When it comes to comic book events, tie-in issues are often a mixed bag. They are either very good at introducing important elements that will eventually factor into the central storyline or they're good stories unto themselves that focus on characters on pages outside of the event. It's often that a tie-in manages to do both, but this week's King in Black: Black Panther #1 accomplishes that rare feat in a comic that is both very relevant to King in Black and an absolute gem of a Black Panther story.
Written by Geoffrey Thorne, King in Black: Black Panther #1 sees the titular hero preparing to defend Wakanda from Knull's symbiote army, but he does so with more than just his role as king and hero motivating him. T'Challa just witnessed his former queen Storm be consumed by the symbiotes. It's an emotional layer that not only adds to the story generally but in Thorne's hands offers a potent level of humanity. One thing about Black Panther stories is that so much weight is placed on personal responsibility and the challenge that comes in leading with one's heart and one's head. Sending T'Challa back to Wakanda to do his duty as a king while still carrying the trauma of Storm's loss creates a perfect sense of tension. He's a hero who knows the stakes on levels personal and global, perhaps better than any hero in this particular fight.
Those stakes highlight that Black Panther isn't a hero in a vacuum. He has help from those he trusts; while in Thorne's hands T'Challa is a leader in charge, he allows his strength to shine in how he approaches the threat of Knull's army. Okoye and Shuri are both major players in this plot and feature prominently in a dangerous plan. That's what makes it brilliant from a plotting perspective and for the overall quality of the story. T'Challa, who has just witnessed his greatest love's demise, is putting himself in a position to lose Shuri as well in order to stop Knull and save Wakanda, but he does so by trusting himself, trusting Shuri, and trusting the wisdom of the ancestors.
That is what makes this Black Panther story so much better than the standard tie-in. It's rooted in more than the threat at hand and Thorne weaves a story that honors every aspect of Wakanda and its many heroes. Elevating all of that is some truly spectacular art. German Peralta's art paired with Jesus Aburtov's colors present the pain and horror of the threat that Wakanda is facing as well as T'Challa's fear and grief, but does so in a way that never forgets the power and promise of things. As Thorne's words create a story that is calm and steadfast even with the chaos of what is being faced, the art offers a quiet and steady hope even as things begin to reach their most uncertain. Add all the elements together and you get a comic book that is cinematic in scope with energy and ideas leaping from the page.
King in Black: Black Panther #1 is one of the best tie-in issues of any notable event Marvel has published in recent memory and stands out as an incredible Black Panther story on its own merits. It possesses writing that respects and understands the characters, setting, and stakes of the story and art that is expressive, impressive, and brilliantly executed. King in Black: Black Panther #1 is a moving and engaging delight of a read that never loses sight of its greater purpose.
Published by Marvel Comics
On February 10, 2021
Written by Geoffrey Thorne
Art by German Peralta
Colors by Jesus Aburtov
Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by Leinil Yu and Sunny Gho