Continuing from where the previous volume left off, Black Panther Book 7: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Part Two is an action packed sci-fi thriller that makes great use of its hero’s mythos.
The premise Ta-Nehisi Coates has developed here is one of the boldest in the history of the character as T’Challa, without memory or sense of self, finds himself at war with the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda. Coates uses this opportunity to delve deeper, not only into the lead character, but into the idea of Wakanda itself. Whilst Coates’ original arc, A Nation Under Our Feet came under fire in the fandom for deconstructing the idyllic Wakanda and T’Challa forfeiting a part of his power, Coates doesn’t shy away from continuing those ideas in this sci-fi setting. The titular Empire is a perfect example of dynastic power gone haywire. Planets are conquered, people enslaved, all in the name of the state.
Coates explores this tyranny through the eyes of T’Challa. Readers of the previous volume know that T’Challa has had his memory erased, with only fleeting glimpses of Storm serving as a clue to his past. Aligning himself with the rebel group the Maroons, T’Challa fights first and foremost as a soldier. Bringing his missions to life are Kev Walker, Marc Deering, Stéphane Paitreau, and Java Tartaglia. This isn’t Walker’s first time working with T’Challa, but this may be his most brutal take on the character yet. T’Challa moves like the Terminator, and Walker’s subtly exaggerated figures and crisp lines really help sell the brutal efficiency in the combat, as well as the more emotional beats in the story.
Coates and Walker utilize these stories of violence to reveal more about T’Challa’s character. Without his memory, T’Challa has been boiled down to the core of who he is. If one ever wanted to know who Coates thinks T’Challa is, look no further. This is a man who is willing to fight for what he knows is right, who is reluctant to take power, but accepts it as his duty.
As heavy as the story can feel at times, Coates and Walker also aren’t afraid to have fun. A visit to an alien world reveals whale-like creatures that store memories. It’s these wilder ideas that maintain the ebb-and-flow of the book, preventing it from falling into monotony.
The best science fiction is able to have fun and provide deeper commentary, and this volume works as a perfect example of that. Coates layers in tons of callbacks to the Black Panther mythos, often in the names of the characters, providing new twists on relationships familiar to fans. However, these aren’t just easter eggs. The “Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda” storyline directly parallels many real-world events, and the trauma caused by those events. The importance of memory – both personal and cultural – is a huge theme here, as T’Challa searches for his own personal memories while the Empire itself seems divorced in ideals from the nation whose name it bears.
The artwork in the final chapter is handled by Jen Bartel, Kris Anka, and Tríona Farrell. The shift in art style works perfectly for the dynamic story shifts that are introduced. Bartel’s delicate linework contrasts well with Walker’s heavier lines earlier in the book, adding a dreamlike quality to the final chapter.
Is It Good?
The “Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda” story arc is proving to be the best yet in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run with the character. However, there’s no getting around the fact that Black Panther Book 7: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Part Two is a middle chapter. The story is developed well, and the exploration of T’Challa is superb, however this book definitely requires readers to have gone through the previous volume. Coates is using the Empire to examine pieces of Black Panther’s history in a new light, as future and past continuously merge in striking ways. Kev Walker’s storytelling is fantastic, highlighting both small story beats, such as the growing tension between T’Challa and M’Baku, as well as fantastic action sequences. This is a must have for both Black Panther fans and sci-fi readers – just make sure to pick up the previous volume as well!
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