I've been very much looking forward to seeing Jonathan Hickman take his talents to Wakanda, to dust off the Black Panther, one of my favorite characters since Christopher Priest reinvigorated him, and bring his signature world-building expertise to bear on T'Challa, Storm, Shuri and the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. In Fantastic Four #607, the time has come to see what the former king has been up to since his ill-fated stint filling in for Daredevil.
The Fantastic Four bring the Future Foundation kids to visit Wakanda, at the behest of T'Challa, as his country has been facing some troubling developments. However, Reed Richards assumes he's been asked to help solve the nation's economic crisis since the loss of all the vibranium in the Doomwar series – which turns out to be a classic underestimation of the tiny African country. T'Challa looks at Reed with that 'do you think we're idiots?' glance, before informing him that long before that loss, Wakanda had diversified its economy and is thriving very well financially – even owning some American debt. Does this undercut the climactic sacrifice of Doomwar? A bit, yes. However, the unique and compelling thing about Wakanda is that it's awesome and more successful and healthy than many western nations, so for the most part, it's a welcome button put on that lingering plot point.
No, the real trouble is apparently repeated attacks by undead soldiers from the realm of Anubis, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, one of which takes place during the welcoming banquet for Wakanda's esteemed guests. Hickman seems to be tying in the history of Wakanda and its empowering heart-shaped herb with the mythology of Egypt – likely building on the notion that the renowned "Panther God" of the Black Panther Clan is likely the same deity known in Egypt as Bastet. While Shuri, Ororo and Susan Richards are heading to commune with the Panther God, Reed and T'Challa seem to be heading into the realm of Anubis himself.
Being rather precious about Black Panther continuity, I'm hoping for the best with this exploration of Wakanda's history, but there's a little bit of dread, as something about tying Wakanda to Egypt doesn't quite sit right with me for some reason I find it hard to articulate. Essentially, though, I like Wakanda as its own stand-alone concept with its own rules and gods and customs. Interweaving its culture with Egypt may serve to make Wakanda feel more a part of the real world, true, but let us hope that it doesn't tarnish any of its special, inspiring nature.
The art from Giuseppe Camuncoli and Karl Kesel is solid stuff, and there's a lot of great use of color from Paul Mounts. Wakanda looks like a majestic and beautiful place to visit. I also like that, in the FF's formal traveling wear, even Sue is wearing a suit and tie. It's a fashion trend I can totally get behind, but that might say more about me than anything about haute couture.
Fantastic Four #607 is a very interesting set-up to what I hope is a revitalization of the Black Panther concepts, and thus maybe we can get a spinoff series restarted once again – hey, maybe that's even in the cards for Hickman's future plans once he leaves the FF proper. We can only hope. If anything merits Hickman's high-minded approach to storytelling, it's the legendary, ancient culture of Wakanda.