By Miller C. Lashbrook
This is modern superhero comics at its finest! Ta-Nehisi Coates brings his experience with real-world politics to Wakanda for a politically, philosophically, and spiritually intriguing story for T’Challa, that at the end of the day is still character-driven. There is a bit of continuity that leads into this run on Black Panther, but if you are not afraid to fill in the gaps with google searches or wiki dives, I highly recommend Black Panther (2016) #1-12.
“A Nation Under Our Feet” is not only a story of the politics of Wakanda in the 21st century. It is not only a story about the Wakanda Royal Family. It is also a story about superhero responsibility. Just like in every good Spider-Man story, where Peter (or Miles) must balance their personal, work, and superhero life, T’Challa must do so, only the stakes are that much higher. His personal life is rebuilding the Royal Family. His work life is becoming the King of Wakanda again. And his superhero life is not only helping the people of Wakanda but being an Avenger and an Ultimate.
The primary conflict of this arc revolves around T’Challa once again being King of Wakanda after years of Shuri being Queen. Shuri, however, was fatally wounded in the battle with Thanos’ Black Order before Secret Wars. The people of Wakanda do not trust T’Challa because he worked with Namor (an enemy of Wakanda) during Johnathan Hickman’s New Avengers. Crime and terrorism are also taking hold of Wakanda as T’Challa tries to manage it all with a still recovering Wakandan infrastructure.
There are three main “fronts” to the political unrest in Wakanda. The first is the Midnight Angels; Aneka and Ayo were Dora Milaje, but they tired of Wakanda not watching out for its women, so they rebelled. They have in good faith created a feminist, separatist state in Jabari-land in the North of Wakanda.
The second front of the unrest lies to the south of Wakanda at the Nigandan border, in the fields of Alkama. A Nigandan woman, Zenzi, with the power to unlock the emotional auras of people is working with a Wakandan shaman, Tetu. They seek to remove T’Challa from the throne to make a government “for the people”. They are also working with enemies of Wakanda, like scientist Zeke Stane, to bring terrorism to the cities of Wakanda, to sow distrust.
The third front is the philosopher Changamire. At his university he speaks about evolving and revolutionizing Wakanda’s government. T’Challa is not his enemy, but rather the current state of Wakandan politics is his enemy. These three groups all combine in an attack on The Golden City of Wakanda, followed by a political Tribunal.
Coates is writing the politics of this book on another level. He is using characters, their wants, and their needs, to explore politics, not the other way around. By the end of this arc in issue 12, the story has for the moment resolved itself in a satisfying way that makes me think about the politics of our world today.
The last thing that I will say about this comic is how quotable it is. The series is full of proverbs and quotes from characters about the world that could fill their own philosophy book. I found myself pausing while reading to share these wonderful quotes with my fiancé. So, if you like political comics, or find Wakanda interesting, this is most definitely the comic for you.
5/5 Vibranium Daggers 🗡️