WARNING – Spoilers for Black Panther #1
A new Black Panther series has brought the Wakandan Empire to the stars—but it's also resetting the villainous Nakia and M'Baku as heroes. While Black Panther has been a popular hero for decades and the talent involved in this year's film seemed to further ensure its success, few could have guessed all the records Black Panther has broken at the box office. In a year when Marvel was gearing up for their biggest film yet, Avengers: Infinity War was nearly overshadowed by its predecessor. Still, the company was smart enough to anticipate some of the popularity and have been spinning out new stories involving T'Challa and his pantheon.
A number of prequels and side stories have been told in the comics this year detailing the denizens of Wakanda, but the flagship book by Ta-Nehisi Coates is still the biggest draw for Marvel. That said, Marvel still decided to take a risk and kick-off a new story involving the hero—one that sees T'Challa and Wakanda heading to space. Teased in last year's Legacy #1, the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda is an exciting new phase for the once-reclusive nation. But as the first comic in the series reveals, there's more to the story than that.
Black Panther #1 by Coates and artist Daniel Acuña throws readers into the deep-end right away. From the start, it's clear something has gone wrong for T'Challa and that the new Wakandan Empire perhaps isn't the triumphant we were led to believe. Over the course of the story, we find that T'Challa and others from Earth have had their minds wiped and been made into slaves, while a new class of Wakandans composed of alien races rule supreme. But soon enough, two familiar faces show and and free our protagonist, rechristening him T'Challa after a long-ago king and revealing that Marvel is committing to Nakia and M'Baku becoming heroes.
Like T'Challa, the intergalactic M'Baku and Nakia don't remember who they are. For the former Black Panther, that's a good thing, as both characters have long been villains in the comics. Nakia started off in the Dora Milaje, but after being left for dead and subsequently helped by Killmonger, she become Black Panther foe Malice. Since then, she's nearly disappeared from the comics, until Marvel brought Nakia and Everett Ross back to the page after their roles in Black Panther.
M'Baku, meanwhile, has always been a villain. The Black Panther movie, however, tweaked Winston Duke's character to be more of a sympathetic antagonist. And with Avengers: Infinity War, he's firmly on the king of Wakanda's side. We've seen movie and TV shows influence comics a lot in the past, especially when it comes to Marvel and the MCU. This latest move does more than give Coates a new setting for his ongoing story, it brings M'Baku and Nakia more in line with their cinematic counterparts. We'll have to wait and watch the story unfold to see if this all sticks when the character's inevitably regain their memories, but for now it's an exciting new chapter in the tale of Wakanda.
Black Panther #1 is available now from Marvel and comic book retailers.