WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Rise of the Black Panther #1 by Evan Narcisse, Paul Renaud and Ta-Nehisi Coates, in stores now.
Writer Ta-Nehis Coates has been spearheading Marvel Comics’ Black Panther for the past couple of years. With a strong blend of politics, superheroics and defining culture, the series (as well as its off-shoots Black Panther and the Crew and World of Wakanda) has elevated the character and his surrounding universe to a status it has never held before. Coates’ Wakanda feels like such a real place, a nation with its own set of beliefs and practices — and never before have the threats of political upheavals been so grounded in reality.
Having woven a broad tapestry of present and future, the writer is now set to revisit the early days of Wakanda in Rise of the Black Panther. Coates serves as a creative consultant on the series, which tells the origins of Black Panther, with Evan Narcisse on writing duties. And already, in the first issue of the miniseries, it’s obvious that this is no simple retelling of T’Challa’s early days. This is a story that dives into the past, even as it looks to the future.
Issue #1 focuses much of its page count on the story of T’Challa’s father, King T’Chaka. We see his early days as the King of Wakanda, a nation that has not yet fully tapped into the potential of the Vibranium it possesses. The young King has no Queen, but he is deeply in love with N’Yami, a scientist who will one day come to bear his son. As the young couple struggle to find their place in a country on the verge of a possible major shift, they ponder the potential of Vibranium — and the future of their nation.
In doing so, we learn Wakanda is on the cusp of sending rockets out into the cosmos, part of a classified project, according to T’Chaka. This revelation is a direct connection to Marvel Legacy #1, the colossal one-shot by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic that relaunched Marvel’s entire line of titles last September. The comic set up many pieces for the future of the Marvel Universe, including one very intriguing page that presented a Wakandan colony thriving in outer space, on the planet Bast, in the Benhazin star system. This colony clearly appeared to have been established for a very long time, yet it was flying the ancestral flag of Wakanda.
We first thought that we had witnessed Wakanda’s first space launch at the end of Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic’s Secret Wars in 2015, but now it appears as it the African nation has been looking up to the stars for much longer than we believed. Thanks to Rise of the Black Panther, we now know that Wakandan rockets were secretly launched into space before T’Challa was ever born, which would help clarify why the Bast colony is so vast and advanced.
Thanks to Vibranium’s special properties, these rockets were never detected by the other nations of the world, which means Wakanda could have sent any number of ships to the stars. At the end of Secret Wars, T’Challa dubbed the launch the first of its kind, which could indicate that even the current King of Wakanda has no idea that his brethren is thriving throughout the cosmos. Surely, he will find out soon enough.
It was confirmed by Jason Aaron that the idea of having Wakanda already established in outer space in the present day was Ta-Nehisi Coates’ idea, and with the writer firmly involved in Rise of the Black Panther, it sure looks like his grand plans are slowly taking shape — and there is no telling how far they will reach.