When I went to my local comic book shop on Wednesday morning, I did, as always, chat up my buddy on the other side of the counter. “Did you read Black Panther yet?” I asked him. “Is it any good?”
“Not yet,” he said.
“My editor wants me to write a review, and I’ve never read any other Black Panther comics,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “No one else has, either.”
Okay, I doubt that’s true. There have been comics with the Black Panther in them for five decades now. The character wouldn’t be used if he didn’t have a fan-base. That’s capitalism.
Speaking of, this new run of Black Panther has been getting tons of publicity. Marvel has done a terrific job, getting write-ups in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wired, among others. That’s because the writer is Ta Nehisi Coates, the National Book Award winning author of Between the World and Me, a book that changed my life.
Between the World and Me was not written for me. It was written for the author’s son and, more broadly, for other African-Americans. That was one element that I found so refreshing when I read it. I don’t think this new Black Panther series is written for me, either. The only white faces I saw were in ads for other Marvel comics.
The story opens as T’Challa, the Black Panther, returns to the country of Wakanda, where he is king. In his absence, the country has been attacked, invaded, upended. His sister, who ruled in his absence, has been killed. His own people attack him, no longer trusting him to take care of them.
I found this opening to be confusing, perhaps because I’m a new reader. In the letter page, Marvel offers a link to their website with more information but the link wouldn’t open for me, and I had to rely on the Wiki.
This issue sets up the elements for a complex story of family relationships, warring political factions, the burdens of leadership and the quest for freedom. So far, I’m not too sure who T’Challa is or why he can’t speak directly to his people. I don’t like his mother. I don’t like this guy named Tetu, who tells a woman that what she feels “… was the agony of labor, Zenzi. It had to be done. It was the agony of birthing a new nation.” Because really, we needed him to mansplain childbirth to us.
I liked the two women who defy the law to be together and help people. I hope they have more to do in future issues, and that we see T’Challa interact with more characters who have names.
Brian Stelfreeze has done a glorious job with the artwork. He manages to create scenes that are moody and exuberant at the same time. Laura Martin’s color work amplifies and expands the atmosphere. Wakanda feels like its on another continent, maybe even another planet, a mix of ancient tribes and technological wonder.
Coates’ first script is remarkably solid. He doesn’t rely too much on captions or exposition, letting the artwork carry the story.
He might just have a future in this writing business.
She willingly wrote on a wall, when she had to have known that wouldn’t end well. She’s a nun. The Bible tells us the writing on the wall is an ill omen. As a nun, Maggie believes in the Bible devoutly and wouldn’t want to contradict its Word. When Sister Maggie wrote on the wall, she must have known bad things would happen. But she did it anyway?
Why? Because she thought she was making a political statement. And if she didn’t, Daredevil v4 #6 wouldn’t have had a story.
Margaret Grace was the mother of Matt (Daredevil) Murdock. Because of complications from postpartum depression, she abandoned her family while Matt was a baby, adopted a new name, and became a nun. (Yes, it’s a longer story, but as I don’t want a longer column, we’ll let it go at that.) Recently, she, Sister Barbara, and Sister Leora went to a military base in Riverdale, an affluent section of the Bronx. They had information the base was testing illegal and immoral chemical weapons. Something was up in the Bronx and they wanted to batter it down, so they did something to bring the matter to public attention by spray painting peace slogans on the base’s walls.
They were arrested, brought before a secret military tribunal, and told they were being extradited to Wakanda. In case you forgot, Wakanda is a small west African nation formerly ruled by T’Challa, the Black Panther. When Wakanda kicked T’Challa out, his sister Shuri became its queen. Shuri was a lot harsher than T’Challa.
Why did Wakanda care about a simple act of vandalism? Wakanda had purchased said base from America through some “highly clandestine, highly illegal” and untraceable transactions so it could engineer illegal weapons there “free of U.N. oversight.” The women “brought undue attention” to the base and nearly embarrassed Wakanda. Because the base was owned by Wakanda, it was “Wakandan soil within America’s own borders,” Wakanda claimed its law applied. Wakanda wanted to be sure the women were “suitably punished” so it had them quick-step extradited.
Of course Shuri’s also stupid. When conducting illegal arms manufacturing on a military base which you own because of a “highly illegal” transaction, you probably want to avoid any attention. Sure the nuns spray painting peace slogans brought some unwanted attention. But snatching them up and extraditing them in an illegal hearing where the women didn’t even have attorneys, isn’t the wisest course of action. Once word of what had happened leaked out – and as we saw in Daredevil v4 #6, word did leak out – the women would become a cause célèbre and that would only attract more unwanted attention.
Wakanda’s wiser course of action would have been to shut down the base – which it did anyway – then not press charges. Sure the women could make public statements, but they had already made public statements and were ignored. With the base no longer in operation, they wouldn’t have been able to prove their accusations. The matter would have blown over. But once the media got word that the women who tried to alert it to the base’s operations and then vandalized the base have disappeared, it would investigate.
So Wakanda didn’t follow its wiser course of action. Ever since Shuri took over, Wakanda has been ruled by its more dickish fringe. Its government is Shuri with the fringe on top.
Pointing out that Wakanda has more dicks than lunch with messrs. Nixon, Cheney, Grayson, and Butkus isn’t my main purpose, here. It’s a fun sideline, but my main purpose was to explore Wakanda’s claim that the military base was Wakandan soil, not American.
There is a common misconception that embassies are foreign soil. They aren’t. The embassies still the soil of, and under the jurisdiction of, the host country. Embassies are afforded special privileges by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which is why the host country can’t enter a foreign embassy without permission of the country represented by the embassy. But the embassy itself is not foreign soil.
If you commit a crime in an embassy, it will be the law of the host country that applies and the host country which prosecutes you, not the country whose embassy you were in. (Please note, I’m using the hypothetical you. I’m not advocating that you actually go out and commit a crime.)
In the same way, American military bases in foreign countries are not generally American soil. America doesn’t own the land on which the bases sit. It still belongs to the host country. America may lease that land, but when the base shuts down, the land reverts to the host country.
Look at Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. Gitmo is on Cuban soil, not American soil. America leases the land on which Gitmo sits through a perpetual lease which dates back to 1903 and is the result of the Spanish-American War. But Gitmo is Cuban soil. That’s the primary reason America put the “military combatants” in the global war on terror in Gitmo’s detention center, because it’s not American soil so American laws, such as the writ of habeas corpus, don’t apply there.
The only difference here is that Wakanda didn’t lease the military base, it owned the base after illegally purchasing it from America. That does make a difference. When America purchased Louisiana and a whole bunch of other land from France in 1803, that land, which was formerly French soil, became American soil; lock, stock and beignets. After the sale, it was subject to American laws. So it is possible that, because Wakanda owned the base, the base was considered Wakandan soil.
I’m not an expert on this sort of law, but I did some quick research. And while I couldn’t find a definitive answer, what I did find indicated the rules of what is foreign soil differ when a military base sits on land that is owned by the country establishing the base as opposed to land that the base leases from the host country. So maybe the base was Wakandan soil.
Or maybe not. Lieutenant N’banta, the Wakandan military attaché, said Wakanda purchased the base through an illegal sale. An illegal sale could not properly convey legal title, so I’m not sure Wakanda actually owned the base. If I buy a stolen watch from a vendor on the corner, the watch is not legally mine. (Note, I’m also using the hypothetical I. I’m not confessing to a crime, either.)
However, even if the base was Wakandan soil and the nuns were subject to Wakandan law, Wakanda didn’t have the legal right to extradite them the way it did. While they were waiting to be extradited, they were jailed in Ryker’s Island. That is US soil. As long as they were on US soil, the nuns were was subject to US laws, including the laws governing extradition.Under US law, persons being extradited must be afforded due process of law. That includes the right to a public hearing and effective assistance of counsel. It doesn’t include a secret military tribunal before judges whose faces are hidden at which the detainee has no counsel.
The story explains the reason the three women were extradited without any of their constitutional rights was because Wakanda bribed a US General Eaglemore. (Really, General Eaglemore? Was General Patriotact taken?). Eaglemore helped Wakanda implement the illegal proceedings. So, while the extradition was wrong, the story wasn’t wrong. People, including generals, are bribed into doing highly illegal things all the time. A story isn’t wrong, when it shows something that actually happens happening.
Doesn’t really matter, either. In Daredevil v4 #7, Daredevil snuck into Wakanda and through his own bit of diplomacy – which was every bit as questionable as that shown by Wakanda earlier – secured the release of the three women. Then Daredevil and the three sisters all went home, nun the worse for wear.