Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #1
Written by Jim Zub
Art by Lan Medina and Marcio Menyz
Letters by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Jim Zub and Lan Medina bring a unique team to the Marvel Universe in Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #1. Zub’s fast-paced writing and Medina’s artwork make for a book that is meant to jump out and grab readers. Unfortunately, it may not do so for the reasons they expect.
The book opens with a brief intro page, explaining the existence of this support team to the Avengers infrastructure. Headed by Black Panther, the Agents of Wakanda operate in the absence of S.H.I.E.L.D., doing whatever the world needs to make it safe. Zub and Medina jump right into the action, with Wasp and Man-Wolf taking on a group of “tech-theives.” Medina’s artwork here is spectacular — car chases are really hard to pull off in static imagery, but Medina uses a few select dynamic images to not only convey the action, but to engage the reader’s imagination. I don’t know how or why that Wakandan car got turned upside down mid-air while cloaked, but I do know that the image looks rad as hell, and my brain fills in the gap.
After this opening sequence, we meet a few more of the characters on the team and learn about their current missions. Ka-Zar, Gorilla-Man, American Eagle, Broo, and Roz Solomon all make cameo appearances, but the main group in this issue is made up of T’Challa, Okoye, the Wasp, and Fat Cobra as they investigate a strange occurrence in a small town in Oklahoma. To Zub’s credit, his pacing works well, as he’s able to juggle most of these characters in a way that reads smoothly, at least to those who are already familiar with the roster in their other appearances across the Marvel Universe.
Yet while Zub has Okoye lampshade the eclectic choice in characters, he isn’t able to shake off the problematic optics of this title’s lineup. Wakanda is the preeminent African nation within the Marvel Universe, and Africa has long suffered depictions as a savage, untamed land. And while Zub didn’t come up with this roster himself — that’s on Avengers writer Jason Aaron — to associate Wakanda with a gorilla and a Tarzan knock-off comes across as questionable at minimum, especially when the Black Panther mythos already has characters engaging with those tropes and imagery (M’Baku and Hunter, respectively). And let’s not get started on the issues surrounding Fat Cobra, who even Zub describes as a walking cliche.
In that regard, it feels like further development of the team could serve as stronger — or at least more immediate — footing to avoid these problems. You have the Wasp, Gorilla Man, American Eagle, Ka-Zar, and Man-Wolf serving as agents of Wakanda. But given that many of these operatives are American either by birth, heritage, or occupation, Zub doesn’t really explore what it feels like to serve under a separate nation (at least in name, if not outright political affiliation). While it’s still early in this book’s tenure, and Zub may address this in further issues down the road, the void means that we have to just roll with things, and that allows the problematic elements room to fester unaddressed.
On that note, Jim Zub and Lan Medina have crafted a solid opening issue that jumps straight into the action, rather than going through the standard “recruitment” that we see in team books like this. Medina’s artwork in particular is fantastic and with Marcio Menyz’s colors, the story pops off the page. While this book’s action-first approach gets the reader’s attention, it also means losing an explanation to the team’s makeup, leading to the problematic elements going unaddressed, making Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #1’s opening mission a bit dicier than you might expect.