Nnedi Okorafor is one of the best science fiction writers active today, with books like Binti and Who Fears Death making a major splash with their creative fusion of modern Afro-futurism and a confident synthesis of modern fiction with the genre’s timeless tropes. Most refreshing about Okorafor’s output has been her willingness to write texts for young adults as well as seasoned readers, with her run on Shuri for Marvel being a key example.
Like many, my first introduction to Black Panther’s younger sister Shuri was in the live action film, where the tech-minded character was fittingly played by Letitia Wright. Reading this collection of stories (issues #1-10 of the 2018 series) with my daughters was my first exploration of the character, but I will be picking up stories that involve her in the future. They enjoyed the lively, age-appropriate adventure, and the character’s youthful, scientific approach to solving the superhero problems before her.
While a book of this nature may come across as a cheap cash-in to a hot property, it’s Okorafor’s writing and structure that really shine in this narrative. The wordplay is direct but playful, and the author clearly understands what makes Shuri interesting as a character. The character’s youthful demeanor is contrasted when paired with the stoic Storm or techno-wizard Iron Man. I find that books about young characters trying to make their mark in a complicated adult world often benefit from being placed next to mainstays that reflect the old guard and a mature way of thinking. Okorafor gets that this is the appeal of Shuri, while placing her in situations that demonstrate the character’s value to these more seasoned heroes. The last two issues in this trade are penned by Vita Ayala, and are strong contributions to thew character’s canon as well.
The artwork from Leonardo Romero present in the first five issues truly stands out. It has a classic quality to it with nods to 1950s-60s artists while capturing enough modern vibrancy to still give it life on a current comic store’s shelf. Jordie Bellaire adds the colors to these issues, and minimalist choices when Shuri is experiencing a flashback help deliver the art’s ageless attributes. Paul Davidson and Rachael Stott each contribute pencils to two issues in the trade and do commendable work.
My daughters enjoyed the book, and within hours of completing it, they too were playing as Shuri and and Storm, finding their own way to use gadgets and knowhow to solve their fictionalized problems. Seeing them inspired by the book is enough reason for any parent to consider grabbing it for their own kids, and for those interested in one of science fiction’s up-and-coming writers, this book is a fine gateway to Okorafor’s body of work.
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