Nnedi Okarafor brings the traditions of Wakanda and the Dora Milaje together with the rest of the Marvel Universe in her Wakanda Forever series. This isn’t a commonality. Generally, other than the Black Panther himself, we don’t see very much interaction between Wakanda and the rest of the world. Outside of stories like Johnathan Hickman’s Avengers, an issue of Ms. Marvel, and perhaps a few other things, Wakanda and its people don’t generally do much with the rest of the Marvel universe without T'Challa being the primary focus.
With Wakanda Forever, we get the Dora Milaje, a cadre of strong black women, representing the greatest nation in the Marvel Universe in their own series of #1’s interacting with other popular characters like Spider-Man and the X-men! So far, the journey has been quite satisfying.
As a long time Black Panther enthusiast, I’ve been wanting this story on so many levels. I loved Christopher Priest’s Black Panther run. I still can’t get over how classically creative it is. It captured the style of 90s comics, and it was what made me love Black Panther dearly. However, it was also there that we were first introduced to the Dora Milaje, and specifically, Okoye and Nakia. They have been some of my favorite characters since, so any stories involving them brings me joy.
One of the things that had never been fully explored after Priest left the book was what was going on with Nakia. Nakia’s story went awry when she went mad due to her infatuation with T’challa, and she became Malice. There was some closure, but for over a decade and a half, we’d heard nothing from her (aside from an excellent mini Annual story by Priest earlier this year). Nnedi addresses that, and rightfully so, with the Dora Milaje coming after one of their own without the aid of the Black Panther.
The fun comes with how they interact with characters they wouldn’t have otherwise come in contact with in typical stories. In the first issue, they tracked Nakia with the aid of Spider-Man. In X-men: Wakanda Forever #1, they run into Storm and couple of the other X-men in their search for their estranged sister. With Storm very much being the front and center character for this issue, it provides us with an even stronger focus on the strength of black women.
I am particularly fond of the book’s opening and Nakia’s rite of ascension as a Dora Milaje. It provides a sense of challenge and accomplishment for her and other Dora who’ve gone through the same process. Then there was also a younger Storm, still idyllic, imparting words of wisdom, creating a sense of history between them. It works well as a story device in the present time.
The confrontation between Nakia and the X-men was a spectacle and well-executed in both art and writing. I thoroughly enjoyed it in its entirety, and by the end of the issue, I found myself wanting more. It’s not often that we really see Storm cut loose with her powers. Here she does, and I adore it. I think we get so used to these characters and tend to forget how truly powerful they are, but the creative team reminds us in this issue.
Aside from that, the little references to African cuisine and even the style of Storm’s hair was a breath of fresh air. It’s always nice to see a little exploration of culture in our stories, and Nnedi makes it a point to do that in her writing. I can highly respect and appreciate that attention to detail.
I was elated to see Ray-Anthony Height as an artist on this issue. Though I haven’t had much personal experience with his work, I fell in love with it quickly when I started reading Catalyst Prime’s Superb. Though I don’t know much about Alberto Alburquerque myself, the work turns out amazing. Here they show off their skills with Storm and the Dora, creating powerful displays of their abilities. Their style makes for strong, stalwart, sexy women without the common trope of overdoing the most latter of those traits. It’s tasteful.
Another note I’d like to make about this art is the fact that they know how to draw black women. To some that point could seem moot, but for someone with years of experience reading comics and seeing some of the ways black characters have been drawn in the past, I’m at liberty to say that at times the inaccuracies with black features have been something of an issue. Height and Alburquerque get it. Cheeks, lips, nose, hair—they understand what they are doing, and it’s the kind of thing that warms hearts and inspires smiles.
I’m loving this series, and it really has me crossing my fingers for an ongoing Dora Milaje story. I’m hoping that when this is all over, Nakia can find herself and have some retribution. In either case, we’ll be seeing the Dora again soon in Wakanda Forever- Avengers #1.