To say Ta-Nehisi Coates went off on the Black Panther comics for the last five years would be an understatement. In his time with the character, Coates crafted a loving, thoughtful, and consistently exhilarating addition to the Black Panther mythos. When it was announced his run would be wrapping up this year, the first thought in my head was “Well, who the hell is going to follow that?!” Little did I know, the answer would be far more exciting that I would’ve guessed.
The New York Times reports that the series will relaunch in August with John Ridley as the writer and Juann Cabal as the artist. Ridley is the man behind such shows as American Crime, the documentary Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982–1992, and he’s the Oscar winning writer behind 12 Years A Slave. In addition to killing it in film and tv, the man is also no stranger to the comics game.
He currently has two ongoing series with DC, with the first being The Other History of the DC Universe, a thought-provoking retelling of DC Comics history from the point of view of the underrepresented non-white and queer characters in the DC roster. His other book, The Next Batman: Second Son, follows Tim “Jace” Fox as he slowly arrives at his destiny to become Gotham’s next caped crusader.
Given his recent run at DC, it was a delightful surprise to learn that Ridley was not only making the jump to Marvel, but taking on Black Panther no less.
“First of all, Black Panther is just a great character in and of himself,” Ridley told the Times. “But being a young Black kid growing up, every time you saw a hero that looked like you, even if their background didn’t reflect my lived experience, it was just something that made you feel closer to the wish fulfillment that is intrinsic in graphic novel writing.”
The story will open with T’Challa answering a distress call from an operative of Wakanda. Ridley described his approach to the Times as “a hybrid espionage-superhero thriller, but at its core, it’s a love story.”
“And I don’t mean just romantic love, although there’s some of that as well. It’s love between friends,” he added. Ridley said that reflecting upon his relationships with his close childhood friends “and the ways that we ran together and how our lives changed over time,” informed his take on the series.
He also cited the events of the last year and the widespread protests against systemic racism and police brutality as being something he also wanted the series to reflect on.
“We’re coming out of a summer where we saw Black people fighting for our rights, standing up, fighting in ways that we haven’t had to do in years,” he said. “And it was really important to me after the year we had where we can have these conversations with Black people and we can use words like love and caring and hope and regret and all these really fundamental emotions that everybody has.”
I, for one, am looking forward to seeing just what Ridley has in store for T’Challa and the world of Wakanda.