alien world, creating a nice balance with the void of space.
On every level, Okorafor makes Shuri: The Search For Black Panther an engrossing read. Quickly readers will realize that the “search” isn’t just for T’Challa, but Shuri’s own sense of identity and finding ownership of that identity. At one point, her journey takes her into the mind of Groot — literally. Okorafor’s plotting is solid, weaving in secret councils that not only create character drama, but highlight the weight of T’Challa’s absence on Shuri. Okorafor’s use of science (a cool use of LED bulbs) and science fiction (wormhole creating aliens) make for a fantastic read, anchored by great characterization.
However, it is the characterization of its hero that may be the most divisive. Nnedi Okorafor’s Shuri is intelligent, curious, with a good sense of wit. She’s a little gunshy at the moment, her failure to find her brother causing further doubts, but she reads magnificently. But this take on Shuri doesn’t seem to match up well with her earlier comic appearances, whether it’s the the fierce warrior-queen that ruled in the work of Reginald Hudlin and Jonathan Hickman, or the more mystic Aja-Adanna role she has taken on in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run. The Shuri here appears to take her cues from Letitia Wright’s take on the character in 2018’s film adaptation. For some, the dissonance between takes will be a bridge too far. While I noticed it, I found myself too engrossed with the characterization Okorafor and Romero achieved to care.
Is It Good?
With gorgeous, bold artwork by Leonard Romero and Jordie Bellaire and an entertaining story of self-exploration (and fights against space bugs) by Nnedi Okorafor, Shuri: The Search For Black Panther is a fantastic read that welcomes readers who have been following along with this corner of the Marvel Universe or who have come from the movies.