Black Panther #1 begins “The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda” story, reaching out into the far edges of the cosmos where Wakanda has grown a small space colony into a dominating empire. A slave working the empire’s vibranium mines is bent on escaping and returning to a home he can’t remember. Does the issue kick off the new story well?
In my intro, I hesitated to refer to the slave as T’Challa and I still do now. There are major hints in the issue that suggest that the “Nameless” slave must be T’Challa, but appearances from other characters going by familiar names makes things more ambiguous. That ambiguity carries throughout the whole issue and though the first pages introduce the Wakandan Empire, the issue gives essentially no details regarding how this story fits into the timeline of the previous issues in the series, if it does at all. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates drip feeds hints throughout the issue from guards or recurring dreams that point to who certain characters must be, but certain circumstances I won’t spoil here contradict those hints. Some readers may not like the ambiguity and while I grappled with it at first, I think it’s safe to say Coates has a clear vision of a story he wants to tell, which is exactly the thing I want to write after reading a relaunch issue.
I’m also happy that after two major story arcs where it felt like T’Challa didn’t do as much as his incredible supporting cast (looking at you, Shuri), this issue is packed with action centered totally on the slave who may or may not be T’Challa (though for the sake of brevity, I’ll refer to him by that name from here on). The issue reads really quickly because of all the action, but it was cool seeing T’Challa really own every scene and whip out moves that show why the Black Panther is a force to be reckoned with.
Daniel Acuña takes over on pencils, inks, and colors with the new issue and he does not disappoint at all. In a lot of panels featuring high-tech screens and Afro-futuristic outfits, I spotted every color of the rainbow and this approach of using every hue at his disposal brings the intergalactic setting to life while never feeling garish or overdone. His character designs prioritize expressive faces like snarling aliens or T’Challa’s roaring grimaces as he attacks. This really makes the panels pop with personality as the eye is drawn right to the characters faces, completely conveying whatever feeling the script calls for. Though there are a lot of colors, there is also a ton of ink on every page. Dark shadows cover eyes and some costumes have almost no color which helps keep the tone tense even alongside bright bursts of flame and pretty swaths of stars.
Joe Sabino’s sound effects are colored in a subtle way that doesn’t grab the reader’s attention too much, but the font choices throughout always fit the situation well like a pixelated font for a beeping sound or sharp, neon colored letters for a spaceship door opening. There are several pages where the font for the sound effects looks similar enough that it feels like a default setting rather than chosen specifically for the moment, but it never looks totally out of place or conflicts with the scenario.
Overall, Black Panther #1 is an intriguing start to the new story arc and I look forward to seeing how the mysteries established by this issue unfold. As a fresh start to the series with relaunched numbering, it totally succeeds in giving new readers a jumping on point while satisfying continuing readers with a breath of fresh air.