Black Panther (2016) #12 is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s best issue yet, wrapping up a great story and giving hope for the coming stories. Brian Stelfreeze brings immense talent to the table, as usual, leaving little to be desired.
The character development in this issue is superb. Although the series is titled “Black Panther,” the supporting characters are just as important as the title character. T’Challa and Aneka, characters who served in previous issues as both protagonists and antagonists depending on the perspective, recognize their faults and come to a common ground. In previous issues, Aneka’s internal struggle was displayed but in this issue, T’Challa finally opens up to himself and his allies. Seeing the Panther King so vulnerable and unsure of himself is humbling and powerful. Seeing Changamire after reaching a state of internal equilibrium is satisfying, knowing the wise man is at peace with his conscience after feeling guilt when he recognized his inspiring of Tetu and Zenzi.
Dialogue is what Ta-Nehisi Coates does best and this issue is no exception. The points characters bring up are valid and powerful, displaying a cast of men and women who feel real. There is no black and white in this story, no good or evil.
The opening scene is a discussion with an emotional and dynamic feel that can be hard to attain. Brought on by the combatting philosophies and the panel structure, the scene comes to life. Characters seem to move between panels and Stelfreeze’s art complements Coates’s dialogue like none other.
Stelfreeze utilizes few lines in his art, giving it a simplistic feel. It allows the dialogue to shine in a theme-heavy book that revolves more around communication and philosophy than art. But even with its simplicity, it’s impressive when Stelfreeze can display vivid emotion with just a well-placed line for a crease in a character’s brow. Close-ups are his specialty, but his portraits of characters’ faces from a distance are lacking. The use of few lines falls apart when they become so small they’re practically invisible. It can be difficult to grasp a character’s mood when they don’t stand in the foreground. When this happens, the reader must rely on dialogue. Of course, in a dialogue-centered story, this isn’t difficult. The colors, done by Laura Martin and Matt Milla, really stand out at times in this issue. The great part about the colors in this issue is their intensity is dependent on the scene. They’re less intense when the dialogue is most important and are most intense when visuals are most important. They even fade for a flashback, which end up making the story incredibly smooth.
Black Panther #12 s a fantastic ending to a fantastic story. The art and dialogue work in sync, taking turns telling the story. The book only falls short in background art but is made up for in spades by foreground art and colors.