The hype for the upcoming Black Panther movie is huge, so of course Marvel is giving the character a comic-book push, debuting two new Black Panther miniseries in the months leading up to the film’s February release. Next month’s Rise Of The Black Panther is a “Year One”-style story about T’Challa’s early days as a feline-theme superhero-king, but this week’s Black Panther: Long Live The King takes place in the present-day, putting Wakanda’s capital city in a state of panic after it loses power. Long Live The King is the latest book in Marvel’s line of ComiXology-exclusive digital comics (which eventually get printed as collections), and it’s a thrilling blend of sci-fi and superhero elements with an ambitious, highly skilled creative team.
Long Live The King writer Nnedi Okorafor made her Marvel debut with a short story in September’s Edge Of Venomverse: War Stories, and this miniseries gives her the opportunity to show what she can do with a longer superhero narrative. What she does is phenomenal, and her script gives readers an expansive, immersive perspective of the city and its people while allowing the art team to carry the majority of the storytelling. Artist André Lima Araújo and colorist Chris O’Halloran just wrapped up the first arc of Generation Gone with writer Aleš Kot (the collected edition goes on sale January 3), and working on that grounded superhero series made them especially prepared for Okorafor’s story, which hones in on ordinary citizens of Birnin Zana.
This exclusive preview of tomorrow’s Black Panther: Long Live The King #1 starts by guiding the reader through the city streets and highlighting the energy of Birnin Zana, both in terms of its active population and the energy needed to power its vibrant lights. The first two pages do exceptional work creating a sense of place: The opening panel highlights the sci-fi spectacle of the city’s skyline with its futuristic glowing spires, while the second takes the reader to the street, where cars are stuck in traffic and pedestrians are checking their Kimoyo beads and listening to musicians.
The first page ends with a shot of an apartment building that the story will return to later, and there’s a sensation of being elevated as the visuals move to T’Challa in his royal quarters, high above the rest of the city. With no narration and minimal dialogue, Okorafor’s script trusts the art team to bring this environment to life, and the entire issue benefits from her understanding that this is a visual medium and she’s working with collaborators who know how to use it for maximum impact.