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Black Panther The Young Prince


Black Panther The Young Prince

T’Challa of Wakanda is a king and the wearer of the title Black Panther. The Black Panther is the protector of Wakanda, and T’Challa is the most revered and respected of those who have held the throne. That is, of course, he will be, when he grows up and the title is passed down to him.

T’Challa is only 12-years-old in Ronald L. Smith’s new novel, BLACK PANTHER: The Young Prince, centered on the classic superhero’s early years, education and adventures. We learn how T’Challa, as the young prince, navigates a public setting when he’s expected to hide his royal identity and assume the role of an average person. While the king is hunting down enemies and invaders already inside Wakanda, T’Challa and his best friend M’Baku are sent to Chicago to hide as average and unassuming youths.

"This middle grade novel is really wonderful....Ronald L. Smith knows his Black Panther, and after reading this book, you will too."

At South Side Middle School, T’Challa learns that not all American children despise studying, learning and games of chess like he’d been led to believe. He makes two new friends in his classmates Sheila and Zeke. Sheila studies chemistry and natural sciences for fun and Zeke loves keeping his nose deep in a book or hovered over the chessboard. T’Challa and M’Baku take to their new surroundings rather quickly as the exchange students T. Charles and Marcus from Kenya. That is, of course, until they cross paths with another classmate named Gemini Jones, a local ruffian who wears a skull ring and terrifies the local neighborhood.

Public school seems to run smoothly for the two until M’Baku --- after excelling at basketball and coming out from T’Challa’s shadow for the first time in his life --- starts running with Gemini and his cronies, who also wear the same silver skull rings. Not much later than that, voodoo ritual materials start appearing at South Side Middle School and on the grounds nearby. Maybe the rumors that T’Challa, Sheila and Zeke have been hearing about witchcraft, magic and ritual rites have something to them! Maybe T’Challa will have to look into these matters, because if he’s going to grow up to be the Black Panther, he’s going to have to fight for his friends.

This middle grade novel is really wonderful. I entered this from a deep pit of skepticism. I am a comics professional and I saw both the Marvel label and main character and immediately had my doubts. In most cases, the adaptability of a comic book character falls either short of the mark of hitting on the important points of the already-established comic, doesn’t quite make enough of a push out into their own territory, or both. This book uses characters with comfort and ease, making waves in the later timeline that really stand out if you’re a fan like me.

You don’t need to know anything about Black Panther or Marvel comics to enjoy this book --- iin fact, you might enjoy it more if you don’t. I did, however, catch a name I recognized, looked up where it’s from in T’Challa’s history and realized that I’d discovered an excellent name drop. Ronald L. Smith knows his Black Panther, and after reading this book, you will too.

Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge on January 30, 2018

Black Panther The Young Prince
by Ronald L. Smith