Marvel has a tradition of releasing official Prelude comics to prepare the way for the next blockbuster. The last few have been fairly disappointing, simply retelling stories we'd already seen. So, for example, the Prelude for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 told the tale of the first film. The Thor: Ragnarok Prelude retold The Dark World and The Incredible Hulk.
Fans are sure to be far more delighted with the Black Panther Prelude. The first issue was released today, and it's a whole new story set in the MCU.
What Happens In The Prelude Comic?
The Prelude comic is officially set ten years before the events of Black Panther. T'Challa has only been the Black Panther for a week, and already he's grown into the role. The first issue opens by carefully inserting Wakanda in real-world events, with the Congolese civil war spilling over the Wakandan border. It's a smart decision, blending this fictional African country into the history of the continent. What's more, it also fixes the geographic location of Wakanda, something the comics have struggled to do.
Will Corona Pilgrim's script then sees T'Challa and Okoye work together against an unusual threat. He reveals that some Wakandans have been captured by mercenaries while in South America, and it falls to the Black Panther to rescue them. Pilgrim lifts two minor characters straight from the comics as leaders of the mercenaries. You have Zanda, who in the comics was ruler of Wakanda's rival nation Narobia, and the martial-artist-turned-mercenary Douglas Scott. Comic book fans will be delighted to see these two enter the wider #MCU.
Intriguingly, it turns out Zanda's whole purpose is to draw the Black Panther out. She's armed with rare vibranium bullets, and she's looking forward to taking down some dangerous prey.
The Prelude comic's script is a smart one, offering an important hint at Wakanda's greatest weakness — and, in turn, the Black Panther's. T'Challa storms the kidnappers, confident that he can't be hurt, and that bullets will bounce off his vibranium armor. He's wrong, as he learns to his cost when Zanda shoots him in the shoulder.
Wakanda is a proud nation, one that has never been conquered. Like his people, the Black Panther is confident of his own superiority. He believes that he cannot be beaten, and indeed that he cannot be placed at risk. As a result, this Prelude comic sees the Black Panther take foolish risks, charging into a hostage situation half-cocked. To be sure, this is T'Challa when he is new to his role, but you can see hints of the same overconfidence in Captain America: Civil War.
Now ask how such a proud, isolationist nation would be affected by the death of their King. Black Panther is set shortly after Civil War, and sees T'Challa claim the throne after T'Chaka died during Zemo's terrorist attack. We know that this will lead to the people of Wakanda suffering a crisis of confidence, and ultimately to a dark conspiracy seeking to undermine T'Challa's rule. It's a smart, but subtle, thematic nod.
It's great to see the tie-in comics telling new stories once again, and this is an exciting one. We're seeing the early days of T'Challa's time as the Black Panther, when he's young and reckless, making rookie mistakes. The tie-in comic deliberately contrasts the secretive Black Panther with the flashy Iron Man, reminding us that this is a hero who prefers to stay in the shadows.
In February next year, it will be time for the Black Panther to step out into the light.
Are you planning to pick up the Black Panther Prelude comic? Let me know in the comments!