WARNING: This article contains mild spoilers for Black Panther #171 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leonard Kirk, in stores now.
Ryan Coogler's Black Panther is still busy making waves in theaters, so it's comes as little surprise that some elements of Marvel's biggest film have already made the jump to comics. Nowadays, it's become quite common to see elements from comic book-based movies and television shows to inspire the current crop of comic books. At both Marvel to DC, from costume changes to new characters to the heroes and villain' personalities, there have been many instances of the movies influencing their source material. Sometimes, this is done in a bid to attain corporate synergy, but other times, it's done purely out of love and admiration.
The latter seems to be the case with the newest issue of Black Panther, #171. When the Black Panther film went into production, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates' run on the Black Panther comic title was only just beginning. Even so, the series was so unique and forward in its approach to the character's world and mythology that a few issues managed to inspire Ryan Coogler's film. Now, things are coming full circle, with Coates and Kirk paying homage to the successful movie in their latest issue of Black Panther.
While it would have been easy to simply emulate the large scope of the film, Coates doesn't opt to mirror the Wakanda audiences has discovered. Instead, he continues to write the story he's always been telling, that of a nation that is evolving, and of a King trying to allow his people, and his home, to flourish.
But on the opening page of the latest issue, fans of the movie recognize a familiar character: Okoye, who is played by Danai Gurira in the film. While Okoye originated in writer Christopher Priest's Black Panther run in the 1990s, she hasn't made an appearance in a very long time -- that is, until Black Panther #171. What's more, Okoye's look has drastically changed; no longer is she a long-haired femme fatale. Now, she looks exactly as she did in the film, with a shaven, tattooed head.
And that's not where the movie influences stop. Later in the comic, after rescuing one member of his Dora Milaje, King T'Challa is given the cross-armed "Wakanda Forever" salute made famous by Coogler's film, something that has already become a signature of sorts for Black Panther, and Wakanda in general, in the pop-culture zeitgeist. While this salute had not been made in the comics before, the fact that it is adapted here on the comic book page speaks volumes about the iconic status of the gesture, as well as the impact of the film in general.
However, the words "Wakanda Forever" are not used in the book -- it seems that even Coates recognizes that this battle cry belongs to the film. Instead, the writer opted to use a "Hail Wakanda!" which could very well become a staple of the book. Still, the use of the cross-armed salute is a beautiful nod to a popular film that is sending shock waves on a worldwide stage.
Considering the incredible critical reception of the film, we wouldn't be surprised if the movie continues to inspire the comic book in the months to come.