Black Panther: Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda #25
By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Daniel Acuña, and Brian Stelfreeze
Colors: Daniel Acuña and Laura Martin
Lettering: VC’s Joe Sabino
Review by KrisK
It’s been two years and 3 days since the start of the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda started. In those two years, we were introduced to the Wakanda of the future, an empire built on conquest and slavery. And to a slave with amnesia and only glimpses of a life with a beautiful woman with silver hair.
While the identity of the slave seemed clear, the course of events that led the king of the most powerful nation in the world into a space mine remained a mystery.
The comic opens with an explanation that leads to more questions. Two thousand years ago, Wakandans established a colony on the opposite side of the cosmos. Wakandan culture reigns supreme as the worship of Bast, the Panther Goddess exceeds even Wakanda Prime. The legacy of the Wakandan heroes lasts too, with most Wakandans named after heroes from Wakanda Prime. With the threats of space all around them and no allies though, their self-defense doctrine transformed into one of preventative conquest. Conquer and enslave all who might threaten the power of the empire. The empire, ruling over five galaxies, looks to take a sixth: ours.
“This is the story of the only man who could stop them–a king who sought to be a hero, a hero who was reduced to a slave, a slave who advanced into legend.” Thus begins the most ground breaking story arc in Black Panther’s storied history.
T’Challa, after dreaming of his love, Ororo Munroe, starts a one man rebellion. He gets the attention of the Maroons, a group comprised mostly of ex-slaves who are rebelling against the Empire. (Historically, the Maroons is a term for ex-slaves in the New World who set up communities in the Caribbean and South America.) The slaves in the Empire go by the name, the Nameless. The Empire wipes their memory, when they enslave them, so the slaves do not know their name, background, or even their skills. Part of their mission to regain the freedom of the Nameless is to steal back their memories archived away by the empire.
The Maroons rescue T’Challa, who becomes their best warrior. T’Challa fights with the Maroons for years, most of which they spend stranded on a Hoth like tundra planet. The Emperor, N’Jadaka, sends their most powerful weapon, the Manifold after them. It is revealed that the Emperor wields a symbiote. He uses his enhanced power to drain Bast’s power. Bast possesses the emperor’s daughter, and absconds to the Maroons.
The rebels steal the M’Kraan Crystal from the Wakandan Empire, who had taken it during a war with the Shi’ar. The Maroons are able to narrowly defeat the Manifold, but they do not kill the teleporting assassin, and it returns again for them later. Manifold regains his memory, and then so does T’Challa.
They trick the Emperor onto an aquatic planet. They explode the planet’s core, and they wipe out the Emperor. The symbiote and the soul of N’Jadaka, survive though, using Bast’s power. It stows away with the Maroons. T’Challa uses the power of the ship to send communicate with Wakanda Prime.
T’Challa returns to Wakanda with the Maroons. Unfortunately, N’Jadaka infiltrates the country. He joins forces with Tetu and Zenzi, and they bond the symbiote with the body of the original N’Jadaka, Erik Killmonger. Killmonger’s soul resurrects as well, so Erik, N’Jadaka, and the symbiote share the same body. Now, N’Jadaka and his Empire invade Wakanda for a battle reminiscent of Avengers: Endgame.
Don’t worry, I left out alot if you haven’t read this yet. The Maroons constitute many unique characters, of many species. Sacrifices abound, and T’Challa almost dates someone besides Ororo during his time in space. Coates created a wonderful space opera, beating anything else I have seen in comic form.
Coates excels at using comics to talk about very real issues. He uses the Empire to talk about how victims can become colonizers and inflict horrible crimes upon their neighbors. The thin-line between self-defense and offense fade. Following previous arcs discussing governments and colonization, this run continues to discuss complex themes with an exciting and complex tale. (For more on previous arcs, check out this brilliant piece by John Burkle: http://talkingcomicbooks.com/2018/02/15/black-panther-modern-years/.
This brings us to #25, the finale to a years-long run eclipsing the works of the already prestigious writers Reginald Hudlin and Christopher Priest. Wakanda is host to a battle with every character who has appeared in the run, along with a few black heroes who hadn’t yet. (I was bummed not to spot Blade, but he may be unavailable due to Avengers shenanigans.)
T’Challa and the Emperor fight a dragged out battle with assists from heroes and villains on both sides. Bast plays both sides to her own end. Honestly, this comic seems tame, plot-wise, compared to the twists and turns of the previous issues, but all good things have to come to an end. The battle rages epically, and it ends by tying a thread from the beginning of this space drama. While this comic certainly puts some of the toys back in the toybox, it leaves a few new ones for John Ripley’s run in a few months. With the delay in getting this last issue out, I wonder if the epilogue was added after the original story art was already mostly done. If so, its worth it, because the epilogue ties up some threads nicely and ends on a happy note.
The art in this issue retains the high quality a reader of this run would expect. The art stood out as some of the best in Marvel from issue one, and while the style and method changes, the high bar never lowers. Acuña perfectly blends the grimy urban battle with the vibrant colors of the powersets of the various characters. Every character stands out as unique, so even in a battle of epic proportions, the reader easily distinguishes the characters. Not only that, but the characters emote clearly and genuinely, breathing life onto the page. The epilogue by Stelfreeze doesn’t perfectly match the previous arcs he worked on, but considering it’s been a couple of years, you can’t fault the man for evolving and growing.
Verdict: Buy! Buy the whole run. Trades, omnibuses, comixology, however you read. It’s amazing. It’s a story with so much detail and commentary you can easily reread it. (I have almost every issue.) Coates run might be the best comic run out right now in every company. If you just picked up the last arc, you would still be able to follow the story, but I would not suggest cold buying this issue alone.