February marks Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, and the release of Marvel’s much-anticipated solo Black Panther movie, and the month’s comics slate includes stories relevant to all of them. February’s comics explore how different life is for black superheroes, how love changes and grows over the course of decades, and how Black Panther went from being a marginalized character to one of the most popular Marvel heroes around.
Below, check out EW’s round-up of the comics you can’t miss this month.
Black Panther Annual #1 (Marvel)
Don McGregor and Christopher Priest and Reginald Hudlin (writers), Daniel Acuna and Ken Lashley and Mike Perkins (artists)
February is a big month for Black Panther fans. The character’s long-awaited solo film hits theaters on Feb. 15, and early ticket sales suggest it’s going to be the kind of box-office behemoth that could permanently launch Black Panther into the mainstream zeitgeist. Fans looking for more Black Panther goodness after the film would do well to check out this special issue, which will bring together three legendary Black Panther comic writers: Don McGregor, who pit T’Challa against the KKK in iconic storyline “The Panther’s Rage”; Christopher Priest, who wrote the character in the ‘90s and made him cool; and Reginald Hudlin, who wrote Black Panther’s wedding to Storm in the mid-2000s. Black Panther’s roots go deeper than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this issue should make for a great refresher course in his history.
America #12 (Marvel)
Gabby Rivera (writer), Stacey Lee (artist)
This series inspired EW to name America Chavez, a queer biracial dimension-stomping badass, our “superhero of the year.” Unfortunately, America is ending with its February issue. America herself will probably pop up elsewhere in the Marvel Universe soon (before this solo series, she made her name in team books like Young Avengers and The Ultimates), but it’s still a shame to say goodbye to this comic just as first-time comic writer Rivera was really hitting her stride. If the trade paperback sales are good and fans stay passionate, perhaps we’ll see another America series down the road someday (something similar happened with DC’s Midnighter series, another innovative story about a gay superhero that didn’t do well on stands but sold so many collections it eventually came back in the form of six-issue miniseries Midnighter and Apollo). In the meantime, take advantage of your last chance to buy a brand-new America comic (for a while, at least).
Black AF: America’s Sweetheart (Black Mask Studios)
Kwanza Osajyefo (writer), Tim Smith 3 and Jennifer Johnson (artist)
America might be ending, but fortunately, there are still other thrilling comics about female superheroes of color to read. Black AF is a sequel to Osajyefo’s original graphic novel Black, which posits a world in which only black people have superpowers. The main character this time is Eli Franklin, whose teenage years are marked by the manifestation of Superman-like powers. Raised by a patriotic family and government official father, Eli tries her best to help suffering Americans as the red-white-and-blue hero Good Girl. But her struggle isn’t just against supervillains; Good Girl also has to deal with an America that might never fully accept superpowered black people. It’s not easy to be a superhero in such a world, but Good Girl’s going to try and save it just the same.
Bingo Love (Image)
Tee Franklin (writer), Jenn St-Onge (artist)
As all forms of pop culture work to better represent the diversity of their audiences, comics have really taken the lead on telling stories about well-rounded LGBTQ characters. The latest example of this is Bingo Love, the story of the lifelong love between Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray. Hazel and Mari were smitten at first sight, but the prevailing attitudes of 1967 prevented them from loving each other like they wanted. Fifty years later, Hazel and Mari meet again (at the same place: church bingo) and find a second chance to rekindle their relationship in old age. Fans of Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” episode will certainly enjoy this one — there’s even a little bit of sci-fi technology in there once the story moves to the 2030’s.
The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman #1 (DC)
Liam Sharp (writer/artist)
As readers of Tom King’s excellent ongoing Batman series know, Batman has finally found a (possibly) permanent romantic partner in Catwoman. But turning the feline fatale into his fiancée doesn’t prevent Batman from having meaningful relationships with other women, and this new series from Liam Sharp will partner the Dark Knight with one of his most interesting friends, Wonder Woman herself. The story will find Diana asking Bruce for help investigating the death of a Celtic god, which should allow Sharp to return to the kind of epic mythology he illustrated on his recent Wonder Woman run with Greg Rucka. That run, unfortunately, ended after only 25 issues, so readers wanting more stories in that vein should check out this book, which Sharp told the Washington Post was his way of continuing the stories he told with Rucka.