Okay, Vita Ayala might have done one of the best things I can think of for this title, giving Shuri fairy wings. But before I start gushing over how much I enjoyed that, let’s talk quickly about the plot of the issue.
The story begins with Black Panther taking down a gang of bad guys lead by Batroc the Leaper, which results in one of his aides getting hurt and needing medical attention. Rather than electing to use Shuri’s tech to heal himself he chooses to use the expertise of one of the local medicine women. Shuri, being the science nerd that she is, thinks that there’s no place in the modern world of medicine for ancient remedies and insults the healer. When Shuri starts to become the victim of a number of accidents and mishaps she becomes convinced that she has been cursed by the healer, and sets out to find a way to break the spell.
I really enjoyed the focus on Shuri in this issue, and the framing of traditional healing techniques and medicine versus modern science. The story doesn’t so much as pit the two against each other with one clear winner coming out on top, but makes the point that just because something is considered old or outdated doesn’t mean that there isn’t merit to it, or that those with age shouldn’t be listened to. It’s a lesson that Shuri seems to need to be taught, having become so focused on science and technology.
The best thing about the story, however, is the way that her journey to lift her perceived curse feels like something from a Saturday morning cartoon or Disney movie. There’s a princess with fairy wings, albeit products of science, going through jungles and caves searching for rare ingredients, running from traps and scary animals, and picking up a warthog sidekick up along the way.
The art by Ariana Florean really adds to this feeling. Florean takes on a less realistic approach and feels a lot more cartoonish in their work. Characters are bold and look different from each other, with unique body shapes or exaggerated features. Animals have almost human expressions, and feel more alive and full of energy. The whole thing seems to take on a more magical and comical life thanks to this artwork, and really helps the issue feel like a lot of fun.
Whilst this is a stand alone type of story it feels a lot more entertaining than the initial three part story that kicked off the title. The focus on character, along with the lighter tone and fun artwork, means that it doesn’t start to feel drab or dull in any places, and I’d have been happy to have seen this story go on for more than just the single issue.
I was excited to see what Vita Ayala would be bringing to the title, and so far it’s been a great improvement on all factors. I really hope that the title can keep this level of energy and freshness going forward.