Some have said that a king without his sword is unable to rule. The sword is all. It shows that he has the mastery to judge a situation and act accordingly. But what happens when a king no longer understands the needs of his people, and in essence loses his ability to wield his sword as an instrument of right? T’Challa is faced with the worst dilemma of his mantle as the leader of the Wakandans, how to reunite a country when its inhabitants see you as the problem.
In issue two of “Black Panther” T’Challa hunts down the woman responsible for a riot. It is not the resolution he was expecting. What has happened to one of the smartest men in the Marvel universe? For someone with the perception of one of the most dangerous cats on the planet you would think he wouldn’t be so shortsighted. It’s because in this world the enemy is constantly within. Skrulls, Killmonger, there are easily defeated, but when the struggle is the face you see in the mirror things never go well. Ta-Nehisi Coates has brought the Black Panther to a place where he’s fighting seemingly meaningful battles. Everything looks important.
However, the reality is that T’Challa has forgotten who he is, not just a ruler, but a man.
He has lost the ability to empathize with the countrymen who’ve had to deal with the fallout of a Thanos. The country needs a fellow Wakandan and not a savior. Cities need to be rebuilt, people need to be protected and there needs to be more talk and less blind action, at the very least there should be a plan. Still this fictional narrative rings true. T’Challa is attempting to act on the things he can control. He can’t save his sister, but he can punch. He refuses to grieve and instead of dealing with the actuality of his sister not returning to the land of the living, he lashes out at those who he believes are tearing his country apart. He’s right of course, there are players who are manipulating the chaos. And as a reader you still don’t have a clue if T’Challa is so far ahead of everyone else that he’s already in recapping mode.
A counterpoint to T’Challa’s behavior are his previous royal guards now known as the Midnight Angels. Ayo and Aneeka are winning back the heart of Wakanda, its women by freeing them from marauding bandits. Together they are doing what their government won’t do. And they actually have a working plan. Alongside this parallel storyline is Tetu who has aligned himself with those who are taking advantage of the power vacuum. Everyone is trying to save Wakanda, but at what cost?
The cover shows two children, a boy and girl holding hands watching the downfall of Black Panther and a Wakanda that’s on fire. Is this a sign of hope, or a vision of the end? For T’Challa you believe that he will get out of his fugue state and become focused on the real enemy. Hopefully it won’t be too late.