BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW #1
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Art by Butch Guice, Scott Hanna, Dan Brown, & Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: April 12, 2017
Harlem is in disarray after one of its heroes, Ezra Keith, is lost. Misty stands at the crossroads of duty to the police and to her home. She knows something is off, but she most of all wants peace to exist on the streets. This becomes complicated by Ezra’s family’s desire for justice and by her own confrontation with a crew of Americops. An old friend comes to her aid and Misty is left to ponder her next move.
I’m usually wary of team comics that have a slow build and few characters present, but damn is this story stellar. Cultural markers and superheroics exist side to side, and there is deliberate care taken to address the need for change and the turmoil of injustice. While Misty is dedicated as a member of the law, she also knows when to call the police on their stuff. The balance between her, her roles, and her love of her home is all wonderfully clear.
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes both Misty and Ororo as whole, multifaceted black women who recognize injustice and address it head on. It’s rare to see these characters in this manner, a bittersweet reality that has me aching for more of this story and recognizing what happens when black characters aren’t written by black people. Coates sets up multiple frameworks to discuss the story, and even in the first issue every single note is hit, nothing is missing.
Butch Guice and Scott Hanna cast Harlem as though it is our world. This effect helps to ground the story and infuse it with authenticity. Misty is not walking around as someone who’s fought with the Avengers; she is someone who’s part of a community and wants better for everyone. Ororo blends into her environment for much of the story, and when she fully emerges she serves both power and looks. Guice grasps the detail of human faces and bodies and Hanna inks with a weight tailored to the issue’s atmosphere, further pulling the story into its appropriate depth and realism.
I’m used to Dan Brown creating words with vivid and bombastic color, so to see this side if his color work is astounding. I like the emotional nature of the colors; Harlem looks like it is in a world that is perpetually overcast. Just as the rest of the creative team does, Brown adds a particular feeling to the story that takes the fantastic elements of the Marvel universe and brings them to a level playing field with our own world.
Black Panther and the Crew #1 is a great model for a team comic first issue. There is more than adequate context, character work, and storytelling. This series is already a gem for the Marvel line, and I’m grateful that we have another comic that can address real issues in an organic manner without pulling punches. This comic proves that you can be political in comics in a way that does not betray reality or marginalized people’s experiences.
The Verdict: 10/10