The current arc of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Daniel Acuña, and Joe Sabino’s space-bound Black Panther comic has thrust readers into the far future, where a wildly different group of Wakandans who have colonized the cosmos are in a, well... star war. A group of rebels are fighting the Wakandan space empire, and they’ve just recruited a mysterious new character, who happens to be named T’Challa.
Last month’s issue slowly introduced us to a rebel group known as the Maroons, who have all taken names after familiar Black Panther characters like Nakia and M’Baku. Their newest recruit took on the mantle of T’Challa himself in their revolution against the Intergalactic Wakandan Empire. All we really know is that these characters were stripped of their old memories when put into servitude by the Wakandan’s vast empire. That, and given that the story is set 2,000 years in Marvel’s future, it seems very unlikely that this is the modern Black Panther cast, but, you know, comics. A lot could happen!
But this new T’Challa has been repeatedly haunted by visions of a white-haired woman who seems to be the key to understanding what his life was before he was enslaved. Today’s Black Panther #2 picks up two years after T’Challa’s recruitment into the ranks of the Maroons, as the group attacks what should’ve been an unguarded outpost. When they’re swarmed with enemy fighters, T’Challa’s mind turns to images of this mysterious woman... and he promptly proceeds to ignore his orders to retreat and engages with the enemy instead.
What follows is frankly one of the best spaceship action sequences I’ve seen in a long while, not just in a comic book but in scifi media, full stop. Acuña’s art is allowed to shine in these pages and is so energetic and bold—smeared streaks on the clean lines of Wipeout-esque starships give a glorious sense of speed and kinetic energy to the panels, as T’Challa takes down fighter after fighter like a man possessed. Even as Nakia screams at him over the comms to disengage, he performs piloting feats that defy belief for both his foes and his allies. Acuña’s art matches the intensity as T’Challa’s furious dance between rival starfighters progresses, steadily getting hazier and marked with bright streaks of color as he pushes himself to the limit.
It’s perhaps what you’d expect from someone who’s the namesake of the Black Panther—being a master tactician, a skilled warrior, and, as we discover as the skirmish progresses, someone who doesn’t really play well with the idea of being on a team. But this T’Challa isn’t infallible; he eventually gets hit and needs extracting after taking down the vast majority of the Imperial forces by himself. As he’s doing so, once again his thoughts drift back to the mysterious woman:
The action we see unfold in this issue is all painted as something almost inhuman—that what this future T’Challa did, and the fact that it wasn’t completely suicidal, should defy explanation. And it seems like the key to understanding just how he can tap into the traits his namesake is known for, which looks to be one of the biggest mysteries of this new story.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about who he really is—a potential descendant of the T’Challa we know, the man himself transported into the future, or someone (or something) else entirely. But so far Black Panther’s latest journey is laying some very intriguing scifi storytelling down that we can’t wait to see unfold.