Black Panther #5 Explores What Makes Its Heroes Tick

by Tony Thornley

Black Panther #5 continues to give us frustratingly small teases about the bigger story around the rebellion we’ve followed since the series reset earlier this year. However this continues to be one of the best slow burns in comics.

After the last few issues of action adventure, writer Ta-Nahesi Coates, interior artist Daniel Acuna, cover artists Paolo Rivera & Acuna, and letterer Joe Sabino slow down a little bit to recover from everything that happened last issue. This turns the issue into a character study of this altered T’Challa.
Five years after the events of last issue, the Maroons are still quietly recovering from the devastating attacks against them. Now the group is ready to act, and Nakia asks T’Challa to put his support behind M’Baku. He wrestles with his own personal wants, both regarding his stolen memories and feelings towards Nakia, and offers M’Baku his support.

A lot can be forgiven when a story clicks like this. The action thriller of the last few issues turns into something more in line with political intrigue. The conversation between T’Challa and Nakia clicks especially well, giving them a connection we haven’t seen yet. It’s some really great character work by Coates.
However on the downside, the issue is still frustratingly vague. If the characters around T’Challa hadn’t already made abundantly clear that this is THE T’Challa, he would be a complete cipher. It’s a shortcut that is starting to work to the story’s detriment, and will be a big problem if he doesn’t recover his stolen memories soon.

Acuna’s art continues to be simply stellar. As a LOT of story has happened off-panel (like I said there were FIVE YEARS between last issue and this one), he’s able to sell us on the growing connection between the story’s two main characters. Absent an internal monologue from the lead, it’s also the art that takes us for his journey.
I know a lot of what I’ve said about this issue is somewhat paradoxical, but this is an extremely well written and gorgeously drawn story, but it’s not without its flaws. I have hope that Coates gets us through them and moves the story forward in a big way very soon.

Black Panther #5 is available now from Marvel Comics.

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