The Black Panther has quickly become one of the most recognizable names in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thanks to the 2018 Marvel Studios Black Panther by director Ryan Coogler, starring the late Chadwick Boseman, there isn’t a single fan who doesn’t know the King of Wakanda. Of course, Black Panther has been around for much longer. Created Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, T’Challa first debuted in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966.
For fans looking to learn more about King T’Challa the Black Panther and the African Nation of Wakanda, the best place is to go straight to the source. But the world of comics is dense and it can be a challenge figuring out exactly where to start. There are some stories that serve as a good jumping-in point compared to others. Here are three solid Black Panther series that serve as great introductions to the character and his world.
All three of the following comics can be found on Marvel Unlimited.
This run of the Black Panther started in 1998 and went 60+ issues into 2003. Written by Christopher Priest with art by Mark Texeira, it was the Black Panther’s first regular series. The first arc “The Client” sees T’Challa visiting the United States to investigate a scandal surrounding the murder of a child connected to the Tomorrow Fund, which was set up by T’Challa and Wakanda.
The story has various twists and turns as civil unrest plagues the borders of Wakanda. This arc is mostly told through the lens of Everett K Ross (played by Martin Freeman in the movie). It can be a bit dense and the story has a lot of time cuts. It’s very Quinten Tarantino (which one character makes a joke about) in how the story jumps all over the place.
Overall, it’s a decent start for the Black Panther as you learn about who he is, what he’s capable of, and how he solves his problem. The art is reminiscent of Spawn and Blade and also takes a lot of inspiration from Batman. So, if you’re a fan of any of those comics you might find some instant familiarity with this run of Black Panther.
In 2005, T’Challa got a reboot in “Who is the Black Panther” written by Reginald Hudlin and illustrated by John Romita Jr. The first arc of this 2005-2008 series was a retelling of the origins of the Panther. In this story, T’Challa takes up the mantle of the Black Panther from his uncle. The story jumps back and forth between T’Challa and the reoccurring antagonist, Ulysses Klaw, who is out for revenge.
This is coupled with a neighboring country wanting to invade Wakanda for its own benefits and working with Klaw. The Black Knight also makes guest appearances along with Radioactive Man and Rhino. Princess Shuri also sees a bit of action in this first arc and it all pays off with a great confrontation between T’Challa and Klaw.
This is an excellent point for new readers to jump into as it comes with no extra baggage usually associated with superhero comics. It’s a straightforward “Good Guy v Bad Guy” set-up which immediately lays out the stakes for both sides.
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates with art by Brian Stelfreeze, this run of the Black Panther ups the stakes considerably compared to the last two. The story takes place in Wakanda where civil strife is plaguing the nation. Uprisings are beginning to brew, there are those within who are working against T’Challa. Even two members of the Dora Milaje steal prototype armor and defy orders of the King to do what they believe is right.
T’Challa wants to protect his people, but those working against him are attempting to turn the people against him. The antagonists view the current ruling by a single man as wrong and believe it’s leading to the turmoil and strife within Wakanda. Coates does such an amazing job of writing both sides that as a reader, you can’t help but understand everyone’s point of view.
The only downside to this series as a starting point for new readers is that it does rely on some previous knowledge of stories that precede it. It doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the story, but there is a reference to Thanos and his Black Order and Shuri is ‘dead’ though on her own journey in the afterlife, ultimately setting up a return for her character.
Want to Know More?
If you’d like to know more, Robbie Landis and Marvel Alumni Ben Morse talked about all three of these arcs on an episode of The Other Identity. The Other Identity is CheckpointXP’s podcast dedicated to all things comics. They focus mainly on DC and Marvel Comics, exploring how they have impacted pop culture. From the pages themselves to the small and silver screen.
Subscribe to the feed and download now to learn exactly what Robbie and Ben thought of these three amazing arcs of Black Panther. Ben also takes us through Black Panther 101, explaining more about his origins and one of his oldest enemies, Erik Killmonger. Killmonger was played by Michael B Jordan in the film but has come a long way since his introduction in Jungle Action #6 in 1973.