Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our FeetBlack Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A while back, I had read several of the Black Panther issues that were written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. They were interesting but somewhat confusing because it felt like they were picking up from some previous work and it wasn’t clear where they were headed. Since then I’ve seen the movie and Coates has written more issues, which alongwith the previous issues, have been compiled in this volume.

I have a better understanding of what’s happening in Coates rendition of Wakanda now that there’s a more complete story arch. Reading the first several editions is like reading the first third of a book and not knowing what coming next. “A Nation Under Our Feet” at least completes some of the conflicts, projects us into the future, and ties all of the issues together.

The movie and these comic books have little to nothing in common as far as the plot is concerned. The only cross over is the setting and the characters. I’m wondering how much Infinity Wars will bring the movie franchise around to the graphic novels or if they are going to go down separate paths. I will say that having seen the movie it helped ground me in a more solid understanding of Wakanda and Wakandan society. The graphic novels drop you into Wakanda without giving you much explanation of the setting and that also left me confused on my earlier read. Now, however, I felt more grounded in their society and culture and was better able to understand some of the conflicts and motivations.

If you liked the movie and are interested in knowing more about the characters, I would recommend this volume. Just be aware that where the movie is and where this volume begins are two very different things.

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Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet 2

This was a much better read for me than Book 1. While I still feel that I’m missing some of the context that happened before Book 1, Book 2 continues from where Book 1 left off, returning to familiar characters and conflicts.  Book 2 continues to show us the ongoing conflict between the Wakandans and their Black Panther and the rival guerilla leader who is trying to get Wakandans to return to their past roots.  Ironically, reading this post-election, it feels like this rival leader could really have the slogan, “Make Wakanda Great Again.”

I appreciated the development of the conflict that Black Panther 2Wakanda is facing. The nation is having to redefine itself. While the struggles that Wakanda faces are unique, there is a universal element, especially in 2017, that feels like many nations are having to redefine themselves too.  I for one and concerned with the way many, i.e. White Americans, are wanting to make things “great” again.  But a nation can never go back.  And going back for one group to find priviledge, usually means that another group finds itself subjugated.

The solution the Wakandans, and I believe many other nations should do as well, is turning to their past to find out how to confront these turn of events. If something worked in the past, how can we take the underlying principle and apply it to our modern times? The problem is that the old ways can’t answer for a changing world including technology. The same goes fro T’Challa. He’s wrestling with maintaining the dynasty while trying to find ways to confront a new world. The solution that T’Challa and the Wakandans are finding is that they have to return to their principles and find creative ways to apply them in the changing world.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1

Since “Captain American: Civil War” I’ve been intrigued by the Black Panther Character.  I like that there’s a character who’s not supernatural (Captain America, Thor, Spiderman, etc.), but has skills similar to Black Widow and Hawkeye, which are my favorite types of super heroes.  It’s about time that a person of color is going to be featured as a superhero and not just as Iron Man’s sidekick. 

pantherI like to read the back stories on the superheroes in the movies, I’ve been wanting to catch up on Black Panther and thought this graphic novel would be a good start. I was wrong. While this is part of Marvel’s reboot of their classic heroes, this story starts in media res but without explaining to new readers what has happened to set up the plot of this book.  The only sequence literally clues the reader in that there’s been a political catastrophe in Wakanda (Black Panther’s home nation).  Yet, this even isn’t developed in this volume, volume 1.  Which tells me that there’s another volume I need to read in order to have context for this volume.

One problem I have with comics today is that there’s so many reboots it’s hard to know where to start and with what reboot. Clearly this volume of Black Panther is the beginning of a new series, but it’s trying to link up with the series ahead of it.  What I think these franchises need to do is create a list or a resource for readers to go to in order to get an idea of where to start and how the super hero has developed over time. Without a reference like this I feel that new readers are left with so many questions and undeveloped plot lines.

The Best American Comics 2014

ComicsI keep seeing these Best American editions in my library and as someone who enjoys lists and finding out about unknown sources of literature, I’ve always wanted to pick one up and get to know some new authors.  The Best American Comics 2014 edited by Scott McCloud and Bill Kartalopoulos gave me the idea that I should get more familiar with the graphic novel/comic world.  I’ve read a few for Cannonball Read 6, but I wanted to expand my horizons.  Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.Understanding

Scott McCloud is well-known for his work, Understanding Comics, something I’ve taught in class.  So I started out thinking I wasn’t a total newbie.  And then I started reading the anthology.  All the authors except for one I had never heard of.  And I realized that I must be the audience that McCloud and the other editors in the series are trying to reach.

While I was only given parts of these amazing works, it only served to whet my appetite.  Being the good Cannonballer, I quickly created a list of the ones I liked and you will be treated to many of them during CBR 7.

HyperboleOne of my favorite comics is Hyperbole and a half by Allie Brosh.  I get a kick out of her work every time there’s a new post.  Even though her artwork appears quite elementary, her way of carrying out a theme and connecting with her audience is phenomenal.  I’m glad that they included a piece of her work.  She’s considered a Web comic due to the fact that she publishes on her website.  That’s not quite true anymore considering she published a collection of her work.Jane Eyre

Another standout was a comic about a young girl who is isolated by the other girls at school.  Her only escape is when she reads the book Jane Eyre.  The comic does a brilliant job of showing her escape by coloring the every-day events in blacks, whites, and grays, while the world of Jane Eyre is in color.  For those of you interested it’s called Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault.  It’s comics like this make me appreciate the genre and the unique ways in which words and visuals can combine to tell a powerful narrative.