Evan Narcisse tackles T’Challa’s past by looking into the lives of his parents. Readers are finally properly introduced to N’Yami, T’Challa’s birthmother, in Rise of the Black Panther #1. Is it good?
Evan Narcisse’s writing flows well on the page, and as a result, Rise of the Black Panther #1 is deceptively packed with material. The comic is still the standard twenty pages for $3.99, but with so much story packed in, the comic feels like a steal. This wouldn’t be possible without artist Paul Renaud, who expertly manages the layouts in a way that allows for letterer Joe Sabino to fit the lengthy dialogue bubbles while still maintaining a visually pleasing page.
Renaud’s artwork throughout the issue is beautiful, balancing the action, romance, and politics in a way that very few artists can. This is perhaps best seen in the mid section where the issue flows perfectly from a battle between T’Chaka and Baron Von Strucker to the death of N’Yami. Renaud captures T’Chaka’s prowess in combat on one page and then shows his vulnerability in the next.
Narcisse’s characterization for T’Chaka is fascinatingly human. With few exceptions, T’Chaka has only been seen in the comics through the prism of T’Challa’s idolizing eyes, and so Narcisse works within that framework but still shows the very human wrinkles of the former king. T’Chaka is presented with a more traditional “bad boy” physicality, riding shirtless on a motorcycle through the countryside. Renaud’s artwork gives T’Chaka a swagger that borders on reckless, but both Renaud and Narcisse are careful never to make him buffoonish. It’s a nice contrast to T’Challa who, while often presenting as supremely confident, has always been plagued by doubts.
As fascinating as T’Chaka is in Evan Narcisse’s work, the real draw here is N’Yami, T’Challa’s birthmother. N’Yami has long been an enigmatic shadow in the Black Panther mythos, rarely mentioned, and hardly ever seen. Narcisse had a relatively blank slate to work with, and he does a fantastic job crafting her character as a scientist who attracts the attention of the King.
Rise of the Black Panther #1 is primarily told through the perspective of N’Yami’s journals and that works in the issue’s advantage. One of the concerns with recounting a character’s history is that it would read as dull to people already familiar with it. By framing it through N’Yami’s point of view, this history feels (and in many ways is) brand new.
Not quite everything works, though. There are moments that could breathe a little longer, like N’Yami’s ascent to royalty, but due to the amount of ground being covered, it doesn’t quite get the beats of reverential silence it deserves. Still, most of the moments in the comic land, such as the meeting between T’Challa’s grandfather, Azzuri, and Captain America, as well as Ramonda’s arrival in Wakanda. As a long time Black Panther fan, it was nice to finally see Shuri and Hunter in the same panel.
Is It Good?
Evan Narcisse makes a fantastic debut in Rise of the Black Panther #1, expertly weaving together T’Challa’s family history in an exciting way. The nuanced characterizations of N’Yami, T’Chaka, and Ramonda make for a really enjoyable comic that covers lots of ground. The artwork by Paul Renaud and colorist Stephane Paitreau is gorgeous in its ability to bring out the details and emotions of a scene, maximizing the impact of the issue.