Rise of the Black Panther Redefines T'Challa's Powers & Tackles Toxic Masculinity


The following contains full spoilers for the second issue of Rise of the Black Panther by Evan Narcisse, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Javier Pina, and Stephanie Paitreau. 

Each issue of Marvel Comics' Rise of the Black Panther is meant to reveal something of T'Challa's early days as the King of Wakanda. The first issue delved into the relationship between his parents, T'Chaka and N'Yami, and how her genius is responsible for the recent advancements in Wakandan technology. Without her, Wakanda wouldn't have been able to travel to space and establish the future settlements that we saw in Marvel Legacy. With this series' second issue, more information is revealed about T'Challa's powers, and they help him get past the powerful influence of toxic masculinity as a result.

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Years ago, T'Challa participated in Wakanda's yearly Challenge Day for the right to rule the throne. Having defeated his uncle S'yan -- who held the title of king following T'Chaka's death years earlier -- T'Challa earns the power of the Black Panther, which is derived from the nation's powerful Heart-Shaped Herb. First appearing in Fantastic Four #52, the Herb is a plant mutated by the energies of Vibranium that grants those in the Royal bloodline enhanced senses and agility akin to that of an actual Panther. That part has always been known, but what's only been known to a select few is that the Herb also binds those who ingest it to the energies of Vibranium. Meaning, they can detect it wherever it is, which is how T'Challa knows that a group of men are planning to leave the nation and sell what Vibranium they had to outsiders.

How does toxic masculinity fit into this? The classic attributes of it are all based in anger in pride -- failing to ask for help, concerned with power over humility, and so on. In this issue, T'Challa learns that Wakandans have been taken by mysterious kidnappers, an issue that has been going on for over a decade. During his time as king, S'yan had the Hatut Zeraze -- the secret police of Wakanda -- look into the kidnappings discreetly. At one point, their leader Hunter threw out the idea of informing the people of these kidnappings, but S'yan shot it down immediately, believing that it showed the weakness of the throne. This is a secret he kept not just from T'Challa and Shuri, who were young at the time, but also Queen Ramonda, and it's something she's not too happy about.

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In this issue, S'yan represents toxic masculinity's thinking that you should always display power, never weakness. Along with lying to his family about the kidnappings, he chastises T'Challa for not killing the traitors who planned to sell off Vibranium, trying to goad him by bringing up what T'Chaka did during his rule. And the idea of opening the country up to outsiders does not sit well with S'yan, who declares that the nation had no reason to be afraid when he was king. To him, Wakanda probably would've just remained in secrecy if the Fantastic Four couldn't beat Galactus in time. He's all about power, as made clear in the flashback where he fights with a trainer and demands that he never wants to be caught off guard by an enemy he'll have to face.

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