Nnedi Okorafor is one of the best writers working today. Her Binti series especially is a modern classic of science fiction, combining an exploration of culture clash with a beautifully rendered examination of the hazards of being clever and the impact of a wider universe on both tradition and individuality.
This isn’t quite her first comics work, but it’s designed to do something subtly different to her previous, excellent work in the field. Namely, bring the Dora Milaje, as we saw them in the smash-hit Black Panther movie, to the comic page.
The set up here is both neat and surprising. In the comics, Nakia is not a spy working in the outside world but a Dora Milaje who has been made ill by the plants she uses to control people. Re-named Malice, she’s a super villain who menaces New York with the assistance of a Mimic-27, a Wakandan super-weapon. Okoye, Ayo and Aneka are dispatched to New York to bring the weapon, and Nakia in. This being New York, the city where heroes are almost but not quite as common as Starbucks, Spider-Man gets there first. Aided by him, the Dora Milaje almost track Nakia down but discover her plan is more nuanced than they thought.
Okorafor excels at character and that’s what jumps off the page here. The Dora Milaje are all recognisably different people with different personalities and approaches. Ayo’s friendly, open approach means she and Spidey click instantly and she adapts best and fastest to America. Aneka is far more traditional and perennially slightly annoyed by how primitive American technology is but its Okoye who registers best here. Her description of Spider-Man as ‘the one Anansi blessed’ is so perfect that it even wrong-foots him for a second. All three feel like real people and none of them are over-shadowed by their massively popular co-star. Okorafor has his measure too, nailing not only Peter’s instinctive and massive charm but his total inability to have any manner of luck at all.
Alberto Alburquerque’s art takes a page or two to settle in but once it does it fizzes with energy and character. Erick Arciniega’s colors do wonders for the environments, with New York drenched in Summer light and the AIM research base that the second half takes place in nicely grim and dark. Rounded out by VC’s Joe Sabino’s lettering, the issue gives each character clear voices and wraps them all together into the strong, confident narrative through line.
Okorafor is a phenomenal writer and her skills are at least as impressive in comic form as they are in prose. This is effortlessly confident, fun, funny and the exact sort of title that readers, new to comics and desperate for an on-ramp after Black Panther, need.