For decades, Marvel's Black Panther has largely spent his time on Earth, and much of that time in his home country of Wakanda. In recent years, however, the character has taken on a bigger role in Marvel's cosmic events; he was part of the New Avengers during Thanos' invasion in Infinity, and was a member of the Illuminati and aided in their efforts to stop Dr. Doom's control of the multiverse in Secret Wars. Then, he personally aided in dealing with lingering cosmic threats, and found himself caught up in a war that decided the fate of all realities.
For his next act of cosmic greatness, the King of Wakanda is taking his people to the stars with the first story arc of his rebooted solo comic beginning in May.
Written again by Ta-Nehisi Coates and this time drawn by Daniel Acuña, the book will focus on the building of the Intergalactic Empire of Wakandan. As T'Challa says, that rocket will "drag mankind to the stars on the back of Wakandan science." Last year with the Marvel Legacy one-shot, we finally got to see the fruits of Wakanda's labor in the form of the planet Bast, thriving in Wakandan glory.
As this book opens, readers and T'Challa will both learn about the Wakandan Empire that has made a foothold in the galaxy of another universe. The Black Panther's homeland expanding its reach into space has always been something of a natural eventuality. After all, if they're a secretive nation with advanced technology ahead of modern civilization, why wouldn't they expand their greatness as the rest of the human race is just making eyes at the moon? Taking the Black Panther to space allows for Coates to present his own spin on science fiction and space opera adventures, and it's a spin the genre sorely needs.
Sci-fi as a genre has been around for decades, but it's also largely been overly white. That's both a criticism and a cold, hard fact of the matter; the majority of famous sci-fi properties such as Star Wars, Mass Effect and Blade Runner have all had white creators behind the wheel. As a result, a lot of subsequent works can't help but feel like they're copying off each other. Star Wars in particular has had nothing but white men driving its films and TV shows, and the lack of diversity on that creative front is showing.
That isn't to say there's a complete lack of sci-fi stories told by POC creators, as Nnedi Okoafor and Octavia Butler's books have shown us, but on the whole, space opera stories have by and large come from the same well of creators with the same beats that all entails. Having diverse voices is important; as Marvel Studios has learned, having people of color at the hands of a story can be what makes a difference between having an M'Baku and having an Ancient One.