Spider-Man stole the spotlight in the latest trailer for Captain America: Civil War, but the next big Marvel film will also feature the debut of Chadwick Boseman’s version of Black Panther. King of the fictional, hyper-advanced African kingdom of Wakanda, the Black Panther (real name T’Challa) was the first mainstream black superhero when he debuted in 1966. Now, the king is celebrating his 50th birthday in style, with both a feature film debut and a revitalized comic book, written by National Book Award winner and MacArthur Genius grant recipient Ta-Nehisi Coates and drawn by comics veteran Brian Stelfreeze.
The pages below are an excerpt from Coates’ and Stelfreeze’s Black Panther #1, which hits stands April 6. The new storyline will feature T’Challa, shaken by the traumatic events of Marvel’s recent Secret Wars storyline, now dealing with rebellion from within Wakanda.
“For centuries, Wakanda has been sending would-be conquerors home in body bags. Now, it is about to face its biggest threat — and it comes from within,” Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Axel Alonso said in a statement. “Under Ta-Nehisi’s unflinching gaze, the Black Panther will grapple with a threat that can’t simply be beaten into submission, one that raises questions about life, liberty and honor that are especially relevant today.”
Coates’ bestselling Between the World and Me was EW’s #1 book of 2015. Written as an open letter to his son, that book centered around one main question: “how do I live free in this black body?” Coates has said that his Black Panther comic will draw from real history as much as Marvel’s own decades-long continuity in order to answer its own central question.
“Can a good man be a king, and would an advanced society tolerate a monarch?” Coates said to The Atlantic. “Research is crucial in both cases. The Black Panther I offer pulls from the archives of Marvel and the character’s own long history. But it also pulls from the very real history of society—from the pre-colonial era of Africa, the peasant rebellions that wracked Europe toward the end of the Middle Ages, the American Civil War, the Arab Spring, and the rise of ISIS.”
Check out pages from Black Panther #1 below, along with some variant covers (including a play on Jay-Z’s The Black Album, in the style of Marvel’s recent run of hip-hop homages and a reference to the character’s original appearance in the pages of Fantastic Four).