What happens when a cyclone hits a grocery store? Read on to find out.
X-Men: Wakanda Forever #1
Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
Artists: Ray Anthony-Height and Alberto Albuquerque
Cover Artists: Terry & Rachel Dodson
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
What You Need to Know:
In an attempt to exact revenge on The Black Panther before her death,Nakia has stolen a very dangerous weapon which she is using to attack Storm while the latter is shopping for groceries.
What You’ll Find Out:
The book opens ‘years ago’ with a shot of Nakia (very young; her face is sweet) stumbling through the jungles outside of Wakanda. She is seeking out the ‘Echo Chamber’ where she will perform the last of the tasks that are designed to initiate her into the Dora Milaje.
She enters a cave (her body language is tense) and following the instructions on her digital tablet, she sits before an ominous-looking drum.
When she strikes the taut skin surface, the sound of the drum reverberates painfully through the cavity of the cave. She claps her hands to her ears and weeps from the force of the sound.
When she opens her eyes, she’s met with the sight of a terrifying old woman. The old woman is composed of cartoonish breasts above a skeletal frame, so that she seems to be defined by her warped sexuality. This is problematic, but we’ll get to that in the review.
Young Nakia is frightened of this ghoulishly grinning apparition, but she continues with the challenge anyway. The challenge takes the form of a mathematical equations that has two possible right answers. Nakia chooses correctly, and flees the cave, leaving the apparition of the old woman behind.
Later, after the ceremony, Nakia stands on the roof of the building and talks to Okoye about passing the test. Okoye informs her that the old woman she saw was a projection of her future self, but Nakia denies it.
As she ends the holographic chat, she notices T’Challa standing on a nearby roof, saying goodbye to Storm. At this point in the past they have only just begun their romantic entanglement.
As Storm flies off, she sees Nakia weeping and swoops down to comfort her. Nakia confides that she is sorrowing because she’s lost her role as potential wife of the king. She wants him to see her as his equal, in love, and not just a subject.
Storm tells her that this is just the beginning of her story, and that she will ‘keep achieving her greatness’.
As Storm flies off, Nakia’s face hardens with resolution.
Back in present-day Brooklyn, Storm is shopping at an African grocery store. She’s collecting ingredients for a meal which she will prepare for T’Challa, and she’s also picking up some Shea butter, for her special non-edible dessert. She’s shopping with Nightcrawler and Rogue, and there’s a nice moment when she tells Rogue, obliquely, that women get better as they age. Meanwhile, Kurt is in the front of the store, chatting with a pair of old men. The rain starts falling outside, and Kurt and Rogue decide to head out before it gets too bad.
The woman at the counter asks Storm why she doesn’t send the rain away and storm tells her that she doesn’t like to play with weather patterns without need.
They all notice Nakia,when she slides into the store (her deadly drum clutched between her arm and her ribs) but they don’t know who she is until she confronts Storm.
Storm tells her that she doesn’t look well (and it’s true: she’s basically a skeleton with boobs) but Nakia reminds her of their history and Storm’s defences go up. She whistles up the wind. Nakia strikes the drum. The whole store reverberates with the sound of it and the air cracks with a terrible blue light.
Nakia knows that T’Challa will come when Storm is dead, and that’s all she wants, really; the chance to talk to him.
As soon as Nakia attacks, Nightcrawler and Rogue go on the defence, but they don’t understand the powers of the drum and they are all thrown off balance when the drum births a stark white copy of Storm,whose powers equal those belonging to the pseudo-goddess.
While Storm grapples with her doppelganger, Nightcrawler attacks Nakia, grabbing for the drum, but he’s met by his own bright twin who drags him away from Nakia while a third spectre (this one mimicking Rogue) wrestles with the southerner, throwing her body into a stack of shelves.
The store brims with chaos, shelves fly and customers cower. Nakia has underestimated Storm’s power, and the other doppelgangers retreat to the drum to strengthen the fight against her.
Kurt takes the opportunity to tackle Nakia, and while he’s grappling with her the Dorja Milaje enter the shop and destroy the drum with the shaft of a spear.
This only serves to make things worse, however, since the djinn has been permanently freed by the destruction of its bottle and now it’s fighting to keep its freedom.
The two matched creatures fly far above the city and begin a lightning fight which sprawls into a cyclone of enormous strength.
Kurt, Rogue and the Dorja Milaje focus on getting the civilians out of the way until Storm decides to retreat and meets her friends to regroup.
The Dorja Milaje inform Storm that Nakia has poisoned the spirit of the drum and there is a cure, but they will need time in order to execute it. They retreat back into the store and Okoye asks Nightcrawler if he can teleport the Dorja Milaje and their prisoner someplace isolated to perform the ceremony. He agrees, but before they go Nakia turns to storm and says, ‘My name is Malice. All I want is to see King T’Challa before I die.’
She’s in luck. A voice behind her says, ‘Okay, Nakia. I am here.’
The final page is a spread of T’Challa,in royal garb, standing amidst the wreckage of the store. He casts the shadow of The Black Panther onto the wall behind him.
What Just Happened:
There are a few problems with this issue and many of them have much more to do with the art than the writing. The writing was good, the dialogue was naturalistic and everyone was pretty firmly in character. But as you can see Colossus, appears on the cover and he’s nowhere to be found in the book. In addition to this, Storm and T’Challa are approximately the same age, and both of them are older than Nakia. Nakia has been aged by her addiction to the drug, and that’s fine, but while T’Challa looks like a healthy, handsome man in early middle-age, Ororo appears to be about fifteen — despite her lovely line about the sweetness of mature, brown bananas.
The problems with the art go a bit deeper than that, however.
As I mentioned in the section titled ‘What you’ll Find Out’ the depiction of the older Nakia is problematic because it connects the image of a woman owning her sexuality with something warped and disgusting. It also conflates Nakia’s desire (to be loved as an equal by the king) with an urge for sexual conquest and while ‘love’ in the most literal sense frequently entails sex, it is pretty clear that Nakia doesn’t just want to take T’Challa to bed. Nakia’s physical depiction, in this book, shows that women who own their sexuality for themselves get twisted into hags while women who give their bodies to men, as a gift rather than a weapon, or who forgo sex with men entirely (like Storm and the Dorja Milaje) are allowed to have beautiful bodies. It’s a visual version of the virgin and whore dynamic and I do not believe that this message was intended by the writer. It’s pretty clear, when you examine the text, that Nakia’s problem is that she doesn’t know what love entails. That’s a different problem than the one implied by the art.
As for the story, it’s a lot of fun. It’s well-paced, balancing action with moments that skillfully reveal the characters of the players. The dialogue is satisfying and although the plot is simplistic, there’s room within it for exploration of the themes of love, duty,and personal independence.
Overall, it was a fun, engaging read.
Final Thought: This is a fun, well-written adventure which is let down, in places, by the politics of the art.
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