Marvel Comics is exploring Black Panther’s origin in a new miniseries by Tochi Onyebuchi and Paris Alleyne. They aim to shine a light on T’Challa’s past to show how key moments made the hero who he is with this story specifically focusing on T’Challa’s life as a young boy. It’s an intriguing idea that, if done well here, could spark similar explorations of characters who may have limited backstories.
This review contains no spoilers aside from what is seen in the preview, which introduces a character named Hunter. He’s T’Challa’s stepbrother after he was adopted by T’Chaka and they’re already racing one another in a healthy brotherly way. We learn Hunter is interracial, which is touched upon through the discriminatory laws of South Africa at the time. This is a character that’s rather underused despite being introduced in 1998. There are clearly some tweaks to the character being done here, but all in all, he adds an interesting perspective for Black Panther to reflect on, giving these creators something to build off of.
Centered around the apartheid in South Africa, this issue utilizes the happenings going on in our world similar to Black Panther’s debut in the late ’60s during the civil rights movement. It’s a first issue that feels bold while supplying interesting insights into a character who has largely not had a back story beyond his 20s. These details combined make for a unique superhero read that can tread the realities and problems of our world and connect them to Black Panther and on some scale the larger Marvel universe.
It’s fair to say T’Challa may have had a chip on his shoulder growing up since he knew he would one day be king and take up the mantle of Black Panther, so it’s immediately interesting to see how Onyebuchi writes the character’s personality. This issue explores a T’Challa who is too young to understand the world on some scale, but knows in his heart how to be a good person. There’s a youthfulness that is captured well here, which helps further humanize the character and make him feel realistic.
The overall plotting and character work are strong, with an art style that’s a bit raw which helps set it apart from mainline books. Dialogue can get rather wordy here and there, but it’s key info that’s necessary to set up the political climate and complex situation these characters are in. In that way, the story ends up serving as informative for those who are unaware of the apartheid as well as the difficult position people were in.
Of course, apartheid in South Africa lasted from 1948 until the early 1990s, but this book doesn’t pin down a time frame any more specifically than that. It’s smart that no exact year is given, especially since Marvel has a sliding timescale, but given the very real and damaging effects of the apartheid it’s immediately interesting to see how it affected Wakanda, a nation largely hidden and unknown to the larger world.
Black Panther Legends #1 offers an intriguing setup involving a young T’Challa connecting to the very real tragedy of apartheid in South Africa. Marvel has always been about the world outside your window, and this series aims to explore the complexities and difficult world a young Black Panther must grow up in.
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