Review by Ian Keogh
The sheer eye-catching quality of Sam Spratt’s cover portrait means there may be people picking up Shuri unaware of her background. She’s the younger sister of T’Challa, the Black Panther and hereditary King of Wakanda, and admirable on her own terms as a genius level engineer also athletic enough to have a brief spell as the Black Panther herself. She took quite the journey in Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, emerging stronger and as the repository of her nation’s collective memory. However, the heavy tone of that story is discarded to present Shuri as a lighter character, Nnedi Okorafor accentuating other personality traits. This Shuri is fun-loving, curious and sometimes impulsive, and concerned that her brother is missing during Wakanda’s first deep space mission even though she thought she’d provided insurance by having him accompanied by a powerful teleporter. T’Challa’s absence isn’t known to the Wakandan public, but the cause of anxiety for Shuri, and much of this opening volume is concerned with discovering where he is.
Okorafor makes good use of Wakandan culture, and Shuri now being constantly accompanied by the spirits of her ancestors, who’re able to advise her. She fuses science with the possibilities of ancient spiritual beliefs and makes good use of the wider Marvel universe. It’s a safe prediction that even after throwing in a name you’ll want to check online, readers aren’t going to figure out where Shuri ends the second chapter.
Given the breadth of the story, Leonardo Romero needs to be an adaptable artist, and he draws everything necessary in a no-nonsense manner, whether it’s superheroes, space adventure or the serenity of the Wakandan countryside. He shines with the Wakandan scenes generally, but his stylised versions of other Marvel characters might not be to all tastes.
The Black Panther’s world, and by extension that of Wakandans associated with him, has all too often transmitted as bolted on colour rather than authentic background, and steps to rectify this have been small and slowly taken in the past. Okorafor takes larger steps, although some introductions would have been better incorporated naturally rather than as comic style surprises, the Egungun a nice idea clumsily thrown in. Far better is Shuri’s very capable friend Muti, someone whose real identity she doesn’t know, and a mystery carried over to the conclusion in 24/7 Vibranium. Okorafor is also convincing with the science, including some hefty concepts without dumbing them down too much. That corrects another missing element from past Wakanda stories.
Under Okorafor and Romero, Shuri is a very likeable and rounded character, one that transcends some of her plots. Much of this opening volume features emergencies as distractions from her primary mission, but by the end she’s come to a decision indicating she’ll be very different in the conclusion.