Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
Artwork: Leonardo Romero
Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Lettering: VC’s Joe Sabino
Release Date: 24th April 2019
T’Challa has disappeared during the maiden voyage of Wakanda’s new space program, leaving the nation without its iconic feline figurehead. In his absence, all eyes turn to his younger sister Shuri, who far prefers creating gadgets in her lab than getting involved with national politics. However, when a cosmic threat sets its sights on Wakanda, the young princess will have to make a decision about just how she can best serve and protect her homeland.
Award-winning novelist Nnedi Okorafor brings her strong, character-focused writing to the proceedings here in a series which, let’s be honest, is born solely out of the character’s popularity in last year’s Black Panther movie. Rather than a cheap cash-in however, Okorafor delivers a nuanced, uplifting and unashamedly fun series that perfectly displays the strengths of its leading lady.
As with almost every new solo series, Marvel apparently feels the need to inject as many ‘guest appearances’ as possible, almost out of fear that the title character alone isn’t enough to ensure the book’s success. That said, some of these actually work rather well. Storm turning up to assist Shuri with rescuing her lover T’Chala, for instance, is undeniably logical, and the interactions between the pair are fantastic. On the other hand, a fairly one-dimensional Iron Man showing up for literally no reason in the final issue to help out fell really flat for me, and actually undermined a lot of where I thought the story seemed to be going.
There’s also a fairly unexpected meeting between Shuri, Rocket and Groot which initially seemed a little hokey and jarring, but actually ended up being a ton of fun, and one of my personal highlights of the first arc. The entire creative team has a ton of fun with the Shuri/Groot dynamic, both visually and in terms of the dialogue, and as weird as it may sound on paper, is actually a team-up I’d love to see more of in the future.
Leonardo Romero’s artwork has a pleasing ‘Love and Rockets’ aesthetic, sacrificing unnecessary detail in favour of expression and flow. Thick lines and bold panels are the order of the day, and while a couple of the action beats are perhaps a little difficult to follow, overall Romero does an impressive job here of injecting the series with a real charm and energy. Adding to the striking aesthetic is award-winning Jordie Bellaire, whose rich colours add some real depth to the proceedings, ebbing and flowing to match the shifting tone of the story.
It’s not all great, though. For me, the story did taper off just a little in the latter issues, with the aforementioned clunky Iron Man cameo and a slightly underwhelming resolution to the whole ‘space grasshopper’ situation (yeah, you heard me). That said, the final pages with Shuri finally bowing to the pressure of her family are fantastic, and help to set things up for what should be a strong second arc.
Ultimately, “The Search For Black Panther” is a strong offering which emphatically proves that Shuri is more than capable of carrying her own series. Okorafor does a great job of integrating African politics and the more mystical aspects of Wakandan history into the story, Romero brings a striking visual style, and the charming likeability of the leading lady keeps the pages turning throughout. Well worth a look.