Space Is The Place

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Are you ready for the In­ter­galac­tic Em­pire of Wakanda? Strap in!

Mar­vel’s line-wide comic re­launches are hap­pen­ing so fre­quently that it’s al­most get­ting com­i­cal, with their lat­est Fresh Start ini­tia­tive ar­riv­ing di­rectly on the heels of the much-trum­peted Mar­vel Legacy one. How­ever, in the case of Black Pan­ther writer Ta-Ne­hisi Coates’s ac­claimed cur­rent run, this se­ries re­launch isn’t just a way of hope­fully boost­ing sales – it’s also the kick-off for a rad­i­cal change that pushes T’Challa in an un­ex­pected di­rec­tion.

“The In­ter­galac­tic Em­pire of Wakanda” is the ti­tle for this new saga, and the set-up pitches us straight into a world that could be a par­al­lel uni­verse, an al­ter­nate fu­ture, a dif­fer­ent time­line, or some­thing even stranger.

Here, the tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced king­dom of Wakanda made the leap into space 2000 years ago, and now they con­trol vast sec­tions of the galaxy as a bru­tal em­pire. How­ever, there are also rebels fight­ing against Wakan­dan rule – in­clud­ing an ex-slave with only shad­owy mem­o­ries of his pre­vi­ous life, who’s taken the name of T’Challa…

Coates has al­ready proven him­self a great writer of pulp ac­tion, but this shift into Star Wars-es­que space opera is both deeply un­ex­pected and sur­pris­ingly en­ter­tain­ing. The story quickly switches from a Spar­ta­cus-style break-out on an alien prison planet to full-on in­ter­galac­tic re­bel­lion, while also ex­plor­ing the se­ries’ usual en­er­getic take on Afro­fu­tur­ist sci-fi on a much broader scale.

The re­sult is plenty of ac­tion and thrills, along­side some se­ri­ously im­pres­sive vi­su­als from artist Daniel Acuña, who brings the In­ter­galac­tic Em­pire of Wakanda to life with a bar­rage of crazy pulp-SF de­signs. His style and colours also give the ac­tion se­quences an im­pres­sive level of en­ergy and in­ten­sity.

The ques­tion of what­ever has trans­formed re­al­ity is in­trigu­ing, and yet also turns out to be a slight weak­ness for the se­ries. These

Gives the ac­tion scenes im­pres­sive en­ergy and in­ten­sity

open­ing four is­sues are fre­quently thrilling and never less than en­ter­tain­ing, but what with an am­ne­siac hero and very few clues as to what’s hap­pen­ing, some as­pects of the sto­ry­telling are maybe a lit­tle too am­bigu­ous. It’s hard not to feel like the mys­tery box ap­proach is hold­ing Coates back from the kind of tex­ture and philo­soph­i­cal touches he was pre­vi­ously able to add to T’Challa’s ad­ven­tures.

How­ever, those in the mood for mus­cu­lar sci-fi ac­tion will find lit­tle to com­plain about, and Black Pan­ther looks likely to re­main a well-crafted and sat­is­fy­ing ex­am­ple of su­per­hero sto­ry­telling for many is­sues to come. Saxon Bul­lock

Coates is also cur­rently work­ing with The Wire cre­ator David Si­mon on a HBO minis­eries about Martin Luther King.

He was on the look­out for a nice card­board box to sit in.

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