Superhero comics have struggled with race from the beginning of the medium, both in the pages and behind the scenes. But Black Panther And The Crew, with its second issue out today from Marvel, is unique in that Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey seek not only to balance this with Marvel’s heroes, but to create an explanation for why, if there’s been so much racial injustice, superheroes haven’t done more about it.
The book follows Storm and Misty Knight as they try to unravel the death of Harlem activist (and former vigilante) Ezra, and keep running into attempts to kill them for their trouble. And that, in of itself, is a fun, tightly written thriller. But just as important are the ways Coates and Harvey put Black Panther, in particular, into actual history to explain why the hell he wasn’t punching out cops at Selma. The book opens not with a thrilling action sequence but a flashback to the Bandung Conference, and the revelation Black Panthers have been falling afoul of Avengers for much longer than we suspected.
Butch Guice, on pencils, and Scott Hanna, on inks with Mack Chater assisting on both jobs, deliver a careful, clean book. While they’ve got plenty of action sequences and elaborate lairs to draw, they take more care to emphasize the reality of the setting. Whether you can really incorporate real social problems into superhero comics and have it work remains to be seen, perhaps, but this is a bold effort to pull it off.