Rise of the Black Panther #1

Writer(s): Evan Narcisse, Ta-Nehisi Coates (consultant)
Artist: Paul Renaud
Colorist: Stéphane Paitreau
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by Nico Sprezzatura

Much has been said about the state of Marvel over the past year, but one thing you can’t really fault them on is their continued support of Black Panther as a priority character, particularly under the tutelage of Ta-Nehisi Coates. While both spinoffs of his Black Panther run —World of Wakanda and The Crew— were short-lived, the flagship title is still going strong, and that’s not even mentioning everywhere else you can find Black Panther in other media lately. It’s a good time to be a Black Panther fan.

But for those who aren’t so well-versed in the history of comics’ first black superhero and want a primer ahead of next month’s Black Panther movie, then this week’s Rise of the Black Panther #1 offers an up-to-date distillation of T’Challa’s origin, and how he became the king/protector of Wakanda. Does it succeed in that regard?

I’ll have to see how the whole thing shakes out from start to finish first, but based on this introductory chapter, Rise of the Black Panther could be a neat little series that does its job nicely — for longtime fans and newbies alike.

The first thing diehard Black Panther fans should know about this issue is that T’Challa himself isn’t actually in it much. True to its title, Rise of the Black Panther is just as interested in the Black Panther legacy as its current holder. While casual fans may be familiar with the general idea of what it means to be the ruler of Wakanda from Captain America: Civil War, Rise of the Black Panther#1 expands on the concept.

Before we get into the real meat of the story, we learn about T’Challa’s predecessors —grandfather Azzuri and father T’Chaka— through journal entries from his biological and adoptive mothers, N’Yami and Ramonda. I’m not sure if this framing device will persist throughout Rise of the Black Panther, but since this is a flashback/origin, it’s not a bad one to utilize.

As a singular read, Rise of the Black Panther #1 is perfectly enjoyable, and it ends on a cliffhanger that makes you want to keep reading, even if you know where T’Challa’s ultimate destiny leads him. It’s a rather impressive debut from writer Evan Narcisse, perhaps best known for writing about comics at io9. With Coates as a creative consultant, this comic definitely keeps consistent with what the latter has been doing on his own book, but it avoids seeming like a one-to-one tonal copy. His first impression here is a good one; I’d very much like to see how he follows this project. Brian Michael Bendis is leaving Marvel for DC, which means Miles Morales’ Spider-Man title needs a new writer… just putting it out there.

The art of Rise is also very good. I mostly know Paul Renaud from his fill-ins and covers elsewhere, so it’s good to see him get such a high-profile character to work with. There’s a classy elegance to his style that really suits Black Panther, but that’s not to say his illustrations are stiff or overly posed like they could’ve been. Stéphane Paitreau’s colors compliment the regality, with understated warm tones filling Renaud’s lines throughout. Wakanda is located in Africa, after all, so it makes sense for scenes to appear as though they’re laid in sunlight.

Joe Sabino’s letters are also worth pointing out. Lettering is often overlooked in appraising comics, in so much that you only really notice it when it’s particularly bad or obviously good; here, it’s the latter. While an easy read, Narcisse’s script is very dense with dialogue, narration, and varying speakers. In lesser hands, it would be stressful to parse panel by panel, but Sabino displays everything in readable form.

The Verdict:
Buy it.
For newbies and longtime fans of the character alike, Rise of the Black Panther #1 is a pretty good start for a retelling of T’Challa’s origin story.

Nico Sprezzatura
Nico Frank Sprezzatura, middle name optional. 24. Schrödinger's writer.

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