T’Challa, the Black Panther, is a very unique superhero. Much like Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, T’Challa is a hero that breaks the mold of conformity. Not only was he one of the first black superheroes to come into existence in comics, he is also one of the few non-American superheroes out there. One of the things that I find interesting about T’Challa’s story is that he doesn’t hide behind a mask, everyone knows who he is. Now some people would think this would make for a boring hero because there is no conflict in his identity, but to those people I will say you are very wrong. T’Challa is the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda but ultimately sees himself as a scientist. This personal identity struggle is something that is very refreshing in a comic book because even taking away his mask and his powers, there is still a personal struggle that T’Challa is going through. That kind of a personal struggle is a very powerful tool that Ta-Nehisi Coates uses very well throughout his story in “A Nation Under Our Feet”. T’Challa’s struggle between being a king and being a scientist may not seem very relatable on the surface but it boils down to the struggle of leadership vs. self-interest. I feel my connection to this message is much more powerful through T’Challa than Superman (who had the same struggle in All Star Superman) because his being a superhero can be completely removed from the equation while leaving his struggle completely intact.
I also find T’Challa’s growth throughout the story to be extremely encouraging. In All Star Superman, Superman is doing everything in his power to keep the world safe after he is gone but he struggles throughout the story to find a way to bring Superman & Clark Kent to be one. T’Challa, on the other hand, begins to resolve his personas of king and scientist in Vol. 2. In Vol. 1 he meets with his advisers and expresses the need to show his strength and suppress the revolt that is starting to take shape because that is what he believes a king would do. But his scientific nature isn’t so easy to push aside. In Vol. 2, T’Challa is getting intel about the funding behind the revolution and is meeting with dictators to get their opinion how to deal with revolution, but all of that is really just him gathering the data he needs to make an informed decision. His meeting gets exposed to the public but that doesn’t deter him from his plans as he goes on to expose the non-Wakandan faces behind the revolt. A lot of the decisions that T’Challa makes in Vol. 2 are completely contrary to the advice he receives, whether it is from his advisers or the dictators. I think this shows that T’Challa is deliberating on the information he gathers.