A king faces off against a god as T’Challa defends Wakanda against Knull and his army of symbiote dragons. Written by Geoffrey Thorne with art by Germán Peralta and Jesus Aburtov and letters by Joe Sabino, King in Black: Black Panther #1 is a phenomenal piece of superhero storytelling and a great tie-in to the King in Black crossover event.
As one might expect in a story about a ravenous army attacking a nation, the issue is an all-out action affair. The issue opens with a brief prelude as T’Challa remembers both Ororo falling to the symbiote army in New York as well as recalling a conversation with his father, King T’Chaka, as a young boy. “Plan, my son,” T’Chaka says. “Plan well. With a sober mind. With an icy eye.” These words help set the tone for the rest of the issue as the next page sees T’Challa charge into battle to help rescue his overwhelmed soldiers.
It’s hard to overstate how awesome the art by Germán Peralta and Jesus Aburtov is. Large-scale battle sequences are hard to pull off in comics, requiring a combination of detailed lines, retaining a sense of spatial relativity, and delivering smaller moments of individual action within the larger battle. Peralta pulls that off spectacularly, with line work that rarely falters in detail or quality no matter how many figures are depicted in a panel. Jesus Aburtov’s color art adds another dynamic to the visuals. With Knull’s villainous influence creating blackened skies, Aburtov contrasts the darkness with the sparkling purple energy of the Wakandans’ vibranium weapons and adds in the bright orange of the fires blazing in the background. The end result is a thoroughly engaging battle.
As the Wakandans are pushed further back by the invading horde, Geoffrey Thorne uses dialogue to give depth to the characters. The through-line is the lesson T’Challa recalls from his conversation with his father, about the nature of the goddess Bast, and how that relates to T’Challa’s role as Black Panther. But there are more subtle moments, such as when Shuri commands General Okoye to remove her hand as the two discuss strategies for beating back the symbiote army.
Thorne’s T’Challa has a commanding presence, and letterer Joe Sabino does a fantastic job conveying T’Challa’s voice on the battlefield. But the strength of the issue comes as Thorne juxtaposes T’Challa’s inner vulnerability with his ability to compartmentalize. T’Challa has always been a calculating yet deeply caring individual, and Thorne gives life to both of those aspects. When Shuri asks about Ororo, we see T’Challa unmasked, considering what has happened, and then turning to reply “Ororo is no longer a factor.” Peralta draws T’Challa in this panel with his nanotech mask beginning to form over his face, with the technological tendrils evoking both the symbiote army he has to face, and the man putting away his emotions as he prepares for the battle ahead.
The second half of the issue sees T’Challa, Shuri, and Okoye rejoin the battle as the full force of Wakanda is used to battle back the symbiotes. Thorne and Peralta draw on T’Challa’s past battles, both in smaller Easter eggs, such as T’Challa’s trophy room, and in the weapons employed to fight back against Knull’s army. This final battle delivers even more stunning visuals than the one that opened the issue, with payoff to everything the previous pages had built up.
King in Black: Black Panther #1 is a remarkable tie-in to Marvel’s newest event. Because the issue focuses solely on Wakanda, it makes for an accessible read even if you haven’t been keeping up with King in Black. Geoffrey Thorne’s writing shows off T’Challa’s calculating warrior traits in a way that doesn’t make him seem completely heartless. And the artwork by Germán Peralta and Jesus Aburtov delivers blockbuster visuals that make this a must-have for fans of Black Panther and Wakanda.
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