Black Panther: Spellbound is the highly anticipated sequel to The Young Prince, which brings middle-grade readers into the life and times of a teenage T’Challa traveling abroad in America. Following the events of The Young Prince, T’Challa returns to America to visit Zeke and Sheila in Alabama, but his vacation is rudely interrupted by someone who knows his true identity.
Black Panther: Spellbound Pits a Young T’Challa Against a Devilish Foe
To everyone who meets T’Challa, he is nothing more than a young Kenyan boy visiting his boarding school friends in Beaumont, no one but his two best friends knows that he is next in line to take up the mantel of the Black Panther. Which makes the appearance of “Bob the Acrobat” so alarming because T’Challa is certain that he knows the strange man with a distinctly West African accent. The trio set out to figure out if “Bob” is responsible for the mysterious disappearances in town and find themselves at-risk for falling under the grinning man’s thrall.
Overall, Black Panther: Spellbound was an extremely fun read. T’Challa and his friends made for a great central trio and their vacation- turned-undercover-sleuthing was fun to follow along with. There are some great moments that provide contemplation about Wakanda being separate from a changing world, while also touching pivotal moments in the American Civil Rights movement. There is even a minor subplot discussing tearing down Confederate statues, though that thread of thinking isn’t fully explored, nor did it need to be in this story.
Ronald L. Smith does extremely well with plotting out and executing a really strong supernatural-tinged storyline with a surprise Mephisto appearance that should make any Marvel fan cheer (or groan). The mystery and suspense was nicely paced out and it is an easy enough read that young readers will enjoy it with enough substance to make Black Panther fans equally happy to read it at any age.
There were a few minor issues with the book, however. I may not have siblings, but I am confident that T’Challa and Shuri — like most siblings — would never call each other “big bro” or “sis” in casual conversation. I also struggled to understand how Mika, a French exchange student working at the local antique store, wouldn’t know the word “inventory.” There was no reason for her to repeatedly utter “how you say” — this is more of a stereotype than anything that would actually come out of a French speaker’s mouth. Two odd choices for an otherwise fantastic story.
With the success of The Young Prince and this new sequel, I hope that Smith will have the chance to write more of this series. T’Challa’s adolescence is rife with storytelling opportunities and so much potential to explore who he was before his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War. With the still too recent passing of Chadwick Boseman these stories provide an opportunity to keep the character and his likeness alive in some small way.