Black Panther #5 Review

We’re officially five issues in to the new Black Panther run by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I have to say thank you to Coates for writing this series, and Marvel, for acquiring such a talented writer. A bevy of themes have been explored during his run. Technology vs. Tradition, role of government, flaws of a monarchy, revolution, and many more have been brought into the light in this series. The main reason any of this is possible is because of the popularity of Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa is a complex man. He carries the weight of his nation on his back proudly. He knows it his responsibility to protect his people. When he fails, T’Challa is a broken man. That was shown in Civil War. The man who was closest to him, his father was murdered by Baron Zemo. Throughout the movie, T’Challa was fueled by rage. The only reason he joined Iron Man was because Zemo framed Bucky, the Winter Soldier. By the end of the movie, T’Challa confronts Zemo. He finally knows the truth behind his father’s murder. Zemo reveals that it was his plan that caused Iron Man and Captain America to draw battle lines. The two almost killed each other. T’Challa, being a young king, realizes he cannot let revenge fuel him anymore. It would be his first act as King of Wakanda. Any rational person would understand if T’Challa decided to kill Zemo. His nation may even rejoice. But he knows that going down that path will cause his nation to follow suit. T’Challa spares Zemo, but captures him so he can be put under arrest. It’s a beautiful moment. This is important because in Coates’ run, we see the King in different form. He’s experienced. People know and respect this man. He has remained composed throughout his reign as their ruler. Never letting himself or Wakanda succumb to revenge. Coates flips the situation from Civil War on its head though. We witnessed a young man lose someone close to him. Now, we witness a seasoned ruler watch as he begins to lose his nation. In the last issue, the Queen-Mother, Ramonda, was severely injured. T’Challa dawned the Black Panther suit for the first time in that issue. A powerful image of his traditional clothing burning off of his body while the suit remained will be the best image from this run, in my opinion. He recognized that the time for talk has ended. Action must be taken. Once again, criminals have forced T’Challa’s hand. Both situations involved loved ones. Except this one, could cause Wakanda to perish completely.

This issue expands on the problems that our hero is dealing with. The bombing in the last issue forced him to take action. In my reviews, I’m usually not out to prove a point, or to give notice to people who hate the product I’m reviewing. I’m not trying to sway anyone into reading or watching what I’m talking about. Just my thoughts on the product as a whole. That being said, I am tired of people clamoring for action in this series. The main complaints I have seen regarding Coates’ run is the lack of our hero in his Black Panther gear kicking butt. To me, that’s what movies are made for. Action is expected. Not in comics. The story Coates is telling involves action in some places but it isn’t about action. Revolution usually isn’t about action, but rather a ton of discourse on government and their role in society. Don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but that is exactly what Coates has talked about. It should seriously be the only thing that is the focus because so many questions and situations arise from that idea. Most of them don’t involve Black Panther kicking butt. So if you want that type of action, read something else. Coates has posted on Twitter that it isn’t his strong suit, but this is his first comic. It doesn’t take away from the simple fact that this has been an amazing run so far.

The issue starts with T’Challa talking to someone named Eden. He appears to be looking at some sort of map. He tells Eden it isn’t Wakandan way to bring someone into a divided house. He is ashamed at the circumstances that his ally has come into his country. Eden has a teleporting power that leads him to the rebels’ hideout. They call themselves “The People.” Their main leaders are Tetu and Zenzi. T’Challa is also dealing with the Midnight Angels. They are formal royal guards that have escaped. They are liberating Wakanda in their own way. Tetu offered them a partnership in the last issue, but they respectfully declined for the moment, even though they acknowledge they might need each other one day. So T’Challa goes to this hideout. I loved the lines here. He has had enough of these rebels. Here’s the action for the people who had been clamoring for it. The rebels withdraw a bit, mainly due to fear. T’Challa says, “You murder old women and children, yet tremble before me? Hit me!” They hit him, but it only fuels him. He handles them quickly. Just as he is about to finish one of them off, one of his men stop him. T’Challa then talks about Eden, who used to be an Avenger called Manifold. They investigate the hideout, and find unconscious men strapped to tables. They have bombs strapped to their chests, except the bombs are linked with their hearts. T’Challa talks about why these men have betrayed him. He says he understands what haunts them. He then says he knows what will save them too. An interesting scene happens next. T’Challa has a conference with a group of men who specialize in counterrevolutionary tactics. All of these men are arrogant. They all look down on the King. Hodari starts the conference off. He tells the men that they have wisdom, but Wakanda has capital. Maybe a compromise can be arranged so they can work together. One of the men, Alejandro de Jesus asks if T’Challa is too good to speak to them. T’Challa doesn’t care though. He realizes that Alejandro wants his respect, because he isn’t confident in himself. The other men, he notices, are more sure of themselves. They don’t give a damn about T’Challa. They just want the “capital” to be vibranium. Alexie is the next man to talk. He talks about Wakanda’s delusions of being a respectable state. That their code needs to change in order for peace to return. Of course, he means death, death, and more death. T’Challa realizes that these men only know peace when their enemies are dead. He says that he doesn’t derive his power from gun barrels like they do, but rather from a God. This vision keeps his faith in Wakanda strong, and he hopes his people are able to do the same. This is an interesting take on guns and gun violence. I for one, think men with guns become lunatics because of the power they “think” it gives them. When in the end, we’re all powerless. T’Challa realizes the necessity of force. He also realizes that overstuffing your nation with it can never be a good thing. Ramonda mentioned it to him in the last issue. The first order of government is to protect the people. But it isn’t the only thing government is responsible for. T’Challa had this conference in hopes to achieve wisdom from these men on stopping this threat. Instead, they just told him to burn everything to the ground.

The issue then transitions to Shuri, T’Challa’s sister. Her mind travels the Djalia, a spiritual plane where she is learning of Wakanda’s roots. The spirit guiding her has taken the form of Ramonda. The spirt begins to tell her a story about the village of Adowa. They were a happy people. Their crafters were respected and their soldiers were feared. Soon, strangers arrived demanding tribute for their kingdom. The strangers deemed Adowa weak. The Duke of Adowa didn’t have much, but he had people who would die for their land. The spirit is telling this Shuri as the two are dueling with rods of wood. The spirit the mentions that the downfall of these strangers was inevitable. That the soldiers who knew they couldn’t, failed to speak up and that may have been their problem. As the strangers went into the villages, they were attacked by the people. They were driven out. Shuri is impatient. She asks the spirit what is the point of this story. The spirt has more spirts standing behind her as she knocks Shuri down. She tells her, “Either you are a nation, or you are nothing.” This is a great scene and I think Shuri will ultimately come back and be the reason Wakanda unites once again.

T’Challa has one of the bombers in his custody. He has him strapped down, so the man can’t go anywhere. He tells the bomber that he must tell him what he wants to know since he is the king. He lets the man know the only hope he has of surviving, is to let him know what he wants to know. The bomber scoffs at his King’s idea of hope. The bomber talks about his village being destroyed by Namor. He asks T’Challa where he was when that happened. Out with the Avengers? Sleeping with Storm? He tells T’Challa that his reign has made a mockery of hope. That T’Challa is the lone reason Wakanda has fallen so far into despair. Of course, this is ludicrous. T’Challa asks the bomber how he honors his brother. The bomber tells him not to mention his family. The best line of this issue comes next. T’Challa says, “I am you king, boy. I am the aegis between you and all the great troubles that would break you on sight. That is my sacred duty. And whenever I fail, whenever Wakandans die, some part of me is lost.” This line sums up the King perfectly. He doesn’t hold it against his people for the burdens he bears, because he gladly accepts them. It is his duty. He then tells the bomber of the dishonor he has caused his family with his revolutionary ways. The evil men who killed his brother have long gone, so the bomber has forced his hate onto the people of Wakanda. Someone must be to blame right? T’Challa asks the bomber what is he going to honor. His own hate? Or the memory of his brother? The bomber chooses to honor his brother by serving his nation. Out of all of the bad things that have happened to Black Panther in this run, it’s nice to see him get a win here.

The issue concludes with Ezekiel Stane, Tetu, and Zenzi meeting with one of the men who was at T’Challa’s conference. He talks about what he told T’Challa to do in order to instill peace in his land. The details of his statement involved an insane amount of death and punishment. Of course, the King declined. The man asks for his fee. Instead of paying him, Stane kills the man. The issue concludes with the man’s statement playing across all of Wakanda. Everyone, from the Midnight Angels, Changamire, Storm, the citizens, and Black Panther himself watch as the man details his brutal plans. Stane must have recorded the statement before he killed him. Black Panther watches in horror, and the issue ends.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Once again, Coates gives us more dialogue on the flaws of a monarchy. The scene with bomber really stuck out to me. The mentality of the bomber is something people have with government when they feel it as failed them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a monarchy or democracy. In America, a bunch of people complain about our government. With good reason, but who is the one person that takes a majority of the blame? The President. There are a number of levels of government that are responsible for multiple aspects of life, but the President receives the main criticism. Everything from ISIS, to the current and unchanging relationship between blacks and police, fall on Obama’s shoulders. Some things he can affect more than others, but overall, there are a bunch of moving parts. Congress and the courts are obvious players in the game, but local and state governments are in the game as well. Black Panther doesn’t have anyone to fall back on. The people only know him and only see him. Whenever a problem arises in Wakanda, the people look to him. His sacred duty is to provide for the people when times are tough. It is pretty hard to do that when his people are killing their own. This issue was fantastic though because Black Panther is done trying to reason with these people, especially the leaders, Tetu and Zenzi. This is evident by the raid of the hideout in the first part of this issue. Shuri also is learning that a divided nation can never prosper. She’s learning Wakanda’s past. Like the spirt said, the Duke didn’t have much, but he had people who would rather die than give up the land under their feet. It’s why Shuri is there in the first place. T’Challa is learning it too. Nothing else matters except the spirit of Wakanda. The spirit will bring everyone together and drive out the rebels. They believe they want a better Wakanda, when in fact they are the ones tearing it apart.

P.S. Even though it wasn’t Brian Stelfreeze in this issue, the art didn’t suffer at all. I loved the art! It was very refreshing to see something different, but Stelfreeze is amazing!

 

I hope you enjoyed this review. I appreciate anyone and everyone who reads my reviews. Please make sure to follow me on Twitter @Hero_Review for more updates on my future reviews, as well as news tweets. Until next time everyone!

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