Black Panther #12
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Art by Brian Stelfreeze, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Scott Hanna, Laura Martin and Matt Milla
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
After a disappointing last issue, Black Panther #12 seeks to close out the first season of the series on a strong note as T’Challa meets with the Midnight Angels to seek a new path forward for Wakanda. With the battle having been won, the real war of ideas must now begin, as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze steer their large cast of characters (and large cast of assisting artists) towards one another.
The issue opens strongly as T’Challa, Shuri, Changamire, Ayo, and Aneka meet with one another in Changamire’s garden. The staging of this scene by Brian Stelfreeze is brilliant – this is a series that has often had dramatic conversations between two or three characters at a time, but this scene juggles a half dozen characters with at least four distinct arguments. The way Stelfreeze is able to maneuver the characters so that there is both a progression in their role in the conversation as well as showing their own attitudes and moods with their body language is simply stellar. Coates’ dialogue in this scene is particularly strong, and it’s nice to see T’Challa take forefront in the conversation. At times, the Black Panther has seemed a supporting player in his own book, but in Black Panther #12, his inner conflict is brought to the forefront.
A recurring theme in the Black Panther mythos, whether in Christopher Priest’s run or Jonathan Hickman’s take on the character in New Avengers, has been the weight of the crown on T’Challa’s head and, more specifically, his desire to live up to the standards of his father and the kings before him. This dilemma has been at the heart of Coates’ take on T’Challa, with the king struggling to balance his sense of duty with his own desires. And it is this dilemma that takes to the forefront of Black Panther #12. While T’Challa is arguably a bit too soft in his conversation with the Midnight Angels (these are women who abandoned their duty to the kingdom), he becomes more open in a crucial scene in the issue takes place as T’Challa speaks privately with his sister, Shuri, on their past and future. Shuri’s personal history adds depth to the scene. Having served as Wakanda’s queen and Black Panther, her answers have a weight to them that would be absent had T’Challa confided in another character. It’s refreshing to see a Marvel comic book where siblings support one another rather than vie constantly for power.
The end result of this war of ideas is T’Challa embracing an altered role along with a change in the structure of Wakanda’s government. Without getting into spoilers, the new government is quite the overhaul to the mythos that some longtime Black Panther fans were dreading, but it is a significant one. Hopefully, the change will allow Coates to tap into new dramatic territory for the character, though one can’t help but wonder if T’Challa’s more politically ambitious villains (Killmonger, Hunter, Achebe, etc.) are licking their chops at the possibilities that now lay before them.
Representative of the series thus far, Black Panther #12 is a political drama, with eloquent and layered dialogue by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and beautifully staged artwork. There are some moments where characters don’t feel quite like themselves, and some that feel like revelations. There are some references to T’Challa’s deep supporting cast that hint at what’s to come, and an electric final page. It is a fitting conclusion to a season that, while a little overlong, has given a new perspective on the Black Panther and the man that bears the mantle.