Black Panther #167

Klaw Stands Supreme Part 2

Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Artist: Leonard Kirk

Colors/Inks: Laura Martin, Marc Deering

Published: November 22, 2017

The black panther returns in this issue after the previous issue focused almost exclusively on Klaw. After discovering that some of the strange creatures coming out of the dimensional portals appearing in Wakanda were actually a sort of solidified sound wave, T’Challa has not been inactive. He brings in Dr. Franklin (known as Thunderbolt and who has relapsed into his villainous habits) to help him identify the difference between the sonic signature of the reverbium Klaw is using to create these creatures, and the actual trans-dimensional portals that are opening up. Wakanda’s gods appear to have gone missing. This has allowed these creatures to pour in from another dimension and bring disaster to Wakanda. In this area T’Challa relies on the knowledge of his sister Shuri and her connection to Wakanda’s spirits and ancestors. Shuri calls on the spirit of their deceased mother to come and recount the history of Wakanda.

Before people settled there, Wakanda was inhabited by the originators. These were snow, snake, spider, and two-headed creatures who invited the Wakandan pilgrims to share their land before realizing the humans wanted much more than that. This isn’t exactly a subtle metaphor, and if you read Coates’s books or essays (which you definitely should) you know what he’s getting at here, and it’s totally fine that the metaphor isn’t subtle. Compassion, understanding, and critical evaluation are always necessary, but when talking about how power is taken, nations are shaped, and myths are created (in comics or out in the world) subtlety is luxury that cannot be afford. T’Challa learns that the gods that he held above (including the panther god Bast), were heroes who rose from among the people to drive the originators away and trap them in the nether realm. From the faith of the Wakandan people and by the blood of the originators these heroes ascended to gods and had guarded the nether realm until now. T’Challa’s lessons about how a nation is created and sustained is not yet over as his mother reminds him that any great nation stands on the back of those who were subjected in order to build it. Wakanda isn’t any better despite their soaring myths (in the U.S. our myths are about freedom, capitalism, and exceptionalism instead of warrior gods, but they too hide a very bloody past). If T’Challa is to lead he cannot live in myth and must be willing to reckon with Wakanda’s past. He receives a strong warning from his mother that the guards must be restored and the originators returned to the nether realm by ant means. This would mean, as is often the cycle, that death is required to sustain that which began in blood, and is another test for a young king to see if he can find a different way.

Kirk, Martin, and Deering have really kept up the standard of high quality art on this book. It is not massively dissimilar from what Spouse and Torres were doing with the book previously. They never went for anything super realistic and the new team has gotten even father away from a  realistic style, but still maintained a high level of detail. The originator are depicted in a way where they aren’t just monsters. They have more life to them than that so they can’t just be categorized as other. Each of the gods is also depicted uniquely with interesting accents, bracelets and necklaces. They have this sort of grand quality to them that helps further the idea that the people put them up in this hallowed place.

There was never any fear that legacy would derail this book, but it’s good to see that that after twenty or so issues this book has a strong sense of purpose and direction beyond its first arc.

(Subjective) Score out of 10: 8

Black Panther (2016-) 167-019
Coates, Kirk, Martin, Deering/Marvel Comics
Cover art by Brian Stelfreeze



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