Black Panther #168

Klaw Stand Supreme Part 3

Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Artist: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Walden Wong

Colors: Matt Milla, Chris Sotomayor

Cover: Brian Stelfreeze

Published: December 27, 2017

After some pretty heavy thematic development in the previous issue, this issue gives us  a bit of sweet Black Panther action. The issue opens with T’Challa’s mother (Ramonda) talking to a woman associated with the Dora Milaj who is asking for her help getting back Ayo and Aneka. Previously they have been captured by Klaw and taken back to Azania. The large change at the end of the A Nation Under Our Feet arc was the creation of a constitutional democracy in Wakanda which took away many of the Black Panther’s powers as a monarch. But despite what was gained by requiring a democratic majority and heeding the will of the Wakandan people, perhaps immediacy and the ability to respond to smaller problems was lost. This is what is being balanced in this conversation between Ramonda and the Dora. The Dora Milaje were instrumental in exposing the problems in Wakanda that required a new form of government, but this new government does not allow one person to send a military  force into a neighboring country without the approval of the constitutional council. As the Dora threaten to take this on themselves, Ramonda reminds them of her sense of duty to the governance of Wakanda. Remember that it was Ramonda who back in the first issue of this book decided to punish Aneka for murdering a lecherous and abusive village chieftain. Aneka’s actions may have been justified in the context of his crimes, but that was not how justice worked in Wakanda, and Ramonda held true to the law. And here again Ramonda reminds the Dora that her duty is to the laws of Wakanda. We’ll get back to this at the end, but elsewhere T’Challa, Shuri, Manifold (Eden), and Dr. Franklin are going to investigate a dimensional gate near Lake Nyanza. They have figured out how to identify real gates through which the originators come, and the fake ones created by Klaw as a distraction, but still do not know why the old gods have abandon them and allowed the originators to return. As they fly above the lake their ships are taken down by sand twisters of unknown origin, and suddenly this group finds themselves confronted by a number of originators who were possibly waiting for them.

Black Panther (2016-) 168-014
Coates, Sprouse, Story, Wong, Milla, Sotomayor/Marvel Comics

While T’Challa and the others are fighting for their lives, the Dora Milaje are preparing to enter Azania, against the direction of Ramonda who appears in front of the Dora. She knows the importance of the Dora to the nation and is not willing to let Ayo and Aneka go, but knows the optics of the situation cannot threaten the new government. The rule of the Black Panther is not what it once was, but the new council would struggle not to validate the actions of the esteemed Dora after the fact. But even then it wouldn’t look good if Wakandans died during this invasion. Ramonda presents to the Dora an army of robot Dora Milaje that T’Challa seems to have created for just a moment as this. It is an extremely politically savvy move, that demonstrates the intricate knowledge T’Challa has of his nation and how to potentially exploit that. In this instance It seems to be for the right reasons, but that does not necessarily make it right. For anyone who follows Ta-Nehisi Coates’s writing he has written a fair amount about the U.S. military’s use of drones, which is a potential parallel for what the Ramonda and T’Challa are about to do. This connection might be way off base and not worth mentioning, but the motivations of Ramonda and T’Challa in this action are mysterious. Since the A Nation Under Our Feet arc ended about six or seven issues ago, there hasn’t been much discussion about how Wakanda’s new government works exactly. But having a very political storyline adjacent to the ongoing story about Wakanda’s old gods makes one wonder if these gods have their own objections to the new government. For anyone who has read Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers T’Challa was a main character, and throughout the whole book the historical/political/religious significance of the Black Panther was an important storyline. That book sort of explains the power/significance that T’Challa gave up when the new government was established. So potentially the gods and the ghosts of previous panthers have their own objections to what is happening in Wakanda and have allowed the originators to return.

The art in this book has been extremely consistent in its twenty some issue run so far. Chris Sprouse has fully taken over from Brian Stellfreeze who now does the covers (this was the case before Legacy actually). The origins of the originators was depicted a few issues back which was some of the most interesting  art in this book thus far, and the originators return to battle T’Challa in this issue. They are visually very interesting with spider-men, snake-men, yeti, and two-headed persons. In the origin story they were imbued with a great deal of humanity, but here are extremely terrifying when shown in battle. That whole battle out in the desert was very good with Shuri, T’Challa, Dr. Franklin, and Zawavari each given moments to display their unique skills. These issues never feel overwhelmed by the dialogue, but they can be dense, and are always elevated when the artists get the opportunity to drawn Wakanda’s unique mythology or show the black panther in action (like in this issue).

(Subjective) Score out of 10: 7

Black Panther (2016-) 168-021
Coates, Sprouse, Story, Wong, Milla, Sotomayor/Marvel Comics


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