Black Panther And The Agents Of Wakanda #1 Review

by Charles Martin on September 18, 2019

Black Panther And The Agents Of Wakanda #1 Review
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Lan Medina
Colourist: Marcio Menyz
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The concept of the Agents of Wakanda is one of the more interesting ideas to bubble up out of Jason Aaron's Avengers run. Now, Jim Zub and Lan Medina grab that ball and run with it.

Or try to. In fact, the Agents of Wakanda is not a ball but a whole outfit of sports equipment, and it takes all of this issue for the creators to get padded up and ready to play.

Which is not a bad thing; restating the premise in its entirety ensures that this comic is as accessible as a #1 should be. Considering that previous AoW material was spread across two different titles (Avengers and Thor), a thorough re-introduction is practically a necessity.

This introduction doesn't lack for action. Wasp and Man-Wolf bust a super-spy gadget heist to kick things off with a bang. Then the Black Panther himself assembles a short team (Wasp, Fat Cobra, and Okoye) to investigate a small-town mystery that rapidly evolves into a world-threatening crisis.

And half the Agents are still on the bench! Okoye spares a page to let us know what the rest of them (Ka-Zar, Roz Solomon, American Eagle, Gorilla-Man, and Broo) are up to. 

It's a big, weird roster and moulding it into an actual team is a challenge. The "behind the curtain" issues on that score spill into the pages in a constructive way. Both Wasp and Okoye voice justified concerns about the Agents' effectiveness when they need to work together.

Visually, it's an exciting story. Lan Medina demonstrates an excellent command of action storytelling, capturing the fights in dynamic motion that's easy to follow. But he's also intensely detail-oriented, which keeps the characters distinctive. Okoye's update page combines a superb character portrait with more dynamic action in the background; it's easily the issue's artistic showpiece.

The colours added in by Marcio Menyz bring considerable depth in shading and lighting. The palette ranges all over the spectrum, but red highlights stand out in particular. They're in the center of the action thanks to most of the Agents' uniforms, but additional uses (e.g. for nasty demon eyes in the final act) turn red into the story's thematic colour.

Between the busy plot, the huge roster, and the obligatory gimmicks (gotta use them Vibranium bullets), what gets shortchanged in this issue is in-depth characterization. Jim Zub's script only has space to lay down a few broad strokes for a few of the characters.

It works well enough for this brisk, action-oriented start. But when Jan tells Fat Cobra that his comic relief antics make him "a walking cliché," she's zeroing in on just one tree in a forest. 

We need more time to get an understanding of what this team is about -- or even if it really is, or should be, a team. It will also take time to establish which characters are the leads here. Jan Van Dyne is the first front-runner, but more of her teammates need to receive similar attention to build a compelling ensemble.

The surprise final-page antagonist (no spoilers here, it's too good) should go a long way toward establishing the tone of the series. Are the Agents of Wakanda spies, soldiers, or assassins? (Or misfit goofballs?) #2 needs to give us some hints on that score. 

When I reviewed Avengers #12 (link above), I was pretty certain that the Agents of Wakanda wouldn't make for a good spinoff. At the time, I thought a Roz Solomon solo with the Agents as the supporting cast had much more potential than a team book. 

Although I now have a piping-hot plate of crow in front of me, I'm not going to grab a fork and dig in until I see how this first arc closes. It might prove me wrong -- or it might do the opposite.

The first issue of Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda doesn't skimp on action, but it takes its time to thoroughly establish its premise. It's a good move for a #1, but it doesn't leave much room to make the tone of the title clear. Strong art and a promising (but overlarge) cast are enough to string us along to #2, where we'll hopefully get a better grasp of what this series is all about.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
It's a long title. You gotta use the acronym. The creators better find a place to use "BPAOW!" as a sound effect.