Best Shots Review: BLACK PANTHER #2's ACUNA 'Gives The Book an Epic Quality' (8/10)

Black Panther #2
Credit: Daniel Acuna (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Daniel Acuna (Marvel Comics)

Black Panther #2
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Art by Daniel Acuña
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Credit: Daniel Acuna (Marvel Comics)

A wild space battle takes center stage in Black Panther #2. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuña keep the focus of the story on the immediate actions of T’Challa as he leads M’Baku and Nakia after a valued artifiact. But their actions have gained the attention of the Emperor, who may have his own history with the rebellion’s new hero.

Black Panther #2 is essentially made up of a single action set-piece, in which T’Challa leads an aerial assault on the empire’s Shango Array Base. Daniel Acuña’s artwork here is spectacular, and his use of motion lines throughout the battle really helps convey the speed at which the fighters are moving, giving dynamic twists to the action.

Credit: Daniel Acuna (Marvel Comics)

Acuña’s use of color also comes directly into the plot. The area the Shango Array Base is located in is a grey sci-fi cityscape, and the backgrounds in Black Panther #2 normally appear non-distinct. But T’Challa is able to tap into a sort of infrared sight (it’s not entirely clear if this power is technological or something else), and the battle suddenly becomes a revealing array of purples, reds, and blues. Acuña’s designs of the fighter craft also adds some nice depth to what is otherwise a fast-paced action book. T’Challa’s craft is called a Zulu, and features a prong-like design that calls back to the historical battle formation that Zulu leader Shaka is known for employing.

Credit: Daniel Acuna (Marvel Comics)

The names Coates presents throughout the issue act as little clues to – if not the characters’ true history – the role a character will play in the story. A political assassination carries just a tad more narrative heft when it’s a “Ras politician,” as readers recognize that name from the previous arc. Emperor N’Jadaka’s counselor gains another layer when his name is shown to be Achebe, the name of a prominent antagonist in Priest’s defining run on Black Panther. N’Jadaka himself should evoke particular memories, especially since Acuña’s design takes direct influence from the film, with a dash of Venom symbiote for good measure. These touches add a sense of dimension to the story; a mystery for future issues to solve.

The pacing of the story may then come across as too decompressed for some readers. The pacing change is a deliberate change from Coates’ earlier arcs on Black Panther, which were at times criticized for being too slow or philosophical. By contrast, “Many Thousands Gone” is thus far a sci-fi actioner. Those who have enjoyed Coates’ earlier arcs may find Black Panther #2 a little too light in feeling, but Coates continues to weave history, both real and fictional, into the background of the story, while Acuña gives the book an epic quality that makes every moment feel big.

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