Saturday, April 14, 2018

Book Review: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by T. Coates et al.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, art by Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse

Black Panther (T'Challa) governs Wakanda at a terrible time. A terrorist group called The People is raising an army to overthrow the government. Some of the Dora Milaje (the elite all-female military force) are in rebellion and raising their own army, also to overthrow the government. The two factions have an uneasy alliance. The country has already been weakened by attacks from Prince Namor's Atlanteans and mad Titan Thanos's Black Order. One of the top political professors in Wakanda has also been agitating against the monarchy in his own scholarly way. If that wasn't enough on T'Challa's mind, he also feels guilty about his sister Shuri who had been reigning as queen and died in a fight where he could have saved her. She's not quite dead, though, she is under the living death devised to take down Thanos,. He has a chance to bring her back. The Black Panther has plenty of civil unrest and personal unrest to deal with.

The book suffers from the multitude of plot threads introduced. In addition to the two main factions and the political philosopher and the king plot lines, Shuri is in the Wakandan astral plane called the Djalia (which was depicted quite well in the movie) and has her own storyline apart from T'Challa's attempts to revive her. If I had been reading this in individual issues month by month, I probably would have quit due to the scattershot storytelling that's hard to pull together until well into the story. The references to previous events (e.g. Namor and Thanos attacking Wakanda and the fallout from those) are slim and a bit frustrating having not read those earlier stories. This volume contains twelve issues and lots of storytelling. After the first third I was pretty unsatisfied; by the end I was very satisfied.

The political philosophy mostly focused on revolutions as the tool for political change and how they always require death, even of non-combatants, and how that's bad but necessary. The book just assumes monarchy is bad and democracy is good without any attempt to look at the good and bad aspects of each. It ends with the promise of establishing a constitutional, freely-elected government. Happily, Black Panther has other things to do, so the book won't bog down in future constitutional conventions.


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