There has been a flurry of activity in the Marvel Comics offices since the smash success of the new Black Panther film earlier this year. The publisher had already been expanding the reach of Wakanda with the addition of exciting new talent and miniseries focused on niche characters, a trend that continues through today. Shuri #1 is the best new series to launch in the wake of Black Panther. It dances carefully through continuity, blending familiar elements from the film with Marvel’s complex history, both recent and years old. Throughout this introduction, the focus remains centered on the eponymous hero and her current narrative. The result is a premiere issue that is every bit as inviting to longtime comics readers and new movie audiences alike.
Leonardo Romero brings a distinctive style to Wakanda, one unlike any depiction of Wakanda or its people from the past several years. While Daniel Acuna is blending and blurring colors in a sci-fi landscape for Black Panther, Romero focuses on the forms that compose every element of this society from its architecture to its technology. There is never a stray line or gratuitous detail in his panels. Every element can be considered essential without being reduced to a minimalist nature. Nowhere is this approach more valuable than in the diverse garb that adorns the named characters and bystanders in the streets. Each outfit is carefully crafted to provide an immersive and considered reading experience.
This style is perfectly matched by Jordie Bellaire’s colors, which are never rendered with an ounce of excessive shading. She brings forth every distinct shape at every level of the panel with a flat color design that enhances Romero’s approach. Outfits sing as distinct, cohesive entities, no matter how colorful they might be, and the overall color design makes the already graceful reading structure of each page flow in an even better fashion. It is difficult to explicate just how much Romero and Bellaire’s vision for Wakanda stands out from the current pack of Black Panther-related comics, and it is an effect that should be experienced by any fan.
The style and craft of this story is matched by a story worth telling. Writers imported from other media, especially prose, often fall into a trap of overwriting comics narratives. Nnendi Okorafor, a widely acclaimed author of science fiction, bounds over this common pitfall like it was not even noticed. In a single page, she wonderfully distills Shuri’s complex history and never allows any tangent of exposition to take more than a few panels as the story advances. There is a constant push forward with a variety of events, inventions, and relationships being quickly crafted and building towards the very next thing. This is the sort of quick-paced storytelling that makes monthly superhero comics function, and Okorafor appears to have already mastered its nature.
What Okorafor and the rest of the creative team have in store for Shuri and her revised role in Wakanda remains largely impossible to guess. A new government, supernatural changes, and her love of invention are all evoked in Shuri #1 as a presentation of a complex and questioned identity. The title of Black Panther looms large over the young heroine, but this issue makes the case for a story that can both remain part of that legacy without playing second fiddle to King T’Challa. Wherever it goes in its quest to define a rising star, the skill and strength of this team is enough to make it worth discovering issue by issue as Shuri continues.
Published by Marvel Comics
On October 17, 2018
Written by Nnedi Okorafor
Art by Leonardo Romero
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Joe Sabino