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Jul 27

X-Men: Wakanda Forever #1: “Echo Chamber”

Posted on Friday, July 27, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

You want comprehensive, I’ll give you comprehensive.  This is actually the middle chapter in a three-part miniseries about the Dora Milaje.  I haven’t read the first chapter, and I don’t plan to do so, at least until it shows up on Marvel Unlimited in five months time.  So reviewing it in isolation might seem pointless and futile…

…except that it is being promoted as a “one-shot”, it does have issue #1 on the cover, and if you’re going to (mis)promote a comic that way, you can’t really complain when people take you up on the offer.  To be fair, it does also say “The second part of a new Dora Milaje adventure”, and the “Wakanda Forever” logo is more prominent than the “X-Men”.  But still, the whole point of this sort of needlessly confusing numbering is to get people to treat it as a one-shot instead of a middle chapter, so let’s do that.

Before doing so, though, let’s note that this is an odd series to give writer Nnedi Okorafor, one of several credible names from outside comics who’ve done work in connection with Black Panther of late.  Okorafor has a World Fantasy Award, a Nebula, a Hugo… and she’s writing Dora Milaje Team-Up?  The “different guest star in every issue” thing can sometimes work, but it usually feels like a gimmick, and I’m not sure why you’d want to go there when you’ve got a name writer attached.

So, the plot.  This miniseries is following up on the storyline of Nakia, the rogue Dora Milaje from Black Panther who’s obsessed with T’Challa.  Having drugged herself to get super powers, she’s now seriously ill, and she’s trying to lure him to her before she dies.  To that end, she’s stolen what the recap page describes as “a doomsday weapon called the Mimic-27” – presumably the drum that Nakia’s lugging around, which seems to call up ghost doppelgangers of people, though “doomsday weapon” seems a bit excessive for that – and she’s causing trouble in New York.  The Dora Milaje, led by her old partner Okoye, are going after her.  And since it’s Marvel New York, there are superheroes about.

And yes, a miniseries called Wakanda Forever is set in New York.  Don’t ask me.

The issue kicks off with a flashback to Nakia completing a rite of passage to qualify for the Dora Milaje, in which she sees herself as an older woman.  Since her older self is a demented crone (i.e., the sick version of the character from the present day), this is a bit disconcerting to her.  Storm happens to be in town, and drops by to give Nakia a pep talk about seeing her own greatness and so forth.  Now, Storm at least gives the X-Men a decent reason to be in this story: Nakia is obsessed with T’Challa, while Storm is the ex-queen who walked out, and that’s clearly intolerable to Nakia.  The flashback seems to be intended to set up some vindictiveness on Nakia’s part, which would obviously work better if it took place while Storm was queen, but it looks like they figured that this wouldn’t work for timeline reasons (probably correctly).  At least it can play off the retcon that they were always a potential couple.

So Nakia tracks down Storm in an African grocery, where she’s doing some shopping, and has a go at getting rid of the competition.  Since this is X-Men: Wakanda Forever and not Storm: Wakanda Forever, Nightcrawler and Rogue happen to be there too, but they don’t really contribute that much to the story.  The Dora Milaje finally show up about halfway through the story and break the drum, which just makes the Storm doppelganger even more powerful, and it turns on everyone, including Nakia.  The idea seems to be that the doppelganger is the Mimic-27, released from the drum when the Dora Milaje broke it, though quite why the Mimic-27 is acting like this is never entirely clear.  Perhaps it gets cleared up in part three.

A brief showdown between Nakia and Okoye at the end of the story seems to spell out the theme here.  The Dora Milaje as originally conceived are a vaguely creepy idea (by design): they’re meant to be an all-female warrior/bodyguard sect, but at the same time they’re given the dependent role of being potential wives for T’Challa.  It’s an awkward fit, and that’s fine, because that’s where the interest is meant to lie.  The Dora Milaje have largely resolved that tension in recent Black Panther stories by breaking away from their personal ties to T’Challa, while Nakia has doubled down in the other direction by veering into insane obsession.  So she’s the Dora Milaje as corrupted by the bit of the concept that was always a bad idea.

Fine, and it gives Storm a role as a foil.  But this isn’t an X-Men story, it’s a Dora Milaje story – in fact, more specifically, it’s a Nakia story, since the other Dora Milaje aren’t around enough to really serve as protagonists.  It doesn’t need Kurt or Rogue, and it doesn’t particularly benefit from having them here.

There are two penciller/inkers on this book – Ray Anthony-Height and Alberto Alburquerque – with another two inkers on top of that, all of which rather suggests that the art may not have been produced at leisure.  Still, it looks fine, albeit in a fairly safe kind of a way.  Nakia looks appropriately nuts, the grocery looks lived in, and there are some interesting twists on the character designs for the X-Men; Storm’s hairstyle looks good, and Rogue’s would be a nice touch if she was meant to be fifteen.  It doesn’t really fit with the way she’s written these days, but it does give her some personality in a story that doesn’t have much for her to do.

Judged as an X-Men comic, well, this isn’t one, whatever the cover may say.  In fact, while the other guest stars in the series sound a bit forced, the plot does need Storm – she had the opportunity to be what Nakia craves to be.  But she’s still there to be contrasted with Nakia.  But judged as a guest arc on Black Panther, this is fine.  It’s just hard to believe that it’s benefiting from the rotating guest star schtick.

Bring on the comments

  1. Omar Karindu says:

    It’s surprising to see someone picking Nakia up from Priest’s run of about twenty years ago instead of just quietly rebooting the character to better resemble the film version.

  2. Moo says:

    Yep. But having her resemble her film counterpart is, I assume, where they’re headed with this eventually. Maybe someone involved felt her backstory couldn’t just be quietly brushed under the rug.

  3. Anya says:

    I was thinking the same thing. Not a big BP fan, but when I found out about comic-Nakia, I thought for sure she’d get a movie make over. This one shot/ mini seems like it a movie cash in, but they made nakia the bad guy? Odd…

  4. Flinkman says:

    I did read part one of this story (Okoye quickly became my fave character in the MCU and I wanted to show support) and, thus far, it’s been a straightforward and fun superhero romp. I know Okarafor just got a Shuri gig, but I hope this nets her an ongoing Dora Milaje book too.

  5. Si says:

    It’s funny how they approach characters from the movies/tv shows. I mean, it’s hard to remember, but Iron Man didn’t used to be anything like he is now. Jessica Jones has become Krysten Rytter, but on the other hand Luke Cage has stayed the comics version, less angry but essentially the same guy who wore a tiara and disco shirt in the 70s. And have you seen Negasonic Teenage Warhead? She started out as a pile of ashes, became a Whedonesque consumptive magic goth girl from the consumptive magic goth girl assembly line, but is now somehow very much like the movie version in appearance and personality, a character that shared the name and maybe the lipstick and nothing else.

    I suspect there’s no company line on how to treat these characters, and it is down to the writer. Maybe the editor, but it feels like a writer thing.

  6. Chris says:

    Yeah I completely resent comic Iron Man being written as movie version

  7. Jason says:

    “Mimic 27.”

    X-Men 27 is the issue in which Mimic joined the team.

    Probably not significant. *shrug*

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