Graphic Novel Review: Black Panther A Nation Under Our Feet: The Crew
PUBLISHED: 17:54 13 January 2017
Dark times for the Black Panther, as Ta-Nehisi Coates chronicles the final days of the kingdom of Wakanda! As Zenzi and the People poison Wakanda’s populace against their king, a cabal of nation-breakers is assembled. With few allies of his own to call on, T’Challa must rely on his elite secret police, the Hatut Zeraze, and fellow Avenger Eden Fesi, a.k.a. Manifold! Meanwhile, Shuri’s spirit journeys through the Djalia... but what awaits her there? The blockbuster reinvigoration of the Black Panther continues!
This is not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination. It requires a level of understanding about (fictional) Wakandan politics, geography and history, and a philosophical awareness of real-life power play, coupled with a recognition of a wide range of characters whose motivations and missions are not immediately clear. But stick with it, because as the story progresses the reader is rewarded for the attention they have paid over the course of previous issues, and the diverse strands of Coates’ story arc begin to pull together.
With his nation tearing itself apart from within, T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, calls on the assistance of his ex-wife Storm and allies Luke Cage, Manifold, and Misty Knight to bring down weapons dealer Ezekiel Stane and his forces, and also tackle terrorist uprisings which have wreaked havoc across the country.
Meanwhile, inside the Djalia, an otherworldly plane incorporating Wakanda’s past, present and future, T’Challa’s sister and former Black Panther Shuri undertakes her own spiritual journey, uncovering folk tales and legends from her country’s history alongside a spirit who has taken the form of her own mother, Ramonda.
Coates seems to be telling a story which is ultimately about the nature of leadership, whether it is better to rule by fear or justice, if chaos or order is the proper state of a nation, and if the end ever justifies the means.
Although we are starting to see more action sequences than were evident in the previous volume, this isn’t a superhero saga by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a commentary on Africa, its people, its politics and its cultural power. At the moment it remains a work in progress, but has the potential to become one of the foremost works of graphic fiction produced by the big two comics companies in the 21st century.