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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.
COMICS I READ LAST WEEK
The best comic I read last week was Black Panther #11.
Writer: Ta Nehisi Coates
Artist: Chris Sprouse
What Ta Nehisi Coates has done with Black Panther has been truly remarkable. It is unlike any comic book on the stands today and not just because it is the only comic I can think of that only features people of color (though there is something inspiring about this). No, it’s unlike any comic on the stands because of the deeply complex narrative Coates is telling. He’s taken the superhero concept and trappings and has all but rejected them instead using the character of Black Panther to weave a story of politics and family intrigue that feels far more like literature that sequential art.
Frankly, since its relaunch and in the hands of Coates and brilliant artists Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse, Black Panther HAS BEEN literature.
This issue wraps up a Wakandan civil war, a reflection on what it means to be a king and a mediation on the responsibility of family. It does so incredibly affectingly and incredibly well.
Black Panther is not a comic one can blithely read and set aside. It takes some commitment. That’s an impressive achievement and this is, consistently, an impressive book. Other vaunted writers have come to comics as though it was a part time, second class gig for them and, frankly, I wondered if the same would hold true for Coates. That has, happily, not been the case.