The story of the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda continues its gradual unfold in Black Panther #4. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuna give us a little more to explore with each new issue, but keep their cards close to the chest.
I’m loving the Afrofuturist vibe and the unique take on the characters and setting. Our main cast, including T’Challa, M’Baku, and Nakia, are starting to feel more familiar as we spend time with them.
I feel like the characters tend to get overshadowed from time to time, though, as we learn more about the world around them. The Galactic Empire of Wakanda is a massive world with its own unique lore and history. Coates gives us a little more information about The Empire with each new issue and how T’Challa and the others fit into place here.The real clencher of Black Panther #4 comes in the last few pages; I won’t give away any spoilers, but a tragedy befalls our main cast. I’m not completely sure it gets the emotional weight that was intended, but I’ll reserve judgement until the next issue to see where the team takes that story thread.As an installment in the larger narrative, I feel a bit conflicted so far. The fact that it is such a radical departure from typical territory leaves us without much to latch onto and orient ourselves. As a result, I find myself having to go back and reread certain sections to remember what’s happening. The lack of firm ground under your feet can make it hard to fully appreciate the story at times.There are details that link us to the narrative through comparatively obscure Marvel lore. In Black Panther #4, for example, one of the main cast wields the Spear of Bashenga. It’s a callback to older Marvel stories, similar to the introduction of the M’Kraan Shard back in issue #2. We see the Emperor N’Jadaka (Killmonger) describe himself as the “Avatar of Bast,” suggesting he sees himself not just as favored by the gods, but a literal god in the flesh.While the twists and Easter eggs in the story are great fun for Marvel aficionados, it demands some extensive knowledge (or extensive Googling). That can be an issue, considering this run is marketed as a jumping-on point for new readers.
As with previous issues, the artwork in Black Panther #4 remains stunning. The softer tones in backgrounds and contrast between muted and vivid colors make the more alien elements pop nicely.The line work and inks complement those colors to form a nicely cohesive final product. For the most part, it gives us clarity when we need it, and some sci-fi flavor where appropriate. My only complaint is that it can be a little hard to distinguish what’s going on in some of the action sequences. The panel layout keeps everything pretty clear, though, so it’s not a major gripe.