Warning! Spoilers await! It's the rise of the man called... KILLMONGER! In the latest series to
cash in on spin out of Marvel's Black Panther corner of their universe, T'Challa's primary foe, the one man who consistently beat him, gets his chance to shine in an origin spotlight.
Years ago, a young boy named N'Jadaka was kidnapped from his homeland of Wakanda by one Ulysses Klaue, who also had a hand in his father's death. Forced into servitude, he was taught to kill and steal, and eventually, murdered his way to freedom.
Eventually finding his way to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, N'Jadaka grew to become a brilliant young man, and was poised to write his own ticket (as well as sleep with his guidance counselor, whom he later refers to dismissively as a "colonizer," much to her bewilderment).
But the the man now known as Erik Killmonger had other plans. First and foremost on his mind was the assassination of Klaw, now well into his second career as a costumed super-criminal. That attempt is interrupted, though, by lackeys of the Kingpin named King, Knight, and Rook. They knock the young Killmonger out, then have a sort of impromptu job interview with him, followed by a second interview before the Kingpin himself. Killmonger pretty much tells Kingpin to take a long walk off a short pier. For that insult, Kingpin orders the other three to take Killmonger away and execute him.
The trio defies his orders, though, and instead set up a series of tests in order to coerce him into joining their crew, with eyes on "the big score." Killmonger passes with flying colors, and is forcibly taken to a Long Island hideout with them. While there, he's tempted by fate to join, but Wakandan goddess Bast urges him to instead return home...
Killmonger ignores her.
Considering this comic could have been a cheap cash grab, Killmonger is anything but. Writer Bryan Hill and artist Juan Ferreyra have really come together to knock this debut issue out of the park. Sure, some things have been slightly modified to bring it more in line with the MCU’s vision of the character, but this is without a doubt still the Killmonger created and made famous by the great Don McGregor.
This young version of the character, though, is still going through some growing pains. He knows who he’s mad at, but doesn’t have a proper outlet for all that rage yet. His journey will ultimately take him to Wakanda, to challenge the throne and defeat Black Panther in the process, but for now, he’s trapped in a world that has no place for him.
That isolation is a defining characteristic of Killmonger in both comics and on film. He’s a solitary man, defined more by how he impacts the people around him than by any close-knit relationships. But he’s also an angry, lonely young man with a chip on his shoulder – something we can all identify with. Bryan Hill is inside this guy’s head in an extremely relatable way, and the series is that much stronger for it. And for all the cacophony created in his wake, it’s the quiet moments that really sing.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Juan Ferreyra’s art. His pencils are graceful and powerful at the same time, and he conveys emotion and body language like a champ. His panel layouts are easy to follow, and he really knows how to sell the big moments:
That’s powerful stuff.
The story isn’t without its flaws, though. It feels a little too convenient that Killmonger went from a nobody to having an audience with the Kingpin of Crime, and King, Rook, and Knight’s “we need him for one big score” is about as cliched and unoriginal as it gets. Still, though, the book’s emotional beats and instant zeroing-in on what makes Killmonger tick overshadow any plot deficiencies.
Bold and brash yet quietly emotional when it needs to be, Killmonger proves this is character worthy of the spotlight. One issue in, and Hill and Ferreyra are on fire.
Killmonger #1 (of 5) – The Rise of the Man Called… KILLMONGER!
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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