In my previous Omnibussin piece, I charted the ways Marvel could collect Black Panther’s comics from the mid-70s to the mid-90s in omnibus format. It was a complex process, despite T’Challa not having too many comics to his name back then… or perhaps because of it! With the entire piece dedicated to that era, I promised I’d return to cover the modern material, which is—as is often the case—quite a bit easier. As I teased last time, however, though modern collections tend to focus on a single author or run and are thus much more easy to envision, there are a few surprises left.
I already enumerated every Black Panther omnibus Marvel is releasing this year in great detail in my last piece, but let’s quickly recap: all the classic material is either published or mapped; the upcoming Black Panther by Christopher Priest Omnibus Vol. 1 will start off what’s considered the modern revival of the character and title; and Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates Omnibus and Wakanda: World of Black Panther Omnibus encompass every Black Panther comic of note since 2016. And so, we’re left with a 15-year old gap between the middle of Priest’s run in 2001 and where Black Panther’s status quo was left off in 2015 just before Coates relaunched the series.
Collecting the rest of Christopher Priest’s renowned—though not uncontroversial—run isn’t particularly complicated: the first volume stops with issue #33, which means the second one should take us from issue #34 to the very end, #62. This run includes the return of the fearsome M’Baku; an alternate future story; a sequel to the great ‘Enemy of the State’ storyline found in the first volume, which includes a team-up with Wolverine; and the “death” and return of T’Challa, an absence during which the American cop Kasper Cole takes over the Black Panther mantle for a while (not the title’s finest hour). There is more to it than that, however: there’s a Priest-written Incredible Hulk crossover; a Western-set Thor story Priest wrote years before under his original name, James Oswley, which he revisits in Black Panther #46-47; and the cult 2003 comic The Crew, featuring a team-up of black characters, including Josiah X, the son of Isaiah Bradley from Truth: Red, White & Black (which was sort of adapted into the Disney+ Falcon and the Winter Soldier miniseries). To these I would also add the 13-page story Priest wrote with artist Mike Perkins for 2018’s Black Panther annual, which looks back on his run of almost two decades before from a contemporary perspective, again starring US State Department liaison to Wakanda Everett Ross, who was the protagonist early on in Priest’s run (and who everyone knows as CIA agent Everett Ross in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by Martin Freeman).
Black Panther by Christopher Priest Omnibus Vol. 2, with artists Sal Velluto, Joe Bennett, Jorge Lucas, Jim Calafiore, J. Torres, Ryan Bodenheim, and Patrick Zircher, would then comprise—in this order—Black Panther (1998) #34-35, Incredible Hulk (1999) #33 (1st story), Black Panther #36-45, Thor (1966) #370; Black Panther #46-49, #57-58, #50-56, and #59-62 (issues #57 and #58 take place earlier in the timeline, between issues #49 and #50); The Crew (2003) #1-7; and Black Panther Annual 2018 (1st story). This would make it at least 893 pages, or likely around 920 with extras—which is relatively comparable to the first volume, at 840 pages.
It’d be an understatement to say Priest revitalized the Black Panther title. No one before or since has had such a long continuous run on the book, and his work thankfully served as a springboard so that the King of Wakanda wouldn’t be off of the spotlight for decades at a time ever again—this is especially true after his appearance in the MCU, of course, but Priest got the ball rolling. Stan and Jack may have created the character, but they didn’t do much with him—not even Jack Kirby, whose dozen-issue run on the character when he returned to Marvel is at best described as visually stimulating, but not known as a great take on the character or title, to say the least. Don McGregor wrote the best (and the most) Black Panther stories of the 20th century, and he was the one who truly defined the essence of T’Challa and Wakanda, but he never got to write an ongoing book with ‘Black Panther’ on the title. Then comes Priest. Regardless of the problematic elements in the book that may have seeped into it due to his politics or how the book lost a lot of its luster when an American cop took over the mantle of an African king, the truth is that, when we take into consideration Black Panther’s uneven track-record before Priest, what he did can’t be ignored.
Whoever took over the title next would have a nearly impossible task set before them. American film screenwriter, director, producer, and comic-book writer Reginald Hudlin was chosen to take up this challenge, and it must be said he did so with remarkable success. Priest had taken a radical approach with his run: it often experimented with the format of comic book storytelling, and it was quite provocative in its contents too, at least for what’s expected from a typical Marvel superhero book. In contrast, Hudlin went for a more streamlined, standard style, with the cinematic scope typical of the early 2000s. This is so much the case that the first arc in his run, with superstar artists John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson, and colorist Dean White, is a bit of a soft reboot: a modern retelling of T’Challa’s origin story that changes enough details (and a few important bits too!) that many assumed it wasn’t ‘canonical’ until the book continued and intermingled with the rest of the Marvel universe—let’s just say it’s an alternate telling of his origins and leave it at that.
This retold origin story is most known for something else, however: it’s the first appearance of Shuri, the young sister of T’Challa (half-sister in the comics) and future Black Panther, just like she ended up being in the MCU, albeit prematurely due to the tragic death of T’Challa actor Chadwick Boseman. You may be asking yourself “What do you mean her first appearance?” Well, you read that right. If you only know Black Panther from the movies, you might assume Shuri has always been an integral part of the mythos, but the character was introduced in 2005, forty years after the debut of T’Challa and Wakanda—and except for her being quite plucky, she initially bears little resemblance to her MCU precocious tech genius / comic relief persona (after the movie, the comic’s Shuri was made to be closer to the movie version—which is ironic, since the Shuri of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is much more recognizable to comics readers).
Hudlin’s original Black Panther run continues up to issue #38, chiefly with artists Scot Eaton, Francis Portela and Ken Lashley. It includes several highlights: a House of M tie-in; an X-Men crossover in which T’Challa reconnects with his childhood flame Ororo Munroe, better known as Storm of the X-Men; several superhero team-ups with the likes of Falcon, Shang-Chi, Luke Cage, Blade, Brother Voodoo, and Monica Rambeau; T’Challa and Ororo finally getting together and even tying the knot just before the superhero Civil War; epic encounters with the super-leaders of the Marvel Earth, such as Doctor Doom, Namor, and the Inhumans; a crossover with the Fantastic Four setting up the newly married couple taking over Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s role in the classic team in their own book (an underrated—and undercollected—run written by the late Dwayne McDuffie); and finally a return to Wakanda just in time to face one of his greater nemeses: Erik Killmonger, N’Jadaka, who was so memorably played by Michael B. Jordan in 2018’s Black Panther film… and hey, maybe elsewhere (I’m not gonna spoil anything!).
Although that’s the end of Hudlin’s original run, the title continues on for three issues with a new writer who’s never written Black Panther before. And it’s a tie-in to a huge event. None of this sounds exciting, I know… but believe me, it is! In fact, it’s one of the best short stories to get anyone hooked to the essence of the character—and of Wakanda. During the Secret Invasion event (which is getting a Disney+ adaptation soon), the shapeshifting Skrulls invade the Earth… including Wakanda, which might not have been their best idea. Jason Aaron and Jefte Palo crafted a remarkable three-issue tale in which T’Challa and all Wakandans defend their land against the Skrulls in what’s probably the best Secret Invasion tie-in there is. More than anything else, it’s the perfect showcase of how cunning and shrewd T’Challa can be (an essential aspect of the character that I thought was sadly missing in the MCU) and of Wakanda’s resilience.
You might have picked up I repeatedly referred to Hudlin’s “original” run, and that’s because, while Aaron wrote that short Secret Invasion arc, Hudlin and artist Ken Lashley were busy revitalizing the title with not just a new issue #1 but a new Black Panther. In the aftermath of the Skrull invasion which Tony Stark very publicly failed to avoid, the United States of America was now under a “dark reign” as Norman Osborn (formerly the Green Goblin) took control of the nation’s security apparatus. During this Dark Reign era, the superheroes were the criminals running from the law. It was different for T’Challa, a head-of-state… but it didn’t turn out to be so different in practice, as diplomatic immunity couldn’t save him from the fury of Doctor Doom.
In six issues, Hudlin took T’Challa from his highest point to his lowest—and while the King of Wakanda picked up the pieces, his sister Shuri took up the mantle of the Panther and Wakanda’s throne for the first time. At this point, writer Jonathan Maberry and artist Will Conrad took over the series for its remaining six issues, after which the story of Shuri as Black Panther and Doctor Doom’s machinations against Wakanda culminated in the six-part Doomwar limited series with artist Scot Eaton. Maberry, with artist Gianluca Gugliotta, would write his four-issue epilogue to the saga of Shuri as Black Panther in ‘Klaws of the Panther,’ in which she teamed-up with Wolverine and Black Widow to take on Black Panther’s original villain: Klaw.
One could conceivably map a Reginald Hudlin omnibus in such a way that his entire run on the title was collected in a single volume—everything he wrote, and nothing he did not. Naturally, this would also include Hudlin’s 2010 four-part Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of our Fathers miniseries with artist Denys Cowan, which tells the story of how Captain America got his Vibranium shield during World War II thanks to an adventure in Wakanda with the Black Panther at the time, King Azzuri, T’Challa’s grandfather. Additionally, just as I said I would include Priest’s contribution to the 2018 annual in his second volume, I’d include Hudlin’s in this, too. However, that would be a huge volume—and one that’d exclude Aaron’s Secret Invasion run and, most critically, the conclusion to the Shuri saga Hudlin himself started. In my eyes, it makes much more sense for Marvel to publish a Hudlin-centric omnibus collecting his original run starting on 2005, including the Flags of our Fathers miniseries and the 2018 annual story, focusing on T’Challa as the Black Panther, leaving enough material for a shorter omnibus focused on Shuri’s era:
Black Panther by Reginald Hudlin Omnibus, with Scot Eaton, Francis Portela, John Romita Jr., Ken Lashley, Denys Cowan, as well as Jason Aaron and Jefte Palo, would include—in this order—Black Panther (2005) #1-7, X-Men (1991) #175, Black Panther #8, X-Men #176; Black Panther #9-38, Annual #1, and issues #39-41; Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of our Fathers #1-4, and Black Panther Annual 2018 (3rd story). This would make the volume a minimum of 1147 pages—around 1200 at most, once we consider credits, extras, and the like.
This mapping would allow Marvel to publish an omnibus all about Shuri’s time as Black Panther; and what better time is there than now for that—let’s use that MCU synergy for good! As well as the 2009 twelve-issue run and the Doomwar and Klaws of the Panther limited series that followed it, I would include a short story in the Age of Heroes miniseries that put a cap on the Dark Reign era and, in this case, served as an epilogue of sorts to the war between Shuri and Doom, between Wakanda and Latveria. Since this is not a big book, I would top it all off with the final two issues of Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive (don’t worry about it for now!), in which Shuri reunites with her brother, who at this point has self-exiled in the United States of America.
Black Panther: Shuri Omnibus, by Jonathan Maberry, Reginald Hudlin, Ken Lashley, Scot Eaton, Denys Cowan, Gianluca Gugliotta, and Will Conrad, would comprise Black Panther (2009) #1-12, Doomwar #1-6, Age of Heroes #4 (1st story), Klaws of the Panther #1-4, and Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #528-529. This would make it 582 pages at least—not many more than 600 overall, which is pretty compact for an omnibus but perfectly respectable. Also, frankly, normal people who may want to get to know Shuri’s time as Black Panther because of the movies—not crazy collectors like me (and probably you)—would be much more likely to buy a collection like this if the book doesn’t weigh a ton and doesn’t cost $125 USD.
And don’t you worry, I haven’t forgotten about Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive. What is that, you may ask? How could a Black Panther comic—a title that’s notably never had many long runs—possibly be at issue #528 suddenly? Glad you asked. While Shuri was busy being Black Panther, things weren’t going so great for T’Challa… but they were going even worse for his old friend Matt Murdock, Daredevil—look up the Shadowland event if you want to know more. Long story short: T’Challa ended up taking the role of Daredevil—not his superhero mantle per se, but his role as protector of Hell’s Kitchen. And he took over Daredevil’s book and numbering, too; from Daredevil #512 we go to… Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513. Comics are weird and impenetrable, but hey, what can I say? That’s part of their charm! Writer David Liss, with artists Francesco Francavilla, Jefte Palo, Shawn Martinbrough, and Michael Avon Oeming, wrote the street-level Black Panther book for almost twenty issues and through a name-change to Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive; for his final issues, T’Challa gets his own tagline, instead of using Daredevil’s classic one (which was the only connection to the Daredevil book in the actual title, but that was then gone, in case it wasn’t confusing enough).
If you haven’t heard about this era of Black Panther it’s because it’s not particularly well-remembered, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its charms: it’s always great to see T’Challa go down to the street-level, especially in a country like the USA, which is so different from his. There are adventures against vampires, Kraven the Hunter, Hate-Monger, the White Wolf, Lady Bullseye, and Kingpin; Fear Itself and Spider-Island tie-ins; and the aforementioned reunion with his sister, Shuri, Wakanda’s official Black Panther. It’s not a classic, but it’s fun!
Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive Omnibus by David Liss, Francesco Francavilla, Jefte Palo, Shawn Martinbrough, and Michael Avon Oeming would contain Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513-523; and Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #523.1 and #524-529. This would be a short volume: at least 396 pages, and likely no more than 420.
In terms of comics titled Black Panther, these stories published as late as 2012 would take us to the present, as there wouldn’t be another proper Black Panther title until Ta-Nehisi Coates revived the book and revitalized Wakanda in his renowned run starting in 2016, which has already been collected. But that isn’t the end of the story. Just like Black Panther: The Early Years Omnibus collects (and my hypothetical The Later Years would collect) Black Panther’s appearances in books that are not his own but are key to the history of the character, there is an opening here for a book covering that gap between 2012 and 2016, which was a crucial era for Black Panther: life-changing things happened to T’Challa, including his relationships to Storm, Namor and many other characters; the developments with Shuri during this era are key to understand what’s going on at the start of Coates’s run; Wakanda went through several incidents that affect it to this day, including in the MCU; and, to put it plainly, this is one of best-written eras for T’Challa, despite him not having a book of his own. How could this be? Who is responsible for this?
In my previous piece, I teased “a surprise omnibus that Marvel may never publish but they totally should, because it would have some of Black Panther’s best modern stories written by one of the best comics writers.” I left you all with the question of “who’s the best Black Panther writer who never wrote a Black Panther-titled comic.” This is what I was talking about.
And the answer is superstar comics writer Jonathan Hickman.
After ending his critically acclaimed Fantastic Four run in 2012, Jonathan Hickman co-wrote the controversial (yet vital for T’Challa!) 2012 event Avengers vs. X-men, just before taking on the dual titles of Avengers and New Avengers between 2013 and 2015, culminating in what’s widely considered one of Marvel’s best comics events ever (the best outright, by many fans!): 2015’s Secret Wars. Except for Avengers vs X-Men, every comic I’ve mentioned here is some of the best comics I’ve ever had the pleasure to read—and even AvX has its moments, especially the parts Hickman wrote to set up future happenings in the world of Black Panther.
What I’m suggesting here isn’t the typical omnibus collection, especially for modern material, which tends to collect runs based on eras or authors —after all, Hickman’s Fantastic Four and Avengers runs are already collected in two beautiful pairs of omnibuses (which I couldn’t recommend any more highly), and Secret Wars has its own oversized hardcover. So what is it, then? I admit it would be unprecedented for Marvel to do this, but what I’m actually suggesting is for them to collect Black Panther’s entire involvement in the Avengers-adjacent Illuminati team under the pen of Hickman, picking and choosing from his runs in this three-year span to tell the coherent story of T’Challa in this period. Not just picking and choosing issues, but picking and choosing within issues. This isn’t a theoretical exercise: I went ahead and did it, using my purchased digital copies of these comics to create my personal digital omnibus of exactly what I’m envisioning here, and it reads beautifully. If an artist were to create custom Black Panther covers for this collection, I’d bet that one could scarcely tell this isn’t truly Hickman’s Black Panther book.
We would open with the first story in 2006’s New Avengers: Illuminati by Brian Michael Bendis and his frequent artist collaborator Alex Maleev, set many years earlier (soon after the early 1970s Kree/Skrull war). Despite it being written by someone else and taking place in the past, it’s a fundamental prologue to everything that’s to come, as it sets up T’Challa’s involvement in the secretive supergroup… or rather, his initial refusal to become involved at all!
Then we would jump forward to 2012, to a two-part story late in Hickman’s Fantastic Four run in which Mr. Fantastic travels to Wakanda with the entire Future Foundation. While the kids have their fun, Reed Richards and T’Challa face Anubis and his own panther god, Bastet, who decrees what T’Challa’s status quo will be during Hickman’s entire Avengers run: Shuri will continue ruling Wakanda and being the Black Panther of the living… but she also makes T’Challa a true Black Panther again; a Black Panther of the dead, the ruler of Wakanda’s necropolis.
This is the place we find T’Challa in during Avengers vs X-Men, the event that first seriously pits T’Challa against Namor the Sub-Mariner. I will not spoil what happens here, but suffice it to say by the end of it T’Challa vow to kill the king of Atlantis when he has the chance and Namor has more than earned it. Of this event, I would only include the relevant issues—and the relevant pages within some issues, in a few cases. There’s also a notable story in the tie-in miniseries AVX: VS, which expands on what this war between the Avengers and the X-Men means for the relationship between T’Challa and his wife Ororo, Storm of the X-Men. These aren’t happy days for T’Challa.
In Hickman’s ensuing New Avengers run, he picks up the threads of T’Challa’s appointment as King of the Dead and AvX‘s tragic events in Wakanda. This title runs alongside the slightly more standard Avengers book (though it’s still Hickman, so expect some weirdness!) and focuses on the Illuminati regrouping for a new cosmic threat… and this time T’Challa can’t afford to say no. In fact, he hosts the group himself in his new kingdom, Wakanda’s necropolis.
Did I mention Namor, his new mortal enemy, is one of the Illuminati? Some of the best moments in this remarkable run are about the enmity between the two, as well as T’Challa’s attempts to keep the Illuminati secret from Queen Shuri and Wakanda… especially as he’s inviting Wakanda’s number one enemy to the country, and he can’t publicly say why. I would include the entire opening arc of New Avengers in this volume, as well as parts of the Infinity event, in which Thanos and his hosts invade Wakanda (this was partly adapted to the MCU in Avengers: Infinity War).
After this, I’d include a selection of Black Panther-focused issues in which T’Challa is forced to compromise his own morals further and keep more secrets from Shuri and Wakanda while trying to combat the upcoming universe-ending threat, while his rivalry with Namor grows and grows until it explodes in one of the best Black Panther moments of all time. This is also around the time when the fate of Shuri is decided in what’s also one of her all-time moments, and a critical one to fully appreciate where Coates picks up the character in his run.
This all leads to 2015’s Secret Wars. The event co-stars T’Challa and it pits him against Doctor Doom once again, with Namor as an unlikely ally, so I’d collect a fair amount of it, including much of the epilogue, as it calls back to Hickman’s first stories with T’Challa at the start of his New Avengers run, in the first pages of this would-be volume. If I haven’t emphasize it enough, despite this being an eclectic collection on paper I assure you it would read as a beautifully rounded story, as well as it being pivotal for the future of T’Challa, Shuri and Wakanda.
Black Panther by Jonathan Hickman Omnibus, with co-writers Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, and artists Steve Epting, Esad Ribić, Mike Deodato, Valerio Schiti, Kev Walker, Stefano Caselli, Dustin Weaver, Jerome Opeña, Adam Kubert, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Cheung, Tom Raney, and Olivier Coipel, would collect New Avengers: Illuminati (2006) #1 (1st story), Fantastic Four (1998) #607-608, Avengers vs X-Men #2, AVX: VS #5 (2nd story); Avengers vs X-Men #6-8 and #9 (pages 6 and 9-10); New Avengers (2013) #1-7 and #8-9; Infinity #2 (pages 25-28); New Avengers #10-11; Infinity #5-6; New Avengers #12, #16-22, #23 (pages 1, 8-9, and 14-22), #24 (pages 1-10, and 17-31), and #25; Avengers #39 (pages 1-6), New Avengers #28 (pages 14-20), Avengers #40, New Avengers #29; Avengers #41 (pages 4-6 and 10-20), #42 (pages 5-6 and 10-11), #44 (pages 17-18); and Secret Wars #1, #3-4, #6 (pages 7-9, 17-20), and a selection of pages from #7-9 (in the Secret Wars Oversized Hardcover collection, these three closing issues are reordered significantly and collected as a single one; it’s a considerable improvement, too, so this hypothetical omnibus would collect pages 1-9 and 36-67 of that collected version of the final Secret Wars issue, which is a modified version of the originally published three final issues.) Despite the complex contents, this omnibus would only be a minimum of 961 pages, and likely no more than around 1000 with all the usual extras.
Now, do I believe Marvel is likely to publish such a specific selection of issues (and even pages within issues) anytime soon? Of modern material, no less, which is so rarely published in excerpts. To be frank, I believe it’s nearly impossible. But damn it, they should! And I think that’s reason enough to map it here—as a reading order, if nothing else… though, of course, if anyone were to ask me nicely, I’d happily show them my digital version in an entirely legal, ‘sharing a book with friends’ kind of way (no, I’m not putting it up online for just anyone to see).
These are some of T’Challa’s best years this century, with stories crucial to what came after. Believe me: if you were to read absolutely every omnibus Marvel has published (and those I have mapped up to the as-yet-imaginary Black Panther: Shuri Omnibus and Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive Omnibus) and then you jumped to the existing Coates omnibus, you’d be nearly as lost as if you’d never read any Black Panther beforehand—a lot happens in those three years. To be fair, Coates does a good job of introducing the characters and the world to an unfamiliar audience, so you’ll “get it,” but if you’re invested enough in this character and his world to collect his entire publication history up to this point in omnibus format, I’d imagine you would want to experience some of the most important developments in his life firsthand instead of through Coates’s exposition (which, to be honest, can be quite dry early on).
With these five omnibuses, I have now mapped everything Marvel could conceivably omnibize under the Black Panther banner—including one that’s more of a dream omnibus than anything I expect Marvel to publish. With Black Panther behind us, my next Omnibussin piece will probably tackle She-Hulk, which is long overdue. To be honest, the MCU synergy got me a bit late in this case, but hey, we should always make time for She-Hulk, right? After that, who knows? As always, if you have any suggestions, don’t hesitate to share them below!