Black Panther #172

Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Artist: Leonard Kirk

Colors: Laura Martin + Matt Milla

Cover: Chris Sprouse + Matt Milla + Karl Story

Published: April 18, 2018

The Wakandan pantheon of gods (the Orisha) locked away the originators (the original persons/creatures who occupied the land) in another dimension which secured the territory that is now called Wakanda for future generations and gave rise to the first Black Panther who united this new nation. That is until the Adversary freed both the originators and himself, and provided a means of returning to our world. This is both a small summary of what has been happening during this current Black Panther arc, and most of the opening narration provided to the reader on the first page of the issue. This narration/summation sort of glosses over a lot the nuance or potential nuance that arose during this arc (and now that it’s ended as this is the final issue) dropping it for a fight with a big bad whose motivations are unknown/thin. The Adversary was revealed at the end of the previous issue and thunders into this one yelling about how he will devour the souls of those who oppose him. He’s not necessarily uninteresting, but he’s just a big bad dude, and never made or pushed to be something more than that. His first confrontation is against Storm and a few others who were fighting with T’Challa but he quickly traps them under a pile of rubble which induces Storm’s claustrophobia and takes her off the board for a while. He is then attacked by Shuri who fights the Adversary while harnessing the power of all Wakanda’s history, but this was not enough. Then he was attacked by T’Challa in an airship firing vibranium laced bullets, but this too was insufficient. All of this proves to be a distraction for T’Challa’s real plan which is to unleash another god upon the Adversary. In fact there is even a bit of narration that tells you that the way that a man or even a king fights a god is “With a bigger god.” And in this case T’Challa’s plan is to harness the belief of all the Wakandan people and direct it towards Storm/Ororo/the Hadari Yao unlocking her godhood which allows her to banish the Adversary back to whence he came.

Black Panther (2016-) 172-008
Coates, Kirk, Martin, Milla/Marvel Comics

With the Adversary banished the threat to Wakanda is over, and this story line is wrapped up. But it leaves questions on the table about where the Wakandan pantheon went, what about all those midnight angles battle suits T’Challa had built in secret, what happens to the originators, and can the conquering make peace with the conquered. Some of these are more plot focused and some more existential, but they all seem to be forgotten in the wake of the Adversary’s arrival. It’s not entirely fare to fault this issue for what it (seams to have) left on the table in regard to story telling done in previous issues, but even if this issue is considered in isolation, the Adversary is not a compelling villain. He is a means for Ororo to become something greater than she was previously or return to her former state of enlightenment, but that’s about it. The most interesting stuff in this issue does center around her and T’Challa’s plan to harness Wakanda’s faith in her. First Shuri attacks the adversary with the power of Wakanda’s history and that fails. Then T’Challa attacks him with the strength of Wakanda’s technology and that does nothing. It is only when Ororo accesses the faith of the Wakandan people that she becomes powerful enough to defeat the Adversary. This is an extremely powerful metaphor about the strength of people to overcome through unification and shared belief/faith, but its not really given enough time. The page where Ororo breaks free of the rubble in full flight with lightening beginning to swirl, as panels below this image show various persons around Wakanda kneeling in respect, is absolutely beautiful and cements the link between her power and their belief. But while this page is extremely good, it and this message as a whole are undercut by some clunky narration, yelling about devouring souls, and the whole ‘my god is bigger than yours’ thing.

Black Panther (2016-) 172-019
Coates, Kirk, Martin, Milla/Marvel Comics

Overall this is still a good issue of black panther that is absolutely worth reading, because even if the plot isn’t entirely satisfying the art is fantastic. The previously mentioned page is probably the best in the book, but there are a few other standout scenes. Shuri’s battle with the Adversary is great. There’s some great flips and lunges, some great abs, and in the end she transforms into a flock birds for her final attack. It really puts Shuri front and center for a good number of pages and is a great combination of her combat and mystical abilities. The final scene between Ororo and T’Challa is also very good as the two of them prepare to go out on the town for the evening and share a kiss. Its always fun (or at least I think it is) to see heroes out of costume and doing normal folks stuff. They both are rather sexy (her in a light aqua dress and him in a shirt and vest) and perhaps look better in dress attire than superhero suits. This is Leonard Kirk and Laura Martin’s final issue doing the art and colors for this book and they really did end with some exceptional work.

(Subjective) Score out of 10: 7

Black Panther (2016-) 172-024
Coates, Kirk, Martin, Milla/Marvel Comics

 

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