Living in a pretty small, remote town, we make certain to take the kids (yeah…the kids) to a comic book store whenever we are in a bigger city. I walked in to one this winter, and all packaged up just like they knew I was coming, there were the six issues in the limited run World of Wakanda comic series.
It hit all the right buttons: Black Panther, so hot right now! Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey, interesting feminist thinker and poet, first two black women to write for Marvel! Female artists, I like it! Dora Milaje focused, representation is dear to my heart!
While I love graphic novels in general and am fairly familiar with the MCU in general, I always seem to struggle a bit with individual comic books, perhaps more specifically the superhero ones. They are too interrelated for me to really get into – even this limited run series includes characters and references I just didn’t get – the Midnight Angels, Zenzi, White Tiger, the troubles in Wakanda. I know there is a depth of story here that is just beyond me, because I don’t really have the time or the inclination to get into all the cross references. It’s frustrating and likely my own fault, but I always feel like I am starting in the middle and am missing half the story when I start reading these. World of Wakanda is no exception to this general experience but I knew it that would happen going in, which helped in guiding my expectations in reading this series.
The art here is lovely, Afua Anderson creating a world of rich colour and movement. I am always reminded of how the Frozen animators couldn’t seem to find distinctive face shapes for all the female characters; this is not a problem that Anderson seems to have (or Fiona Stapes in Saga, for that matter). Each character here is distinctive with their faces emotive and clearly drawn.
This series focuses on some of the background characters in the Black Panther world, showing us glimpses of T’Challa, Shuri and Queen Ramonda, but focusing primarily on a few members of the Dora Milaje. We see a bit about how members are recruited and trained and what their role is in Wakanda society, but I didn’t find that this was primarily an adventure series. Much like the best of the MCU movies (Black Panther, Captain America, GotG), this was a book that used the adventure and conflict as a way to explore tenderness and trust. The two main characters here are Ayo and Aneka, bright Dora Milaje talents who fall in love and struggle to find their place in both their relationship and in the wider world around them, as well as that of the Dora Milaje. The story is compelling – it moves quickly and logically, it is not overly simplistic, and I was very interested in the characters and how they changed over 5 short issues.
I found the language in the first 5 (the sixth having different writers and storyline) quite spare and lyrical, which I imagine is the influence of poet Harvey. The story moved along quickly, and the characters were positioned nicely for a complex conflict with a new villain, but I understand the series has been cancelled. I have read online that the cancellation is linked to Marvel’s thoughts that diversity doesn’t sell; I am not sure if that is the case or not, but it is disappointing to have these new voices and different characters not have a chance to flourish in this interesting new series.