T’Challa faces off his archnemesis Klaw as Wakanda despairs in the absence of their gods.
Before this review properly begins, I feel I must address an issue of the collection’s cover. My copy of this volume has a pretty egregious error as “Torres” (presumably Wilfredo Torres, who handled some of the art in the previous volume) is credited on both the front cover and spine while the volume’s primary artist, Leonard Kirk, is absent from those credits. The interior and the back cover have Leonard Kirk properly credited. This appears to have been corrected on the digital cover and hopefully future printings of this volume correct this unfortunate error.
As may be guessed by the collection’s full title, Black Panther Vol. 5: Avengers of the New World Part Two is the second half of a story, picking up the many threads that were introduced earlier. As such, this isn’t really a good read without that knowledge, as characters appear with almost no explanation as to who they are or what their purpose in the story is.
There are lots of moving pieces here, as T’Challa recruits Thunderball, Kasper Cole, Storm, Manifold, Shuri, and the Midnight Angels to face off against Klaw, Ezekiel Stane, Dr. Faustus, Zenzi, the Originators, and the mysterious Ras the Exhorter. With that many balls in the air, it would be understandable if writer Ta-Nehisi Coates bounced from scene to scene in order to keep the plot points straight, but the pacing in Black Panther Vol. 5 is a bit odd, opening with an issue dedicated entirely to Klaw’s backstory and a middle issue that devotes itself to an extended action sequence with Ayo and Aneka. At other times, characters like Kasper Cole appear with no explanation as to who he is.
On their own, these are pretty well-crafted issues. In particular, issue #169, which focuses on Ayo and Aneka, is a masterclass in action sequences as Leonard Kirk shows how the warriors deftly escape their capture in bone-crunching fashion. The grimy prison setting allows for Kirk to play with shadows and flashes of light, creating some great transitional beats between the action. But within the collection these moments feel like they got more focus than needed, ultimately leaving the other chapters a lot of ground to cover.
This frustratingly emerges most in the climax of both the volume and the “Avengers of the New World” arc as the mysterious Sefako is revealed to be none other than… the Adversary. A foe of the X-Men, the Adversary appears here as the final boss, the big bad, and other than the action itself, it falls a bit flat. The lack of prior history with Wakanda means that The Adversary’s reveal lacks impact. How are Black Panther fans supposed to be excited if they don’t know who this guy is? Furthermore, he is revealed in the final page of the penultimate issue, leaving the final chapter in the volume to both establish his motivation and show his defeat. It’s way too compressed a resolution to the buildup over the rest of the story.
To Ta-Nehisi Coates’ credit, the resolution to the conflict with the Adversary is much better set up within the arc (albeit, not this particular collection). Repeated hints to Storm’s true nature and T’Challa’s “three-steps-ahead” attitude pay off here in spades. A common criticism of the preceding arc, “A Nation Under Our Feet,” was that it did not feature enough action. That is certainly not the case here as T’Challa and his literal army face off against Klaw’s forces. Leonard Kirk’s artwork does a fantastic job capturing the scale of the sequences and Laura Martin’s colors make the sequences pop off the page. And while this volume has a number of artists rotating in and out (inkers Marc Deering and Walden Wong, colorists Matt Milla and Chris Sotomayor, and penciler Chris Sprouse), the volume feels more visually coherent and consistent than volume 4 did.
The conclusion to the arc, however, is a bit of a mixed bag (SPOILERS!). Storm receives a power boost thanks to the nation of Wakanda placing its faith in her, bestowing her godhood. This is a nice development for the heroine, but it’s one that doesn’t get time to be explored beyond the Adversary’s defeat and the rekindling of her love with T’Challa. What does this mean for Wakanda’s missing Orisha? Is Storm now a part of the Wakandan Pantheon? All of these seemingly important questions are left unanswered and with T’Challa’s future adventures taking him into space, it’s unclear when readers will see these matters addressed.
Is It Good?
The cover does not lie: Black Panther Vol. 5: Avengers of the New World Part Two is most definitely a second half to a larger story. On its own, this would likely read as a confusing — if pretty — mess. But taken along with its sister collection, it becomes a sprawling epic that at times grows a little too big for itself. Themes of colonization and deification don’t quite get developed in full. But Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leonard Kirk, and Laura Martin have crafted an entertaining epic that rewards a reread.
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