Black Panther rolls into theaters in less than a week, and my heart is truly aflutter with the possibilities that come with it. The movie has the ability to change the superhero game, give the MCU a newer leader (leaders?) moving forward, and add an entry into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe like we’ve yet to see over its 10 year span. “But who IS the Black Panther?” some may ask, and to those I say 2 things: a.) I’m so disappointed in you, and b.) You’ve got A LOT of reading to do…
Despite having an iconic history that spans over 50 years, T’Challa, the King of Wakanda and owner of the Black Panther mantle, hasn’t received the fanfare, or respect, that many of the A-level Marvel heroes have. That is, until a bit more recently, with Chadwick Boseman’s stand out performance in Captain America: Civil War. Always an icon in the Black community, the character is finally receiving the mainstream attention he has rightfully deserved for half a century. Possessing an unmatched combination of a royal bloodline, physical gifts, genius IQ and technological brilliance, T’Challa is a beacon of hope for his people, as well as one of the most well written characters in comic book history. So, why aren’t you reading about him? Because you’re dumb…just like I was for far too long. Welcome to the remarkable history of the Black Panther, and if you start reading now, you can knock these all out by the premiere. Tough? Sure. Worth it? Yep!
Top 10 Black Panther Storylines
10. Black Panther: The Bride
Written by Reginald Hudlin and illustrated by Scot Eaton, Black Panther: The Bride focuses on the King of Wakanda marrying the long time, legendary X-“Man” Storm, immediately creating a power couple within the Marvel Universe unlike anything that had been seen before. Taking place within the events of the original Civil War storyline, members from both sides of the battle attend the wedding of the King and his new Queen. With that said, the ceremony is not without incident.
9. Black Panther: The Man Without Fear
At a time when the protector of Hell’s Kitchen, Daredevil, is feared dead, The King of Wakanda relocates to Matt Murdock’s New York City neighborhood, taking on a new life, and a new role as a street level hero. In Black Panther: The Man Without Fear Vlad the Impaler is introduced as the storyline’s “Big Bad,” and there are guest appearances by NYC’s favorite heroes, Luke Cage and Spider-Man. While Black Panther might be prowling a different city in a different country, the amount of ass kicked never changes, as T’Challa proves himself one of the coolest, and most versatile, heroes in the game.
8. Panther’s Rage
In the early 70’s, Don McGregor’s arc entitled Panther’s Rage debuted in the pages of Jungle Action comics, giving the King his first solo run after 7 years of being a recurring side character. The 13 issues elaborated not only on the Black Panther mythos, but on the fictional homeland of Wakanda, its customs and its culture. With that said, it also introduced his most iconic villain, Erik Killmonger, fleshing the character’s motives out, and explaining why his hatred of the Black Panther burns so hot. With the MCU’s Black Panther set to explore the dynamic between these 2 brilliant, impressive men, this arc is a must read for those wanting to be acquainted with the characters prior to the movie.
7. Enemy of the State
A coup has taken place in the country of Wakanda while T’Challa was in the United States. He now has to go back and, well, fix it. That’s all I can tell you. No really, that’s it, because Enemy of the State is so chock full of important plot points, it would be a disservice to you to try and summarize the arc, which took place in issues 6-12 of the Black Panther solo run. Penned by one of Black Panther’s quintessential writers, Christopher Priest. the storyline seems relevant and up to date in today’s political climate, and it doesn’t get any better than seeing the King have to battle through his fellow Marvel heroes in order to save his homeland. I mean, it CAN get better, namely Black Panther punching white supremacists in the face. And it does. Keep reading.
6. Black Panther Vs. The Klan
Taking place directly after the events of Panther’s Rage (see: above… because, like, you just read about it. Did you forget already?) in Jungle Action (before finishing in Marvel Premiere when the former was cancelled), Black Panther vs. The Klan is essentially what you can imagine, and exactly what you want it to be. Black Panther, arguably the greatest black superhero of all time, taking on an organization based on racism, hate, and white power. It might not be as good as seeing an ACTUAL Klan member punched in the face, but seeing the Black Panther show just how much more superior he is than the “superior race” (<— please note the amount of sarcasm dripping from those quotes) is a delight for fans of the character, fans of civil and human rights, and fans of basic humanity.
5. Black Panther Vol 1: Who is the Black Panther?
Reginald Hudlin and one of my all time favorite artists, John Romita Jr., bring a new spin to the classic Black Panther origin story. This solo run was the very first individual arc I had ever read about the King of Wakanda and his superior, advanced country, which then lead me to countless other tales about the benevolent ruler who is so adept with his combat skills he could take on Captain America one on one. T’Challa is first a statesmen, ruler of his country, and a superhero second. This graphic novel, Who is the Black Panther ?, expounds on what both sides of that coin mean to T’Challa, and how he creates the balance between them, while showing the nation of Wakanda in a light that few had shown it in before.
4. Black Panther Vol 1: A Nation Under Our Feet
A Nation Under Our Feet takes us to a Wakanda that is broken apart due to several attacks on the country. A rogue organization called “The People” sprouts up within the highly advanced civilization, claiming Wakanda as their own through extreme violence. Needless to say, T’Challa’s job has never been more difficult, and never been more important. Written like a politcal thriller, Ta-Nehisi Coates, my personal favorite Black Panther author, delivers a story that not only has you on the edge of your seat with what happens next, but makes you truly think in a way that most comic book authors could only hope for. Dramatic and poignant, the story also introduces readers to one of the best characters in all of the Black Panther mythos, T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri, a former Queen of Wakanda, whose beauty and grace are matched only by her brilliance. A NECESSARY read for anyone looking to brush up on the supporting roles of those closest to the King before Black Panther hits theatres.
3. Black Panther: World of Wakanda
When discussing all of the things that make the Black Panther character, for lack of a better term, f—ing awesome, nothing ranks higher on my list than his all female special forces unit/bodyguard detail, the Dora Milaje. Smart and deadly, their allegiance is to the crown, and protecting the leader of Wakanda, whoever that might be. In Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Shuri is Queen of Wakanda, and two of the women tasked with protecting her, and the country, at all costs fall in love with one another. The arc questions what one is to do when the dedication and commitment to your duty comes 2nd to the dedication and commitment you’ve found in another person. Beautifully written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Yona Harvey, and the criminally underrated Roxane Gay, & illustrated by Afya Richardson, & Alitha Martinez, the novel hits home with it’s uplifting heart and devastating heart break. This story can not come more highly recommended.
2. Black Panther & the Crew: We Are the Streets
If you could put together a super group consisting of Marvel created Black superheroes, I would venture to say that many a list would look like the crew put together within the pages of Black Panther and the Crew. Teaming up with Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Storm and Manfold, and taking to the streets of New York City after a Harlem activist is murdered, We Are the Streets is a gripping story that delves into the Marvel Universe’s sometimes secretive past. Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates (seeing a pattern here? It’s not a coincidence. Dude is that good.) and Yona Harvey, the plot revolves around activism, fear, and how hate in this world affects every day people and superheroes alike. Also, you get to see one of the most bad ass groups ever assembled under the Marvel banner. Cannnnnnn we get THIS in movie form?? An NETFLIX series, maybe??
1. See Wakanda and Die
The cover of this issue/graphic novel tells you everything you need to know about what is coming. T’Challa, in all of his Black Panther glory, holding out the decapitated head of a Skrull. Holy S—! See Wakanda and Die takes place during the events of Secret Invasion, an arc which tipped the Marvel Universe on its head with the revelation that many of the heroes we THOUGHT we knew were in fact an invading, deadly alien race. And what mistake were they about to make? Well, invading Wakanda, of course. Written by Jason Aaron, the Black Panther shows just what an unbelievable force he is within the Marvel Universe, defending his country against all comers, and proving he’s worthy of standing side by side with Marvel’s most impressive, and most popular, heroes. Without any hesitation or reservation, this story shows that not only does he deserve to be ranked among the Marvel elite, he deserves to be in the discussion of who should be at the top of that list.
There you have it. my friends. Check any and all of these out, and please let me know if you think I forgot an important storyline (trust me, there are more than 10.) Black Panther roles into theatres Friday, February 16th and you can get your tickets here and help out the Geekiverse at no cost to you. Stay tuned shortly after for my full review coming to the Geekiverse.
Lou Mattiuzzo is a full time teacher, full time husband, full time father and full time superhero enthusiast. He cannot wait for the release of Black Panther, and wonders just where the movie will rank among the MCU’s films.
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