I made two mistakes regarding this series. The first was buying this arc in three-volume paperback form. There’s going to be an oversized hardcover collection of “A Nation Under Our Feet” released later this year that will not only be cheaper, but reprint-free as well. The second was expecting that this concluding volume would offer up a more exciting experience compared to the previous two. There is some interest to be had in seeing T’Challa’s reunion with his sister Suri, the Midnight Angels negotiating the tricky path of revolution, and the battle against Tetu and Zenzi for control of Wakanda’s Golden City. Yet the majority of this volume (and the first arc as a whole) is made up of people talking about the rights and responsibilities of rules towards their people and it’s not really any more interesting here than it was before. Credit where credit is due, artists Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse do their best to make the talking heads as interesting to look at as the action and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates does wrap things up with a markedly different status quo for Wakanda heading into his next arc “Avengers of the New World.”
It’s also worth mentioning that the reprints selected to round out the page count in this volume are of a more recent vintage than what we saw in vols. one and two. They’re from Jonathan Hickman’s “New Avengers” run in the lead up to and start of “Time Runs Out.” While they’re a lot more fun to (re)read compared to the 60’s-era offerings in the first two volumes, their inclusion is somewhat problematic from a quality standpoint. That’s because even in their abbreviated presence here they show how dialogue-driven superhero comics can work really well. Seeing the Illuminati grapple with the morality of destroying a world as they have minutes to decide its fate is downright gripping. In less dramatic context, the dinner conversation between Namor and Doom as the former asks the latter for help is rife with tension and drama leading to the classic “Doom is no man’s second choice” statement. Compared to scenes like these, Coates’ “Black Panther” doesn’t really measure up.
I do recognize that this is Coates’ first major work in comics and that he committed himself to this twelve-issue arc from the start. Now that he’s had a year of experience writing comics I’m interested in seeing if he’ll handle things differently with this next arc. That’s my reason for sticking around. Optimism, as opposed to the actual quality of the comics in these three volumes.