Black Panther: Long Live the King #1
Written by Nnedi Okorafor
Art by André Lima Araújo and Chris O’Halloran
Lettering by Jimmy Betancourt
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
A comiXology exclusive, Black Panther: Long Live the King #1 pits T’Challa and Wakanda against a massive monster. Written by acclaimed prose novelist Nnedi Okorafor and illustrated by André Lima Araújo, this debut series looks to take advantage of the digital format in providing a fast-paced tale as T’Challa must figure out how to combat a massive foe.
Being a digital series, Black Panther: Long Live the King #1 tries to take advantage of the guided format that has made comiXology a success, providing a brisk read. André Lima Araújo’s artwork works well for this, the looser quality of his lines giving a kind of ebb-and-flow to the look of the book. Lima Araújo does a good job capturing the motion in the scenes - the issue takes place during what at first appears to be an earthquake, before introducing a giant monstrous creature that seemingly only T'Challa can see - and Lima Araújo captures the upheaval the characters feel.
Colorist Chris O’Halloran also does a good job setting the mood. The story here takes place mostly at night, but the story isn’t “dark and gritty,” so O’Halloran uses cool purples and blues that build the atmosphere without being oppressive. O’Halloran also achieves a nice visual affect with the coloration of the monster that appears, giving the creature a unique visual stamp.
In tone, Nnedi Okorafor’s work here is more straight forward sci-fi/fantasy without the overt politics and commentary on colonialism from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work in the main series. There is some promise that future chapters will deal more with Wakandan geopolitics - there are some interesting bits of world building with the mention of “mute zones” as areas where the Royal Family is not quite welcome. Okorafor also creates a fun pitfall of sorts for Wakanda’s advancement, one that allows for T’Challa to be at a disadvantage without seeming unreasonable.
That being said, Black Panther: Long Live the King #1 feels a bit thin. This may be in part due to the medium - these digital exclusives tend to be faster reads as the artwork is used more in a more active way than it is on the printed page, but there’s not much here in terms of plot. As thin as the first issue feels, it might have been nice to get a little more as far as the mute zones and what their relationship to the creature might be. The creature itself isn’t given much page time, disappearing early on in the book, causing some to doubt whether or not it even exists. This is a trope used a lot in kaiju media, dating at least back to 1954’s Gojira, but since the monster is (for now) serving as the primary antagonist for the series, its absence leaves a lot of heavy lifting for the rest of the issue.
For an opening issue, Black Panther: Long Live the King #1 is a fairly standard book, lacking any real surprises or standout moments. André Lima Araújo’s artwork makes for a pleasant digital reading experience and Nnedi Okorafor’s scripting captures T’Challa’s voice without overcrowding the pae with dialogue. However, Black Panther: Long Live the King #1 falls a bit too far on the lean side of things, making it difficult to recommend without an idea of where the series is heading. For Black Panther fans aching for something a bit more straightforward and less deconstructive than Coates’ series, this may sate that hunger before the character returns to the big screen in February.