Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1

A new era begins for the Black Panther! MacArthur Genius and National Book Award-winning writer T-Nehisi Coates (BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME) takes the helm, confronting T'Challa with a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation tougher than ever before. When a superhuman terrorist group that calls itself The People sparks a violent uprising, the l...

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Title:Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1
Author:Ta-Nehisi Coates
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 Reviews

  • Matthew Quann

    After being highly impressed with

    , the last thing I expected was Ta-Nehisi Coates to headline a Marvel comic. But

    is a great fit as Coates' digs into some headier themes than I am used to in my tights & capes comics. Coates asks an excellent question: why is the most technologically advanced country in the world ruled as a monarchy? This question forces T'Challa to reconsider his position as king of Wakanada and Black Panther while he is beset on all si

    After being highly impressed with

    , the last thing I expected was Ta-Nehisi Coates to headline a Marvel comic. But

    is a great fit as Coates' digs into some headier themes than I am used to in my tights & capes comics. Coates asks an excellent question: why is the most technologically advanced country in the world ruled as a monarchy? This question forces T'Challa to reconsider his position as king of Wakanada and Black Panther while he is beset on all sides by new and fearsome enemies. The enemies, I have to note, are extremely well thought out and don't have the feel of the "villain of the month" trap that a lot of comics fall into. Coates' is making antagonists that are sympathetic, but also villains whose causes and motivations are understandable.

    So, all of this is good. Really good, in fact. But it's also only the opening chapter of a much larger story. This doesn't mean that the comic suffers in quality. Indeed, the opposite is true: this is a stellar setup. The problem lies in the fact that it is all setup and no pay-off. As such, I'll probably revisit this review once I've read the subsequent volumes to make sure that Coates' continues to build tension, and create a captivating story and cast.

    I love the way that Coates' really digs into continuity rather than shaking it off, and he obviously has a love for the Marvel universe that comes across through the script. The art is also pretty great. Stelfreeze is doing a great job of establishing Wakanda's unique terrain, technology, and has a great eye for action scenes. Black Pather's suit looks fantastic and I love the way his mask retracts and envelops his face as needed.

    My recommendation at this point would be to wait for the second part of

    or the eventual hardcover compilation before delving into this comic. It is great stuff, but I felt it was just getting started and it comes to an end. Partially this is due to Marvel's frustrating trade paperback policy. Four issues of a comic is a bit of robbery at $20, when I would have gladly waited for the subsequent four issues in a single collection.

    I'm enjoying Marvel's post-

    lineup so-far. Especially the more intelligent and daring comic book narratives that are present in

    and

    . If Marvel happens to be listening: more like this please.

  • Keith

    Depending on how well you know

    -- and I mean not just the character, but every run on the character and every time he appears in another Marvel comic and, in fact, every time a reference has been made to any element of the character's world, forever --

    is either subversive and brilliant, or an unfathomable mess.

    I know nothing about

    . I, like most left-leaning white comics nerds who like Batman, was just super-pumped to get a monthly comic drawn

    Depending on how well you know

    -- and I mean not just the character, but every run on the character and every time he appears in another Marvel comic and, in fact, every time a reference has been made to any element of the character's world, forever --

    is either subversive and brilliant, or an unfathomable mess.

    I know nothing about

    . I, like most left-leaning white comics nerds who like Batman, was just super-pumped to get a monthly comic drawn by Brian Stelfreeze -- partially because Stelfreeze is a black artist, but mainly because he's friggin STELFREEZE -- and I was super-pumped to get a book about a black superhero from a black writer. Of course, since I did not actually know anything about Black Panther, I did not know that Black Panther comics have been given to black writers for some time now, but this is part of what I'm saying -- the announcement about the new

    had just enough of what I understood to be cool, and enough of what sounded like a socially progressive and exciting thing I didn't know anything about, to make this comic the thing I have been most excited about all year.

    If you read, for example, an interview with Coates (like this one at

    ), what you will get is that Coates has thought about Black Panther more deeply than you. In fact, I think he's thought about BP more deeply than a lot of writers think about their characters. He has woven together every small inference to the character, along with each of the character's main story arcs, as if they are very, very present for the reader. It's not that Coates is thinking like a "black writer" that is excluding (or not writing for) a wider audience. Coates is thinking like a novelist. There's an assumption in his writing that he's got a lot of room to provide context, backstory, and necessary histories for his characters that will bring the average reader up to speed, but because this is a comic book series and not a novel, he really doesn't.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing. There has been something fun about reading a bunch of comics that are really well-researched and deeply developed but that do not spend much time (if any) letting the reader acclimate. Grant Morrison does this all the time -- the difference being, of course, that he does them with properties I know a lot about (X-Men, Batman), and properties whose histories, I would cautiously suggest, are generally more well-known to comics nerds than that of Black Panther.

    Which is where it gets interesting. My knee-jerk response to the narrative structure of

    is that it doesn't really work. It relies heavily on things you probably do not know, and even its scene-to-scene transitions form a story that's almost too big for what a comic has room for. Imagine the first book of

    packed into a highlights reel and smashed into four 22-page comic books, without footnotes of any kind. That's sort of how this book reads. As a novel-reader and a comics-reader, it's actually kind of fun to reread the book several times (5 times at this point?), look up references to old characters and old plotlines on Wikipedia, and piece together what Coates is trying to do. But that doesn't mean that the workload placed on the reader in order to make it through this comic feels

    (as it often does with Morrison). It feels more like a very, very smart writer who just can't see the forest for the trees.

    But the real interesting-ness here is the fundamental question of whether or not a comic like

    even owes me what I'm asking of it. I'm used to reading either A) well-established superhero titles starring characters whose histories are practically a matter of public record or B) esoteric 'alternative' superhero titles resurrecting some long-gone character that do a

    of pandering, and/or throw out the rulebook so completely that there's really nothing you need to know, going in.

    does neither of these things. It just starts

    and demands that you sink or swim.

    I will maintain that certain elements of the book just aren't explained well -- brand-new characters thrown into the back of a panel that might be important twenty pages later, or they might not, so fuck it -- but I think there's also a larger political question that

    raises. White people (specifically white male people) are currently going through a cultural moment in which it is being made abundantly clear that not all culture is "made" for them, that in fact there are whole worlds of media, history and expression that do not, shock-of-shocks, exist solely (or at all) for white (male) people to enjoy.

    As a left-leaning white dude, I think that living through this cultural moment is a great thing. That doesn't mean that it's not also a little bit weird to be reminded of when I'm just sitting on my couch in my undies trying to veg out with some comics.

    I guess here's a list of the things I'm getting at:

    1)

    is an intensely nerdy, deep-cut comic that has been marketed as a great jumping-on point for new readers. It is, in fact, not.

    2) UNLESS IT IS. Unless the experience of being totally alienated and finding your way into a world you do not understand is

    .

    3) Even if you

    a total Black Panther historian, I have come to understand that this book will completely trip you out.

    WHICH BRINGS ME TO THE POINT THAT I HAVE NOT EVEN REVIEWED THIS BOOK YET.

    Black Panther is (apparently) usually written as a brilliant scientist who rules over a perfect city, like if Batman were allowed to build his own version of Gotham. What Coates has done, however, is copiously read through every BP appearance or reference

    and realized that, taken together, that is really not the story of Black Panther at all.

    In

    , Coates takes stock and realizes that if an adventuring mad scientist actually DID ever rule a country, probably that country would fall apart in about five seconds. Then Coates points out that, considering the history of the character -- the number of times his country has been invaded, destroyed, or flat-out neglected because their king was off being an Avenger -- Black Panther is actually a totally shit ruler who's got a lot of things coming to him.

    All of which makes me glad I know nothing about Black Panther, because i have a feeling that any reader who actually loves the character enough to be able to follow all this book's threads would be insanely pissed off by what Coates is doing with him.

    Because Coates is not, in fact, using his stint on

    to write some kind of BLM-Afrocentrist-Afrofuturist-empowerment action feature (which, being real with you, is exactly what I wanted to read). He is, instead, writing a book that questions every structure of power

    comics usually champion -- science, masculinity, military 'peace,' and the general ethics of superheroism.

    All of which makes TOTAL SENSE in our current cultural moment, and is yet something it never even occurred to me that I would see in this comic.

    This book makes me realize that I'm never actually going to know what I'm talking about regarding this book. I'm going to continue to read the shit out of it. The art is gorgeous and super weird-sciencey, and whether or not Coates actually knows how to write a comic, he sure as hell knows how to write a book. The series is called

    , but it's really an ensemble title about a nation of people with clearly-etched motives and desires that feel both connected to a shared history, and completely disparate from one another.

    Maybe one could argue that there's too much talking, and not enough punching. Maybe that's the point of what's being challenged here. Either option is possibly true.

    I dunno. I don't know whether or not it's even good, but I do know that it's pretty fucking metal, you guys.

  • Kemper

    Guess why I read this one?

    Like the rest of the world I’ve gone Black Panther crazy after seeing the new movie, but aside from thinking he was pretty cool as a kid in the late ‘70s reading

    comics I wasn't all that familiar with T’Challa or Wakanda. So this seemed like a good place to start.

    Sadly, it isn’t.

    Getting an acclaimed writer like Ta-Nehesi Coates to do your funny book shows yet again that comics aren’t just for kids any more, and there’s a lot of interesting stuff that draws on A

    Guess why I read this one?

    Like the rest of the world I’ve gone Black Panther crazy after seeing the new movie, but aside from thinking he was pretty cool as a kid in the late ‘70s reading

    comics I wasn't all that familiar with T’Challa or Wakanda. So this seemed like a good place to start.

    Sadly, it isn’t.

    Getting an acclaimed writer like Ta-Nehesi Coates to do your funny book shows yet again that comics aren’t just for kids any more, and there’s a lot of interesting stuff that draws on African history and culture. The art does a nice job of immersing a reader in the world of Wakanda. So just as a comic book it’s pretty good on the surface.

    However, the problem is that Marvel has done a piss-poor job at making their comics accessible these days. You’d think with the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point that someone in charge would have realized that fans want to read more about these characters. Yet despite way too many reboots and retcons in the last ten years since Robert Downey Jr. put on the Iron Man suit they have failed miserably at cleaning up the continuity to the point that readers can pick up a book and know what’s going on.

    This isn’t just limited to creating jumping-on points for new fans either. I’ve been reading Marvel off-and-on for going on 40 years now, I have the Marvel Unlimited subscription which gives me access to thousands of comics including newer stuff, and I have no clue what's been happening in recent years other than managing to slog my way through

    . (And that didn’t exactly help clear things up.)

    That’s the problem here. This run of comics was released after Panther’s film introduction in

    and should have been a place for readers to start with or get reacquainted with T’Challa before his solo movie. Instead the story picks up after recent huge events have left Wakanda in serious trouble. I’ve read part of those stories, but even I wasn’t entirely sure of what was going on here. What chance would a kid picking up

    for the first time have of making sense of it all? Plus, it doesn’t help that one of the best characters in the movie was killed before this book started. (But in true comic book fashion she is only mostly dead.)

    So even though we’ve got a title with real potential the demands of continuity of the Marvel universe force all these other recent events into it instead of providing a clean starting point. It’s the dilemma of trying to balance all the history of these characters vs. trying to let new readers into the world. It’s such a problem that even though the MCU gave the Marvel comics about 14 billion reasons to streamline stuff it’s just never happened. I know one of the reasons I like the MCU so much is that it’s the only place I get stories about these characters these days where I understand what’s going on.

    That’s the shame of this. I think if they’d have given Coates a mandate to do a soft reboot on

    without worrying about fitting it into the aftermaths of countless crossovers that he might have hit it out of the park, but he was handcuffed by the same thing that makes new Marvel comics not a helluva lot of fun to read these days.

    But hey! They’ve promised a new reboot with this Fresh Start thing that sounds like maybe they finally understand what they need to do. I’m sure they’ll get it right this time…….*cough*

  • Terence

    The people of Wakanda are restless. They've been stirred up by a group called The People and some of them have become dangerous.

    T'Challa has been doubting himself and whether he can do the right thing to protect Wakanda.

    Meanwhile one of the Black Panther's Dora Milaje is sentenced to death for doing the right thing because of growing corruption in Wakanda. Her fellow Dora Milaje and lover will not allow her to be killed and steals experimental armor to free her.

    I was really excited about a new B

    The people of Wakanda are restless. They've been stirred up by a group called The People and some of them have become dangerous.

    T'Challa has been doubting himself and whether he can do the right thing to protect Wakanda.

    Meanwhile one of the Black Panther's Dora Milaje is sentenced to death for doing the right thing because of growing corruption in Wakanda. Her fellow Dora Milaje and lover will not allow her to be killed and steals experimental armor to free her.

    I was really excited about a new Black Panther comic especially having such a renowned author as Ta-Nehisi Coates on the project. Unfortunately very little happens in this volume. The thread that Wakanda has problems that need to be solved reoccurs, but the rest of the time is spent lamenting those problems and kindly trying to solve them. T'Challa is scared and frustrated regarding what's happening, but little of his persona is shown. The most compelling and forward moving aspect of the story is the Dora Milaje who escaped from Wakanda with experimental Midnight Angel armor. One of the lovers is sentenced to death for actually doing the right thing and the other can't accept her punishment. They embody the trope of wanted lovers on the run from their problems, but they are far from helpless because the armor they wield is powerful.

    The writing in A Nation Under our Feet feels very amature. Those bubbles are packed with words mostly philosophical and political in nature. It's clear the story will eventually go somewhere, but right now it's taking the scenic route filled with speeches. It's been disappointing thus far and I think I'm going to wait to read the next issues and volumes at my library or Marvel Unlimited.

  • Anne

    I wanted to like this

    much, but it was a snooze-fest that took me several days to read. The art was beautiful, lush, and vibrant...which was in stark contrast to the flaky, boring, dried out dialogue.

    Too much talky, not enough action.

    You know what?

    I've been sitting here for about 30 minutes, scrolling through Facebook posts (mostly checking out cat videos), looking at Instagram pictures (why do my friends take so many pictures of food?), reading

    Goodreads reviews (sadly, they'

    I wanted to like this

    much, but it was a snooze-fest that took me several days to read. The art was beautiful, lush, and vibrant...which was in stark contrast to the flaky, boring, dried out dialogue.

    Too much talky, not enough action.

    You know what?

    I've been sitting here for about 30 minutes, scrolling through Facebook posts (mostly checking out cat videos), looking at Instagram pictures (why do my friends take so many pictures of food?), reading

    Goodreads reviews (sadly, they're all much better than mine)...because I can't think of

    to say about this title.

    Even

    about it is boring.

    *crickets chirping*

    Yeah. Ok. Well, the gist is that T'Challa is having problems in his kingdom. Several different (

    ) groups are unhappy with him, and it looks like his people (or at least,

    of them) might revolt.

    And, honestly, I don't blame them. Sounds like there's a lot of assholery going on. Now, I'm not directly blaming

    , but...

    And that's it.

    This is

    my cuppa when it comes to comic book stories, but I want to read more about Black Panther, so I think I'll just dig around and see if there's anything more my taste in some of the older stuff.

    After all, he seems like such a badass...

  • David Schaafsma

    I read the individual issues of this volume (the best-selling comic of the year?) as they came out. Why? Because I loved Between the World and Me and because he had just been awarded a MacArthur and--with the whole world now watching--chose to work on a Marvel comic series about a minor character he wanted to elevate in the Marvel universe.

    I haven't been very engaged thus far. It's far too talky and philosophical for the beginning of a comic book series. True, many comics do use the first few i

    I read the individual issues of this volume (the best-selling comic of the year?) as they came out. Why? Because I loved Between the World and Me and because he had just been awarded a MacArthur and--with the whole world now watching--chose to work on a Marvel comic series about a minor character he wanted to elevate in the Marvel universe.

    I haven't been very engaged thus far. It's far too talky and philosophical for the beginning of a comic book series. True, many comics do use the first few issues for background or set up, but most also move the action forward. This moves not very far at all. And the talk is stiff, the pacing slow and magisterial. The story is about Kind T'Challa of Wakanda, who faces a kind of civil war between factions, neither of which wants him as leader anymore. This is a tale of big ideas with the promise of a bit operatic story, but it's not that interesting to me yet. So he can write memoir-stories, but maybe not comics stories? We'll see, but the evidence so far isn't promising.

    I'd say this is about a 2.5 at this point, which usually means I would stop reading, but it's such an event in the comics universe that I will be curious to see if things change for the better.

  • Jan Philipzig

    With its critical, abstract, ambitious reflections on the history and ideology of Black Panther comics,

    might have worked as an academic essay. As the superhero title it is, however, the book makes for a rather difficult, frustrating, slow and ultimately boring read. 1.5 stars, I’d say.

  • Sam Quixote

    I’ve read some Black Panther comics before this but I’m definitely not that familiar with the character and I’m guessing almost 100% of readers coming to this book are gonna be in the same boat. He’s a relatively obscure character who occasionally pops up in ensemble stories with bigger readerships than his own books and that’s mainly where I know him from.

    Following his much-touted and well-received appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, his forthcoming solo movie, and Marvel’s tra

    I’ve read some Black Panther comics before this but I’m definitely not that familiar with the character and I’m guessing almost 100% of readers coming to this book are gonna be in the same boat. He’s a relatively obscure character who occasionally pops up in ensemble stories with bigger readerships than his own books and that’s mainly where I know him from.

    Following his much-touted and well-received appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, his forthcoming solo movie, and Marvel’s tradition of giving movie characters their own titles, here’s Black Panther’s new ongoing series - and it sucks donkey balls.

    This is Volume 1 of a relaunched series that’s supposedly aiming to appeal to a new audience - so why the fuck have we been given a Black Panther comic that assumes everyone picking it up are super-mega-fans who know the character’s entire history?!

    Black Panther is T’Challa, King of Wakanda, a super-advanced country in Africa - but his kingdom is in peril. For some reason his people are rebelling against him and he… is gonna do something about it.

    Right from the get-go I was baffled. Black Panther’s guards are attacking vibranium miners whose eyes are glowing green - what was that about?! They don’t want T’Challa to be King anymore? But he’s done well historically hasn’t he - what’s changed? It feels like you’re dropped into the middle of a story rather than the beginning of one.

    And then I realised how little I knew about the character when he started using shockwaves, electricity and shit - does he have a version of his own Iron Man armour, does he have superpowers like mutants or is he magic? These are all things you’d hope would be established in a first volume of a little known character.

    Apparently Black Panther has a sister called Shuri who’s in stasis for some reason and is having a vision quest for no reason to achieve god knows what or why. There are a couple of Dora Milaje (“shield maidens” - woohoo, I picked up some of the complicated lingo, I’m not a total retard!) who’re fighting the Man in Midnight Angel armours, whatever they are!

    A witch called Zenzi is up to some weird shit, a nearby country called Niganda wants to fight Wakanda for no reason, and someone called Killmonger is to blame for the unrest though why we couldn’t see him causing that unrest to start with instead of being told about it in passing towards the end, I don’t know. All of this was new to me and extremely badly set up.

    It doesn’t help that the syntax used is largely unexplained. The fuck is Haramu-Fal? Taifa Ngao, anyone? You know how captions set the forthcoming scene by telling you where, and sometimes when, it’s based? There’s literally a caption that says “Hekima Shule, Birnin Azzaria” - I have no idea what either phrase means. Is that a place, a person, a time, what? How many new readers are you alienating by taking this insider baseball approach, Marvel?!

    Ta-Nehisi Coates may be an award-winning writer of nonfiction but he’s a helluva crappy comics writer! He seems to have no idea what he’s doing - how to introduce characters, set up storylines, everything is a shoddy disaster. But he’s a black guy and artist Brian Stelfreeze is a black guy and they’re working on an all-black comic so yay diversity, right? And look, more diversity: the Dora Milaje outlaws are lesbians! Yeesh, sacrificing quality to pander to wretched SJWs? No wonder Marvel’s sales are in the toilet these days!

    Brian Stelfreeze’s art was pretty good as were Laura Martin’s colours but I really loved Rian Hughes’ logo which is on the title page of every issue - superb work, Rian! Shame that Coates stinks up the book with his incompetent writing.

    I would’ve preferred a ground-up introductory first volume, establishing who Black Panther is and his legacy, what Wakanda’s all about and their place within the Marvel Universe. Then, once your audience is familiar with everything, you launch into this country-in-strife storyline and it probably won’t be so confusing! Instead we got this load of rubbish which is nothing but incomprehensible garbage from start to merciful finish.

    I really wanted to get excited about a new Black Panther ongoing, especially after his spectacular appearance in Captain America: Civil War, and I’m still looking forward to his solo movie, but I’m done with this terrible title.

  • Chad

    Coates may be a celebrated nonfiction author but the only thing I'd celebrate after reading this is when he leaves the book. You would think that this being the first new Black Panther book in a while, this would be a good jumping on point for new readers. You would be wrong. You need to have read all of Black Panther's appearances across the Marvel U in the last 30+ years to know what's going on. I've been reading Marvel books since the 80's and I still didn't get some of the references.

    Appare

    Coates may be a celebrated nonfiction author but the only thing I'd celebrate after reading this is when he leaves the book. You would think that this being the first new Black Panther book in a while, this would be a good jumping on point for new readers. You would be wrong. You need to have read all of Black Panther's appearances across the Marvel U in the last 30+ years to know what's going on. I've been reading Marvel books since the 80's and I still didn't get some of the references.

    Apparently, T'Challa hasn't been a good king and there are different factions planning revolutions. You'd think that would be interesting, but instead everyone spends all their time philosophizing and this book is a snooze fest. The only reason this book gets 2 stars is because Brian Stelfreeze provides very good art and it's nice to see him do more than just covers.

  • James DeSantis

    Love the character but couldn't get in to this one at all. Normally I'd write a full review but short on time so for now it's a nice looking book, but very very very long dialog boxes that really feel like the author wanted to write a book more than a comic.

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