We’re now into the first month of 2018 and you know what that means? Marvel’s Black Panther is coming out next month! Pretty sweet, huh? Well, to celebrate the occasion and give fans a chance to get more hyped up for the character’s second big screen debut since 2016’s Captain America: Civil War I decided to compile this list of must-read stories featuring T’Challa/Black Panther that will give everybody their fix as well as a chance to better appreciate the character!
10. Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers (2010)
Captain America/Black Panther: Flags Of Our Fathers was a story published under the Marvel Knights imprint in 2010 and features the iconic first meeting between Captain America and the Black Panther during World War II. It is important to note that since this story takes place in World War II, T’Challa is not yet Black Panther obviously. This Black Panther is T’Challa’s grandfather, Azzuri. However, that does not make the story any less important as it emphasizes the legacy that T’Challa bears on his shoulders as both king and protector of Wakanda. That and it’s not every day that you get to see Black Panther lay the smack down on a bunch of Nazis!
9. Black Panther #18- Civil War (2007)
The marriage of Ororo Monroe and T’Challa was a huge Marvel Comics event that saw the union of two powerful and iconic Black heroes. Black Panther writer Reginald Hudlin made the decision to have the two get hitched after Marvel told him that they would be turning his mini-series into a full-blown ongoing series. Around this same time Marvel had decided to launch their Civil War event and decided to write the couple in naturally. The two newlyweds took a diplomatic tour around the world and established a separation between Black Panther and the other Marvel heroes. This issue also raised an important question for them both. While many other heroes were out there beating the crap out of one another, T’Challa and Ororo were busy asking themselves an important question as a result of their union. National leaders are above and beyond the squabbles of others. He is a ruler of a powerful and secluded nation and shares more akin with the likes of Namor and Doctor Doom. His wife is now his voice of reason, and as time goes on, he begins to rely on her. It’s a tightly written story with intense action and something nobody should be missing out on!
8. Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513-518 (2011)
In this series we get a more gritty look at Black Panther as it takes T’Challa and strips him of everything and returns him to the concrete jungle of New York City. Due to Daredevil’s absence, T’Challa takes his place and becomes the new protector of Hell’s Kitchen. He does this with no equipment or resources. He also has no limits, unlike Daredevil, and this makes for some of the most brutal situations that you will ever see the character in. This series does a great job at portraying T’Challa as a resourceful man as well as a vulnerable one.
7. Panther’s Rage (1973)
Panther’s Rage was a return to the African nation of Wakanda in the middle of a civil war and a revolution against it’s king, T’Challa, the Black Panther. The Panther’s Rage story was the first comic to have an essentially all-black cast and this was back in 1973. The story is one of the first in Black Panther’s lore that focused exclusively on the kingdom of Wakanda. It depicts Black Panther’s inner struggle as he reconciles his role as leader of Wakanda and as a superhero. It’s been regarded by many as the first “graphic novel.”
6. Black Panther #1-6 (1998)
There are several stories about Black Panther that are groundbreaking and revolutionary and this is definitely one of those. The beginning of the iconic Christopher Priest run has T’Challa trading his African jungles for the skylines of New York City. He’s in the city to investigate the murder of a little girl who was the beneficiary of a Wakandan. The catch is that the story is not being told from the perspective of T’Challa. It’s being told from the perspective of Everett K. Ross, an agent of the Office of the Chief of Protocol. Priest stated in an interview that he used the character as bridge between the African culture that has defined Black Panther with and the predominantly white readerbase that Marvel sells to. The story also sees the introduction of the Dora Milaje, who are the female bodyguards and consorts to the Wakandan royal. While many stories build up Black Panther, this one builds up T’Challa!
5. Black Panther #1-6 (2005)
In 2005, author and filmmaker Reginald Hudlin decided to take Black Panther and re-invented him while taking inspiration from the prior Christopher Priest run. In part, it does serve as a retcon but still returned to the character to his classic roots. It takes it’s time to explore Wakanda as a modern African city and makes it clear that Wakanda is a prosperous and enlightened civilization like no other in the world. Originally, Black Panther’s home city was technologically advanced in it’s first appearance the people had still been living in huts and wearing loin cloths. In this series, the people are exceedingly wealthy and highly educated. Hudlin borrowed the idea from the rich oil tycoons of Dubai and like the people of Dubai who had a precious resource like oil at their disposal the Wakandans had vibranium. He also borrowed from China and turned Wakanda into a more isolated state where outsiders are not particularly welcome. It gives us a new tour of the world he comes from. The series also re-invents longtime Black Panther villain Klaw and makes him into an assassin who commands a full on war against Wakanda and it’s king.
4. Black Panther #6-12 (2001)
Christopher Priest continues his Black Panther run and still narrated by Everett Ross. T’Challa has been forced out of his nation by Achebe and his step-mother in a sudden turn of events! Not to mention that he also has to contend with a complex plot against him. This story also revisits and reinvents his joining The Avengers by showing his true motives for doing it. It’s a surprisingly funny outing!
3. Fantastic Four #52-53 (1966)
Most comics, films, and TV shows during the 1960’s generally treated Africa as a novelty with uncivilized tribes hunting along it’s plains. Fantastic Four #52-53 dared to do different. It portrays a more intelligent group of Africans and even more, an African superhero! While there had obviously been other black superheroes in comics at the time none were in mainstream comics. The story opens with a mysterious individual showing up at the Baxter Building and sending an invitation to the Fantastic Four to visit the African city of Wakanda. Mr. Fantastic is awestruck by the advanced technology so the First Family decides to make the trip. Once they are there they find a village where they come face-to-face with it’s leader, T’Challa, the Black Panther. He proves himself to be a formidable hero as he’s able to beat them before ever fully introducing himself. Issue #53 serves as the first introduction of Klaw as a master of sound and his deadly powers. It’s a great first appearance for the character!
2. Doomwar #1-6 (2010)
Doomwar is a widely controversial Marvel story with the criticism that it makes for a better Doctor Doom story than a Black Panther one but I do disagree. I think this story heavily spotlights what makes T’Challa/Black Panther such a great character and a ruler. He’s someone who is more than willing to make a sacrifice for the greater good and this story definitely has him juggling with that challenge. He does attain an eventual victory over Doom’s invasion, but it’s a pyrrhic victory where the losses are still huge. He was forced to destroy Wakanda’s precious vibranium stores, greatly weakening the country, and renouncing his throne to his sister Shuri. It was an impossible choice to make for one’s kingdom, but in the end, it was one he thought was for the best and bore all responsibility for it. It challenges the idea that T’Challa is a king first and a hero second.
1. A Nation Under Our Feet
In 2015, critically acclaimed journalist Ta Nehisi-Coates was tasked by Marvel to write Black Panther in one of the most recent yet still well-done runs published. The run embraces events of the past such as the flooding of Wakanda by Namor and Doctor Doom’s invasion. Coates doesn’t spend any real time explaining the backstory of T’Challa or Wakanda as it’s been done well enough by the likes of Christopher Priest and Reginald Hudlin. Instead, the story focuses on a nation in a time of crisis as Wakandans begin to lose faith in their very way of life and their government which leads to unrest and violence. It’s a different take from the other portrayals as it portrays T’Challa’s struggles with tradition, his family, and we get a better look at the political system of Wakanda in a way we never have with other Black Panther stories.