BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1 features the intersection of three distinctive stories starring King T’Challa. Now, if you’re expecting tales filled with action and dramatic confrontations with bad guys, prepare to be surprised. The stories featured in this issue are personal. They dig deep into Black Panther’s psyche and inner conflicts. As a result, we are gifted with some fantastic stories that will certainly stay with you long after reading.

black panther annual #1
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Once We Were Friends

BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1 is split into three separate narratives. The first, called “Back in Black,” comes from the writer Priest. It is a tale that takes place in the present and features the relationship between Black Panther and Everett Ross. The two haven’t spoken in a while, but a new conflict has brought them together.

What conflict, you ask?

Well, Wakanda houses a device that is capable of ending global warming. However, King T’Challa fears that if the nation were to release this device to the rest of the world, other nations would use it as a weapon. “Back in Black” presents an immersive narrative primarily through the perspective of Ross. It is a thought-provoking tale, one that challenges T’Challa himself in his role as king and hero. Because of this, I enjoy how dialogue-based this story is. Priest manages to expertly flesh out the conflict as well as its impact on Ross and Black Panther who do not share the same perspective. Despite this though, are either one of them wrong?

A Past Unseen

The second narrative is entitled “Panther’s Heart” and is written by Don McGregor. The story takes place sometime in an alternate past. It follows Black Panther as he retrieves a heart-shaped herb with great power. He plans on bringing the herb to the final resting place of his former lover, Monica Lynne, who died from cancer. Interestingly though, his retrieval of the herb is not intended to restore her to life. Rather, he is retrieving it to honor her life in death.

Differing from the first story of this issue, “Panther’s Heart” centralizes on a third person narration of T’Challa’s internal struggle. To me, the story reminded me of the works of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in DAREDEVIL: YELLOW and SPIDER-MAN: BLUE. McGregor’s narrative sheds light on a new facet of Black Panther’s character. He is a man in mourning. As a result, he does not necessarily know how to cope. All he can do is honor the legacy Monica has left on his life through a simple act of leaving an herb in her coffin.

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A Future to Be Had

The final story is called “Black to the Future Part II” by Reggie Hudlin. As the title suggests, this tale takes place sometime in an alternate future. It is primarily a retrospective work that looks back on the legacy of Storm and Black Panther as, in this story, they are now elderly. Their journeys as heroes have left behind plenty of good. However, the costs of enacting that much good were high. Of the three works in BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1, I found this particular one to be the weakest. In my opinion, it did not flow as well as the other two works. The exposition of this work came across as a tad forced. Along with this, I would have enjoyed more characterization of an older T’Challa and Storm after years and years of heroism and struggle.

However, it is still a solid, thought-provoking narrative that challenges the definition of a hero.

black panther annual #1
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The Many Hues of BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1

The artwork throughout BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1 is phenomenal. My personal favorite work is in “Back in Black” from artists Mike Perkins and Andy Troy. I love the shadowing throughout the story that emphasizes the darker tone of the narrative. Despite this dark tone, Troy’s coloring is never dull. I also love the panel featuring Black Panther upon the end of the story that is featured above. It is a formidable, immersive image that captures Black Panther’s greatness.

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As a result of the fantastic imagery in “Back in Black,” the artwork of its subsequent tales did not leave as heavy of an impact. Despite this though, there are still some beautiful panels. The opening sequence of “Panther’s Heart” from artist Daniel Acuña is gorgeous as it follows T’Challa’s journey in a cold, icy land. The final panels of that work are also especially poignant since they capture T’Challa’s mourning.

In regard to the final work of the issue, I especially enjoy its vibrancy thanks to artists Ken Lashley and Matt Milla. “Black to the Future Part II” slightly alters the tone present in the first two narratives. It is more vibrant and hopeful so, as a result, the issue ends on a more uplifting tone that encapsulates the overall positive legacy of Black Panther, which the third story emphasizes.

What Lies Beyond

BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1 is a phenomenal comic that is definitely worth reading. Even when you think you know all there is to know about King T’Challa, think again. The three narratives within this issue will depict new aspects of the superhero we thought we knew, and that is a great thing.

Black Panther Annual #1 by Priest, Mike Perkins, Andy Troy, Don McGregor, Daniel Acuña, Reggie Hudlin, Ken Lashley, & Matt Milla
Art
Characterization
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Summary
BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1 is near-perfection to say the least. Its narratives will bring you new revelations regarding our titular hero that will make you fall in love with him even more.
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Phenomenal
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