December 8, 2023
Book Review | Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide - Discover the Hero of Wakanda

Legend, King, Warrior, Hero…Stephen Wiacek’s incredible Marvel guide is the perfect resource to explore the technologically advanced wonderland of Wakanda…

The jungle is only the beginning…

As you take your first steps into the wild, mountainous Jabari-Lands, the tumultuous roar of the carnivorous white gorillas fills your soul with terror. From the mountaintops, the warmth of the sun’s rays warms you whilst revealing the beautiful, savage jungle covered valley below. From the beautiful waterfalls of Warrior Falls to the Great Mound of Mena Ngai, Wakanda is revealed in all its glory. And, glistening beautifully at its centre stands Birnin Zana, The Golden City, the home of the ruling Black Panther, warrior king, head of the Panther Clan, and defender of Wakanda.

From your vantage point atop the icy clifftops, the kingdom of Wakanda appears to be a savage land lost to the winds of time. With its thirteen self-governing tribes, the entire region appears savage, hostile and anarchic, but below the surface stands a technological wonderland, futuristic with its incredible infrastructure and advanced beyond our wildest dreams. Talon Jet Fighters zoom across the sky like birds of prey, whilst the wider populace of civilian traffic fills the air in magnetically powered aircars.

You are about to take your first steps into a larger world…

Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide Review

Black Panther:

With the Black Panther leaping onto our screens this year in his first solo adventure, the appetite for more content is unquenchable. Beyond the motion picture, Black Panther has had a profound influence on our modern culture. At a time when racial prejudice was at its peak and the black community was considered inferior and the subject of hatred, the visionary duo Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, decided to take a stand.

With their incredible Marvel publication as popular as ever, the duo was appalled by the negative stereotypes of the wider community and had taken steps to change opinions via the medium of their immensely lucrative comics. It was a gamble. A venture that could have triggered a profound backlash. But, despite those concerns, intricate characters from the black community began to appear amongst their best-selling issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. The roles were small, but enough to put the black community on the map, onto a worldwide platform where they could be regarded as equals amongst their peers.

Enter the Black Panther.

Black Panther first leapt onto the page in July 1966, in issue #52 of Marvel’s most successful comic book at the time, Fantastic Four and would be the first black superhero to arrive and challenge the racial stereotypes of the era. He made his debut over two concurrent issues and refused to conform to the cliché image of black culture, and challenged the status quo on almost every level making him a champion amongst the community.

Taking his power from a vibranium infused, mythological heart-shaped herb, the Black Panther vowed to defend his kingdom of Wakanda from threats both foreign and domestic. This mandate would see him join the Avengers, battle titans from beyond the stars and even outwit death itself.

Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide:

Taking yourself away from the theatrical version of the character that first appeared in Captain America: Civil War, the legacy of the Black Panther is far grander than the incarnation we have seen on the screen. The historical records of T’Challa and his people are littered with world-changing events, key relationships, and unbearable tragedies that cannot transmit to the medium of the Marvel theatrical universe in its current form, this despite Ryan Coogler’s stunning new motion picture interpretation.

Enter author Stephen Wiacek.

Hearing the call of the Wakandan people, Wiacek has arrived to bridge the gap between the mediums and has composed the most intricately detailed Marvel Comic resource I have ever seen. Aside from the meta aspects of Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide, Wiacek goes beyond the vibranium armoured suit and strips the character to his core revealing the true face of the semi-orphaned boy who would be king. Not only does this book chip away at the fundamental core of the character, but it strips away the shroud of mystery that covers the kingdom of Wakanda, and brings you its majesty in all its profound glory. We are immersed in the extensiveness of Wakandan culture, technology, religion and mythology and peel back the layers of the diversity separating the thirteen tribes of the kingdom.

Key Characters:

During his extensive history, Black Panther has had numerous associations with many of Marvel’s most iconic heroes and villains and Stephen Wiacek goes above and beyond to highlight the very best of them. Aside from him joining the Avengers, T’Challa has had dealings with the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Doctor Doom, Killmonger, Wolverine, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist amongst others, and they have resulted in some earth-shattering ramifications. The cruellest being, a fatal clash with a possessed Iron Fist which resulted in T’Challa suffering a terminal brain tumour, an injury that would go on to influence his every move.

Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide Review

In this guide, Wiacek even emphasises T’Challa’s relationship with a key member of the X-Men, Ororo Munroe, aka Storm. The duo originally met whilst Storm was trekking from Egypt to Central Africa where she encountered a young T’Challa, undertaking the Wakandan rite of ascension into manhood. Despite each Wakandan tribe selecting a potential bride from their community, T’Challa instead chose to marry his childhood flame and claimed the thirteen brides as members of the Dora Milaje, the adored ones. The thirteen candidates would go on to become elite bodyguards and trouble-shooters for the Royal Family. A King’s Guard.

Key Themes:

The theme element of this guide is where this book excels. Wiacek expertly guides us through the maze of Wakanda’s cultural history and peels back the layers of diversity amongst its people. We discover that the Great Mound of Mena Ngai finds its origins from a colossal extra-terrestrial asteroid made up of pure vibranium. The primary property of the ore is the ability to absorb all vibration, from sound waves to kinetic shock, and is mined to enhance weapons and bring great wealth. This fortune allows Wakanda to grow into a technologically advanced wonderland, one that would become the envy of the entire world.

Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide Review

Furthermore, Wiacek reveals the spiritual source of the Black Panther cult which finds its roots in Egyptian mythology. The Goddess Bast, acting as custodian of the teachings of Amun-Ra evades the clutches of the evil Anubis and flees to Africa. Crossing into Wakanda, Bast meets the noble chieftain Bashenga and believes him to be worthy of preserving the holy teachings. The religion sparked the need for a Black Panther, a sacred mantle amongst Wakanda’s people. A defender of the faith, keeper of the peace and protector of the kingdom. The Black Panther dynasty can be traced back throughout the millennia and is usually bestowed upon a regal leader and devout champion of the people.

What Wiacek does brilliantly is bring the reader closer to Wakanda. The book explores each region within the kingdom’s borders and takes us on a geographical journey of some of the most colourful locations in Marvel history. The apartheid-governed Republic of Azania is of particular interest and plays a pivotal role in one of the major storylines to affect T’Challa on a deeply personal level. Being described as the last bastion of white colonial rule in Africa, the region often finds itself at loggerheads with Wakanda on more than just a racial level which makes for exciting reading.

Key Storylines:

Going from strength to strength, and Wiacek takes a closer look at the key storylines from the classic Marvel back catalogue to determine the most pivotal storylines in the character’s history. Giving special to consideration to the storyline “Panther’s Rage” (the inspiration for the motion picture) we are treated to the original reference story for upcoming motion picture villain, Killmonger. His story is one of pure hatred and revenge makes for an iconic Marvel movie villain. Michael B. Jordan is portraying the character in the movie, and his charisma has allowed him to carry the mantle brilliantly. In fact, his performance has ensured us one of the greatest villains to emerge in the Marvel cinematic universe to date.

Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide Review

Final Thoughts:

Being a fan of the Black Panther mythology, I was expecting an ordinary, run of the mill reference book, devoid of anything truly memorable when I opened the cover of Stephen Wiacek’s Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide. But, I was delighted to have my mind well and truly blown. Wiacek, in his tireless devotion, went far beyond the box standard tales of the Black Panther and uncovers information that proves to be essential as we approach the new movie. With the meta aspects cast aside, The Ultimate Guide takes us on the ultimate journey and reveals the regal history of the Black Panther and his proud people.

T’Challa’s legacy is one of pain, tragedy and unapologetic pride for his technologically advanced kingdom of Wakanda. Wiacek digests this rich history and uses it to make an opulent story even richer. He brings you closer to the character than ever before and after reading it, Wakandan history with its Black Panther cult becomes more than just a comic book religion. It becomes tangible and more genuine than most religions being practised today. The vibrancy of Wakanda ensures that the Marvel universe is a far better place with it than without, and it helps to provide a window into our own culture. Its rich history is inherently wonderful and provides a platform where Africa stands shoulder to shoulder with its peers.

Wakanda is a beautiful, vibrant and extraordinary kingdom to visit and with the Ultimate Guide in hand, Wiacek is the perfect guide to steer us through its many highlights…but trespassers beware, Wakanda is defended by King T’Challa, the Black Panther.

Wakanda Forever.

Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide Review

Black Panther: The Ultimate Guide by Stephen Wiacek is published by DK and is available now. © & TM 2018 MARVEL. Used under authorisation.

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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager and Editor of Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter @philthecool where he uses the force frequently!

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