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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.
I read 6 comics last week: Batman #52, Darth Vader #20, Star Trek #57, Action Comics #52, Avengers #9 and Black Panther #2.
The best comic I read last week was Black Panther #2.
This pick isn’t because I enjoyed Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War as much as I did, though that enjoyment certainly helps. This pick is because Black Panther isn’t like any other comic book I am reading right now. The reaction I have to it reminds me of how I felt about Matt Fraction’s “Hawkguy” run on “Hawkeye” – page-after-page, I am surprised by this comic, its complexity and its depth. This is not a typical, 10 minute read as most comics are. No, this is some deep stuff.
I don’t remember when I first encountered Brian Stelfreeze’s art, but I suspect it was way back on Shadow of the Bat. He’s a master storyteller and I am just amazed at how he’s changed his style and how perfect a fit for the character of Black Panther Stelfreeze is. ably supported by Laura Martin’s rich color palette, Stelfreeze’s art alone is reason enough to buy the book. It depicts a distant world that is, somehow, still recognizable as Africa – a mix of the ancient and the cutting edge. His characters have form and substance in every sense of that word. Drawing on powerful images of a powerful character, it’s clear that Stelfreeze understands the importance of this book. He’s a perfect fit for it and he should sign Martin to a long term contract as his color artist.
Ta-Nehishi Coates is something else, too. It’s almost impossible to believe this is his first comic book work but, then again, he’s an accomplished philosopher and writer. Why would we think he couldn’t conquer the comic book medium? Assured and fearless, Coates has woven and incredible world around T’Challa. It’s a world in which the Coates is able to switch the character effortlessly between king and hero. This Black Panther has much on his mind and the themes with which he grapples are serious, deadly and universal. Coates seems to have much to say about the nature of heroism in a world that eats its heroes. It’s already a fascinating narrative.
Add this one to your list. Immediately.