Black Panther’s Cosmic Empire Has Redefined T'Challa, M'Baku & Nakia

The following contains spoilers for Black Panther #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuña, on sale now. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates has been writing Black Panther for two years now. In that time, he's wildly changed multiple facets of the character's history, from his bodyguards the Dora Milaje to the Wakandan gods and origins. As part of Marvel's Fresh Start initiative for the summer, Coates and new artist Daniel Acuña take the King of Wakanda to a new level entirely: a sci-fi space opera.

Wakandan's intergalactic exploits have been built up for years, beginning with the closing pages of 2015's Secret Wars. Following that, the Empire was shown thriving during the pages of Marvel Legacy, and the Rise of the Black Panther miniseries has shown that traveling to space isn't something T'Challa just thought of. His parents T'Chaka and N'Yami dreamt of making it a reality for years, but their separate deaths both put their ambitious project on hold.

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After spending so long being built up as a bold new direction for the Panther's corner of the Marvel universe, it definitely makes good on that promise right away. The book's opening pages make it clear that the Empire is much different than what we were expecting: it didn't even originate in the galaxy of the prime Marvel Universe. In a galaxy with a Wakanda of its own, a group of Wakandans thousands of years ago settled a colony on the cosmos' outer edges. Not exactly comfortable with being the victim, they decided to take their nation's ideals of self-defense to the extreme by conquering any and all potential threats. Run by the Imperials, who claim to be descendants of the Empire's founders and led by Emperor N'Jadaka, the Intergalactic Wakandan Empire's conquered five galaxies and doesn't look to be stopping any time soon.

Thankfully, there is one man who can stop them, even if he doesn't fully know it yet. In the first issue of Black Panther's new journey, T'Challa fonds himself on the planet of Goree as one of a number of slave miners that harvest the planet's Vibranium. With no memory of his name, where he is, or how he even arrived there -- save for brief memories of his ex-wife Ororo (aka the X-Man Storm) telling him to "come back home" -- the king of Wakanda quickly makes a name for himself when he beats down multiple guards and tries to escape. Though unsuccessful, what he does wind up doing is drawing the attention of an intergalactic group of rebels known as the Maroons. Donned in black armor with helmets stylized after Black Panther's mask, the Maroon forces attack the mine to rescue T'Challa, with none other than Nakia and M'Baku leading the charge. Anyone who loved the latter's entrance in the final act of the Black Panther movie will love how he pops in during this rescue mission.

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The Maroon successfully free the miners and rescue T'Challa, and he's taken to their ship the Mackandal to meet their Commander: his mother, N'Yami. Although, not really; rather than being a human, she's an alien who was once a slave in the mines as well. Impressed with his one-man uprising, N'Yami grants him the name T'Challa -- after a man who was "born a king and died a hero" -- and recruits him into the Maroons.

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