The year’s most highly anticipated and well-reviewed Marvel film has finally arrived and has lived up to its massive hype. King T’Challa’s sixty years of comic book history was a huge point of reference for Director Ryan Coogler in cinematic sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
More than half a century’s worth of rich character mythology and lore might seem a bit intimidating for those who want to dive into the comics. Luckily, there are some epic essentials that grant fans insight into Black Panther’s past, present, and future.
10/10 Black Panther: The Complete Collection Volume One Introduces Key Allies
Black Panther: The Complete Collection Volume One by Christopher Priest, Joe Quesada, and Mark Texeira introduces familiar elements used in Wakanda Forever — especially regarding the Wakandan protector’s allies and adversaries. Agent Everett K. Ross receives an outstanding introduction and layered backstory, and so do the Dora Milaje.
Black Panther’s rogue gallery and complicated friendships get explored through weighted dialogue between villains, Dr. Doom and Klaw. The story ends with T’Challa heading to New York to meet with the United Nations, where he argues diplomacy and political rhetoric with Namor and Magneto during a heated, yet humorous discussion.
9/10 Black Panther: The Man Without Fear Is The Ultimate Redemption Story
One of Black Panther’s most iconic and memorable moments of redemption comes in the pages of Black Panther: The Man Without Fear by David Liss and Francesco Francavilla. In the graphic novel, T’Challa is stripped of his Wakandan throne and his powers, forcing him to adjust to life as a new person.
Facing poverty, T’Challa reluctantly takes a managerial job working in a local New York dinner where he must navigate a rare yet uncertain field of self-discovery. Along the way, he realizes he can’t ignore the call of heroism and that he must find a way to return to what he knows and loves most.
8/10 Fantastic Four #52 Began Black Panther’s Story
Fantastic Four Volume One #52 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott, Sam Rosen, and Stan Goldberg is the essential introduction to Black Panther, told in two parts. The second half of the story unfolds in Fantastic Four Volume One #53.
In the issue, Marvel’s First Family explores the country of Wakanda and has a chance to run in with T’Challa. During the initial meeting, Black Panther bests each member of The Fantastic Four in an effort to test each of their fighting prowess. The issue ends on a cliffhanger but teases the story’s central villain, Klaw.
7/10 T’Challa Solves A New York City Cold Case In Black Panther: The Client
Agent Everett K. Ross and T’Challa team up to solve a New York City cold case in Black Panther: The Client by Christopher Priest, Mark Texeira, Vince Evans, and Joe Quesada. In the story, Black Panther demonstrates his sharp detective skills when he travels to NYC to investigate the murder of a young girl.
During the investigation, Black Panther learns the murder is linked to a bigger political threat that ultimately takes T’Challa back to Wakanda with Ross in tow. This is a unique entry in the Black Panther franchise as the story partly unfolds through Agent Ross’ perspective, serving as a pseudo-narrator.
6/10 The Black Panther Mantle Features A Transition Of Power In Doomwar
Black Panther: Doomwar by Reginald Hudlin, Jonathan Maberry, Scott Eaton, and Shawn Moll is ultimately a Shuri story that focuses in on the actual mantle of Black Panther. The story begins with T’Challa becoming incapacitated following a near-fatal attack from Doctor Doom.
As Shuri assumes control of the Wakandan throne and the Black Panther mantle, she faces major struggles holding the African nation together while deciding how best to handle Doom. Adding to the already present intrigue, the story features cameos from The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and Deadpool.
5/10 Rise Of The Black Panther #1 – #6 Is The Ultimate Father And Son Story
Rise Of The Black Panther is a six-issue story run by Evan Narcisse, Paul Renaud, and Javier Pina. The crux of the story revolves around the reign of T’Challa’s father, King T’Chaka. Each issue dives into the mythology surrounding the king and his relationship with his wife, Queen Ramonda.
The series also deals with the brutal murder of King T’Chaka by outsiders of the kingdom of Wakanda and the reluctance of T’Challa to become the new king. It is a wonderful coming-of-age story and a better inside look at the relationship and love that T’Chaka and T’Challa had for one another.
4/10 Black Panther Volume One By Jack Kirby Features Eccentric Yet UniqueStorytelling
Black Panther Co-Creator Jack Kirby got the opportunity to showcase his original vision for the titular character in Black Panther Volume One. Kirby wrote and illustrated the collection, which featured the first seven issues of the Black Panther title.
This collection is iconic not only because Kirby penned it, but also because it’s one of the first Marvel stories to showcase Afro-futurism. The stories feature some odd villains such as the Six Million Year Man and King Solomon’s Frog, but those villains find their place and add to the arc’s unique flare.
3/10 T’Challa Tackles Racism In Jungle Action #21
Jungle Action Volume 2 #21 by Don McGregor, Billy Graham, Bob McLeod, Phil Rachelson, Marv Wolfman, and Harry Blumfield features T’Challa tackling racism. In the story, Black Panther travels to Georgia to investigate some of the major social issues and prejudices taking place in the deep south.
While investigating the mysterious death of a young woman connected to a shady land deal, Black Panther learns a local KKK chapter is to blame. During a confrontation in a swamp, Black Panther’s attacks gain the upper hand and leave him for dead. Black Panther later recovers thanks to his heart-shaped herb and saves the day by bringing the Klan to justice.
2/10 King T’Challa Finds His Queen In “The Bride”
Black Panther: The Bride takes place in Black Panther (2016) Volume Four Issues #15 and #16 and is later retold and repackaged in trade paperback by Reginald Hudlin and Scott Eaton. The storyline follows the Black Panther’s marriage to Storm from the X-Men and is considered one of Marvel’s largest and most historic events.
The wedding took place during Marvel’s first Civil War and featured a celebration and truce between the two, who had differing opinions regarding the conflict. The dissolve of their union later had devastating effects for the Avengers, X-Men, and the greater Marvel Universe.
1/10 Killmonger’s Rage Reveals The Complexity Of Black Panther’s Arch Nemesis
Black Panther Volume 3 #18 by Christopher Priest, Kyle Hotz, Eric Powell, Steve Oliff, and Paul Tutrone explores the complicated relationship between T’Challa and Erik Killmonger. In the issue, Killmonger becomes the antithesis of Black Panther when his Wakandan upbringing and ideologies are corrupted.
The story really expands on Killmonger’s complexities, character, and motivations, while solidifying him as one of Black Panther’s most formidable adversaries. Ultimately, Killmonger’s Rage also offers a mirror to what T’Challa would become should he succumb to those same influences.
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