By: Mark Waid (story) Javier Rodriguez (art), Alvaro Lopez (inks)
The Story: It’s a jungle out there. Daredevil and confusion everywhere.
The Review: I tend to dread it when writers—specifically comic book writers and superhero writers especially—bring in political dimensions to their stories. Politics are an impenetrable morass of complications and the higher up you go, the worse it becomes. Once you get to the international stage, forget it; you need to be committed to understanding this stuff 24/7 before you can truly understand it. Superhero writers invariably oversimplify things and it almost always reflects poorly on the story.
Not even a great like Waid is immune. I confess I’m not up to speed on Wakandan politics, this being the side-effect of not being a total Marvel devotee. But I really don’t understand why, if Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, it would need to outsource its research to the U.S. at all. Even setting that aside, the plan to extradite the three protesting nun who didn’t actually expose Wakanda’s doings strikes me as overly complicated. Shuri justifies herself thusly, “Those women risked embarrassing Wakanda. If I declare that to be a crime, then it is.” She’s the Queen of Hearts in full-body black spandex.
With such thin reasons for detaining the nuns, it’s little wonder that Matt is able to secure their release within a few pages with relatively little effort. Don’t get me wrong; his plan is quite ingenious and involves mostly brain and little brawn. It had to be since, as he admits, he can’t expect to sneak through Wakanda and free the nuns alone. Still, Shuri practically rolls over in defeat the minute Matt reveals his hand, which reflects rather poorly on her convictions.
Expedient as Matt’s Wakandan sojourn may be, it does give him and his mom more time to work out his Original Sin vision. Waid delivers a neat explanation—maybe too neat—which preserves the reputation of Matt’s dad while mostly absolving his mom in the process. That whole suggestion of domestic violence between his parents is revealed to be one big, silly misunderstanding, driven by his mother’s postpartum depression. It’d almost be a cop-out if the revelation wasn’t pretty complicated in itself. At one point, Waid almost turns the issue into a public service announcement (“Yours was extreme, but as many as ten percent of new mothers struggle with it on some level. Maybe more.”), but there’s no denying he treats the subject with an admirable amount of dignity and compassion.
This is in no small part due to Matt’s own reaction to his mother’s tragic explanation, which is completely without judgment. You’d be a monster not to appreciate the heartfelt reconciliation that comes from this issue, one that opens up Matt’s world in a positive way. For a tie-in, that’s pretty much a miracle.
Given that the action is mostly minimized here, Rodriguez doesn’t get much opportunity to play, except for perhaps the high-tech spears* wielded by the Wakandan hunting party. On the flipside, his dramatic chops are on fully display as he depicts Maggie’s downward spiral with appropriate bleakness. You’re properly convinced that what she felt was a deeply rooted illness, one she struggled with, making her eventual break all the more pitiable.
Conclusion: Waid and Rodriguez more than make the most of a tie-in; they use it to their advantage.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * So in this case, it would not be an ethnic slur to refer to them as spear chuckers, yes?
– T’Challa would have been able to outsmart Matt, don’t you think?