Following the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel Universe, the heroes desperately need a proactive intelligence agency to fill in the void for reconnaissance, research and first-response team to combat threats before solo heroes and organizations like the Avengers can react. Fortunately, current Avengers leader Black Panther has stepped up to create his own support system in the new ongoing series Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda by Jim Zub and Lan Medina.
Featuring an eclectic collection of Marvel Universe superheroes including Man-Wolf, Gorilla Man, Broo, Ka-Zar, Fat Cobra, Wasp, Okoye, former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Roz Solomon and -- of course -- Black Panther himself, the ensemble series certainly has one of the more offbeat rosters in recent memory. The opening issue sees the characters carry out their pledge to be the first line of Earth's defense and explores the already volatile intra-team dynamics between the various figures as they investigate strange goings on in a small town in Oklahoma, which leads to an inevitable super-powered brawl against a new threat.
Zub is no stranger to writing various ensemble stories across the Marvel Universe, having previously penned the recently concluded Champions and co-written both of the acclaimed weekly Avengers stories "No Surrender" and No Road Home. Here, Zub is juggling a more varied group of personalities and is clearly having a blast doing it. Fortunately for the readers, that sense of fun is contagious as the story progresses and various team members are introduced and begin to play off one another. While Black Panther and Okoye's expected steely resolve and tactical prowess are on full display, Fat Cobra, in particular, steals the show, with Zub tackling the mystic martial artist especially with a sense of escapist, self-aware glee.
And despite introducing the lineup across the debut issue, Zub wastes no time in hitting the ground running, opening the series with a chase sequence and gunfight before laying out the book's mission statement. As with any team book, there are a lot of moving pieces and extensive, individual backstories at play, but Zub makes this opening issue accessible to those who have never read a Black Panther or Avengers comic; this is a book that is an extension and celebration of the Marvel Universe without being constrained and beholden to it at the same time.
Lan Medina, joined by color artist Marcio Menyz, brings each of the characters to visual life, with the art appearing as a natural extension of Ed McGuinness' current work on the main Avengers ongoing series; fitting given the new organization is formed as a support system for it. That said, Medina's work certainly stands all on its own, with its clean-lined style, Menyz's vibrant use of color, and environments and creatures as varied and distinct as the off-kilter members of the eponymous team. And in the action sequences that bookend this first issue especially, Medina's artwork really comes to life, with kinetic energy that elevates the experience.
Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda serves more as an extension of Jason Aaron's current run on the Avengers than Ta-Nehisi Coates' current run on Black Panther. Having said that, the new series operates just as well as its own standalone series despite sharing the same leader in T'Challa and escapist sensibilities as the other ongoing series. With one of the most offbeat, eclectic casts in a Marvel team book ever, Jim Zub and Lan Medina's opening issue is a stark reminder that superhero comics can and should be fun as it embraces the zanier side of the Marvel Universe while balancing its inspired roster.