Pullbox Reviews: Black Panther & the Agents of Wakanda Plumb the Dark Reaches of the Marvel Universe

Writer:             Jim Zub

Artist:              Lan Medina

Colorist:          Marcio Menyz

Letterer:         Joe Sabino

Publisher:       Marvel Comics

Price:              $3.99

Available:      Now!  Get thee to thine comic store, fool!!!

Fair warning and full disclosure on this one:  I will admit to a complete and utter fanboy mancrush on Jim Zub originating when a several years younger me took in the first few pages of Skullkickers #1 lo, these way-too-may moons ago.  He is one of perhaps five writers alive in any medium (along with Neil Gaiman, Terry Moore, Christopher More—no relation—and Gail Simone) whose work I would read without question, dropping whatever I happened to be doing at the time (thankfully, I am not an airline pilot).  Seriously, I would read this man’s grocery list, and likely give it a 5-star review.  Out of 4.  He’s that good.

Had to put that out there.

Now, that having been said, Black Panther & the Agents of Wakanda is an outstanding book, and one of the reasons I can justify continuing to have faith in Marvel Comics as something other than the best movie studio in existence today (screw you, Ridley Scott!).  Zub’s concept for this series plumbs the vasty richness of the Marvel Universe, seeking its dark, dusty and untended corners, while remaining fresh, new and accessible to even the casual fan.

Think of the Avengers, populated with the off-beat, interesting and fun characters you never thought you’d see again, and with story lines that suggested themselves back, oh, around 1977 (and intermittently before and after), but never seemed to get fleshed out.  Think of deceptively simple, two-book story arcs, full enough to satisfy the most ravenous reader but not so much a slog that you have to read six issues to achieve any climax.  Think of a truly well-integrated, ethnically rich cast which doesn’t beat you over the head insisting how ethnically rich it is.  And then, think of all of that, drawn into life by one of the more talented comic artists active today, with color to match.

Think that, and you’ll still be underselling Agents of Wakanda.

In issue one, we join a portion of the crew in media res: Wasp and Man-Wolf (yes, JJJIII!) are taking down a group of tech thieves, and while they’re successful, cracks are already forming in the nacent sub-Avengers unit (“That is our duty as Agents of Wakanda: to gather intel for the Avengers, but also to deal with immediate hazards the Avengers cannot”) that T’Challa has assembled.  The group is new—at least in terms of their work with each other—and there are issues to address, teamwork to develop.  Before they can address any of that, however, they’re off to this arc’s real mission…which they may or may not be ready for.

Ok, rather than spoil the fun for you long-time Marvelites, I’ll let you introduce yourself to the Agents.  Just know they come from all over the Marvel universe, a bit of a who’s who of “hey, I wonder what happened to that guy?” which is exactly how series writer, Jim Zub intended it:

“Deep cuts to weird and wonderful Marvel stories of old, bringing back strange concepts and re-framing them or tying them in with new elements. Again though, we explain what all this stuff is so new readers won’t get lost, but old school fans should find a lot to love here.”

He’s not wrong.  I’ll own that I haven’t read that much of Marvel in a few years, tending toward the independents, but this book, even with just some brief cameos of future cast members and the fast-moving action of this story, bring me right back to why I loved the Marvel books as a kid.  Fun, fun stuff.

And did I mention the art?  Again, Zub describes it himself—Medina treads the line between classic and modern, capitalizing on the best of both.  Not so modernized as to be overproduced or taking away from the story, not so classical as to be hokey or hackneyed.  In the words of that little girl and her porridge: just right.  I particularly enjoy his manipulation of texture and flow.  Trust me—look at the thing, and you’ll get what I mean.  And Menyz’s colors, especially his shading and use of light, enhance the whole thing to a whole ‘nother level.

Zub’s plan with Agents is to present two-issue stories, each featuring different subgroups of the team for a given assignment.  It’s a fun twist on the Marvel Team-Up concept that should allow, as bonds form (and others don’t—looking at you, Janet and JJJIII!) for some interesting meta-stories to develop, and for plenty of space to explore some of the old concepts and characters Zub references. 

I, for one, can’t wait to see how it all pans out.

Black Panther & the Agents of Wakanda, Issue 1 is available now in print via your local comic store, or online via the Marvel app or Comixology.  Go forth, and enjoy!

Review by Andy Patch, thePullbox.com

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