Black Panther #1 came out last Wednesday and to be honest, it was a fabulous start. Black Panther coming out of Marvel’s pre-Secret Wars shenanigans is on display in the detailed art and well-crafted and nicely paced script. Wakanda and its people feel real. I’m ready to see how this run continues to develop. Most reviews I have come across agree that this is a solid start for this new volume of Black Panther.
Black Panther is a character I’ve become enamored with more as an adult reader. T’Challa was always the ideal strong black superhero: a leader willing to sacrifice everything for his people but also able to adapt to new ways of thinking. As I grow older, wiser and gayer; these traits appeal to me more and more. And it is because of the latter quality that I’m now all in for this series.
I expected Black Panther to interest me as a black reader of comic books. What I didn’t expect was for this book to appeal to me as a queer reader. In this first issue, readers are reintroduced to T’Challa and his supporting cast of family and Wakandans. Among this supporting cast are the Dora Milaje, “adored ones,” who are the all-women personal bodyguards of the reigning Black Panther. In a twist of events, this run is focusing on two current Milaje as lovers. This conflicts with their ceremonial role as potential wives-in-training. Will we see them come out and renounce their role as Dora Milaje as defined by tradition? At this point, it seems that they are embracing their duty as protectors of Wakanda and denouncing the current regime. They have decided that they need to take back Wakanda through revolution. As some of the fiercest warriors in the Marvel universe, having taken on Black Widow and Storm in combat, they are definitely a viable threat. I was instantly intrigued by the conflict with Wakandan tradition that this relationship introduces, not just as a queer relationship in a potentially queerphobic society--we don’t actually know Wakandans’ perception of homosexuality yet--but as a relationship that violates a specific role within Wakandan culture. As this series continues, I’m going to review the LGBT plotline and focus on how well the creative team is able to keep these characters sympathetic, badass and relevant to the future structure of society in Wakanda.
This has led me to consider other potentially LGBT characters that could be used in this series going forward along with brand-new characters this creative team may already be planning on revealing.
Bull from Infinity: The Hunt (2013)
A student from The Wakandan School for Alternative Studies. Bull has a one sided rivalry with fellow student Blocks. The character’s need to be the alpha male reads like overcompensation. If Wakanda shows any stigma against homosexuality, this would be a perfect way of showing a younger character internalizing that in a way that can be all too real.
To be honest, I’m hoping that Striker’s interest in Bull is accurate gaydar at work.
Kymera from X-Men: Battle of the Atom & X-Men
This is where wishful thinking really comes into play. A boy can dream…
Kymera is the future daughter of Storm and Black Panther (probably). From the moment, she appeared in my X-Men I was enamored with her existence and wanted to know more. Writers haven’t really attempted to fill in the gaps in her history and relationship just yet, but she gives me the strongest Rachel Summers vibe, down to the haircut (which is fierce and traditionally butch coded) and mommy issues. I would love nothing more than to see Kymera interact with T’Challa and for her to come out as a fully queer Rachel for the 21st century.
This issue has me craving for more Wakanda. More Wakanda as a fully developed nation. More reveals to its layers of history. And more people with different ideas and concerns. I’m going to continue to follow the LGBT characters and plot. Fingers crossed that readers will get a full picture of the Wakandan stance on it’s queer community.