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Ta-Nehisi Coates' 'Black Panther' Rules: This Week in Comics #12

We look at issue #1 and more in this week’s comic rundown.

by Giaco Furino
Apr 8 2016, 4:40pm

Panel from Black Panther #1. Illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze, colors by Laura Martin. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics. Screencap via the author

The biggest news in the comic world this week is, by far, the release of the first book reviewed below: Black Panther #1. Not only is this a new start to the first black superhero in mainstream comics, but it’s also written by MacArthur Fellow and The Atlantic correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates. The comic, set to sell over 300,000 copies, is just the start of a push to get the character out into the mainstream. You’ll see an iteration of him next month in Captain America: Civil War and then he gets his own movie, Black Panther (set to release in July 2018). Readers will find more details about the character and the new storyline below, but it’s important to mention the momentousness of this occasion. Marvel Comics (who have historically been a bit better than DC at superhero diversity) are going to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of a book starring a black superhero. It's a big deal. Also, this week we look at a new batch of heroes from DC, an undead witch with killer illustration, and wonderfully illustrated indie heroes.

Black Panther #1

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Cover for Black Panther #1. Illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze. Photo courtesy of Marvel Comics.

Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze, colors by Laura Martin, letters by VC’s Joe Sabino.

T’Challa, a.k.a., Black Panther, is the king of the African country of Wakanda. Rich in an ore called vibranium, Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the world. T’Challa has just returned to rule his country, but there’s a superhuman terrorist group called The People that’s sowing distrust within its borders. This is a story of upheaval, of right to rule, of the role of a leader, and the duty of a superhero. This is the beginning of Coates’ 11-issue arc, and he’s already coming out of the gate at full speed. He’s shaking up the world, immediately introducing a lesbian couple, issues of power and abuse of power, and plotting this out carefully, expertly. This is an amazing, ambitious comic only given more depth and pathos through Stelfreeze’s expert artistry. Without fear of hyperbole, this is the pinnacle of what a comic book can be. When people talk about the medium as an art form, they’re talking about comics like Black Panther #1.

Bloodlines #1

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Cover for Bloodlines #1. Illustrated by V. Ken Marion with Sean Parsons and Peter Steigerwald. Photo courtesy of DC Comics.

Written by J.T. Krul, pencils by V. Ken Marion, inks by Sean Parsons, colors by Andrew Dalhouse, letters by Sal Cipriano.

Bloodlines is a new comic taking place in the main world of DC Comics, but tucked far away from any major hero. It follows Eddie, a high schooler with a genetic disease that has him on crutches and promises a far more debilitating future. He hangs around his best friend, and we’re introduced to a few other characters that seem like they’ll be important in the future, but for now the story’s all about Eddie. In the woods, a meteor crashes and mutates a deer, and when that deer attacks Eddie and other students, Eddie transforms into a hulking blue monster. Back in the 1990s, a series of Bloodlines comics were released into the DC Universe, where the villains were Alien-style rip-off monsters who fed on spinal fluid and turned some people into heroes. No sign of Ripley and her foes in this issue, and hopefully this new line of Bloodlines comics will only lovingly nod to the original storyline.

Rachel Rising #41

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Cover for Rachel Rising #41. Illustrated by Terry Moore. Photo courtesy of Abstract Studio.

Written and illustrated by Terry Moore.

Rachel Rising is the independently produced comic from Terry Moore (of Strangers in Paradise fame) about Rachel Beck, a young woman who wakes up in a shallow grave after being murdered. She doesn’t remember who killed her, and the early issues of this comic set her out on a quest to avenge her own death. Now, the scope’s widened considerably, as a demon named Malus plagues Rachel and her friends, and has bigger plans for the world. This is some of the best illustration you’ll see in indie comics, with attention paid to the entire page. Every page feels balanced, and the small details of leaves and grass create a lush, verdant world worth exploring.

The Hero Code #5

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Cover for The Hero Code #5. Illustrated by Agustin Calcagno and Heather Breckel. Photo courtesy of Monkey Pipe Studios.

Written by Jamie Gambell, art by Agustin Calcagno, colors by Heather Breckel, letters by Frank Cvetkovic.

Issue five of The Hero Code is the end of its first major arc, so readers jumping in here may be a bit confused. But the premise is simple enough, a group of three heroes with extraordinary abilities (speed, strength, brains, flight... the works) team up to stop a madman named The Mannequin from destroying the city. The story’s solid and well-plotted, but the real draw on this indie is the artwork. It’s hard to find a superhero indie that feels like it could be a DC title, but The Hero Code’s Agustin Calcagno does just that. Drawing equal inspiration from modern day superheroics and classic Conan or Prince Valiant comics, the artwork is enhanced by Heather Breckel’s savvy coloring. Breckel’s lush, primary colors don’t give in to modern trends of darkness and burgundy, but call back to the glory days of spandex superheroics.

What were you reading this week? Let us know @CreatorsProject or in the comments below.

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