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Black Panther #8 seems to set up an important new story going forward for the series. Since the first issue of the new volume, T’challa has been plotting a way to retrieve his sister (and former Black Panther) Shuri from a limbo that was neither life nor death. However, the challenges faced by T’challa in Wakanda were the more pressing elements of the first seven issues. Though those conflicts have not been resolved, Shuri figures to become a more prominent presence in the series after Black Panther #8.
The Black Panther has called on the aid, in a few instances, of former Avenger Manifold, who can teleport. In Black Panther #8, T’challa asks Manifold to teleport them both to the limbo known as The Djalia. T’challa is trying to retrieve Shuri, who was trapped there during the build-up to Secret Wars. However, readers have seen that Shuri hasn’t just been twidling her thumbs. She has been reflecting and discovering things through conversations with a mother spirit. So when T’challa comes to take her back to the land of the living, it’s not the same sister he knew. The big twist of Black Panther #8 occurs on the last page, when Shuri appears in the costume of the Midnight Angels, the sect of renegade Dora Milaje (royal guards) who are trying to overthrow T’challa.
So there is a great deal implied by this last revelation. For one thing, it certainly seems that T’challa cannot expect Shuri will necessarily fight alongside him. In fact, it seems more likely that she will be against him. Of course, some grey area is also possible. I am also intrigued by the possibility of Shuri in the Midnight Angels. As mentioned, she was, for a time, Black Panther. So she is an extremely skilled warrior and leader. How will she mesh with Aneka, Ayo and the other leadership of the Angels? Similarly, I wonder what Shuri will think of the Midnight Angels’ tentative partnership with rebels Tetu and Zenzi.
Beyond the ending twist, Black Panther #8 did feel a bit of clearing the deck. After the guest appearances of “The Crew” (Luke Cage, Storm, Misty Knight and Manifold) in the last issue, this one begins with those characters saying their goodbyes. I thought that team-up might last for a few issues, but it seems it was one and done. The rest of Black Panther #8 is essentially T’challa getting ready and then trying to get to The Djalia. Additionally, Shuri recounts a story to the mother spirit before being taken from the The Djalia plane. In many ways, the issue seems to exist mainly to serve the last twist.
The advantage of having a writer as talented as Ta-Nahesi Coates at the helm is that he is able to make the prose of the issue interesting even when the plot is pretty stationary. However, this type of comic is probably not to all readers’ tastes. Likewise, Coates has actually combined action, character work and poetic prose through most of the first seven issues of Black Panther. So while Black Panther #8 isn’t a disappointment, it does feel less accomplished than most of the previous issues. Still, the story brings Shuri back to Wakanda in a living form, and that bodes to prove very significant for the series in the future.
The art of Chris Sprouse is very good, though perhaps not quite at the level of regular artist Brian Stelfreeze. Sprouse is given some difficult assignments in this issue, as it’s a very talky one – an element that can be difficult for a penciller to make visually exciting. He manages, and his panels of T’challa and Manifold making their way to The Djalia are strong. The best artistic element of Black Panther #8, however, is the cover by Stelfreeze. He has composed a pattern of shapes that form an impressionistic vision of Shuri’s face when viewed. It’s a gorgeous piece of art – really, it’s one of the best Marvel Comics covers of the year. So the art on the outside and inside of Black Panther #8 holds its own.
To some degree, a reader’s opinion of Shuri’s segments in The Djalia probably relates to how much he/she likes the fables and parables that Shuri and the mother spirit tell each other. I thought that the story-within-a-story in Black Panther #8 was one of the better Shuri tales. It concerns the “Buffalo Woman,” who ended up being a great transitional leader for Wakanda. These interludes have helped fill in the history of Wakanda and informs Shuri’s direction. Whether she will fully side with the Midnight Angels or not, I am looking forward to seeing how Shuri complicates T’challa’s life even more.