Review by C.J. Bunce
The Black Panther of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is only one version of the superhero. Since his debut in the pages of Fantastic Four Issue #52 back in 1961, Marvel Comics’ Black Panther has inspired readers across a variety of media. These include the comics, but most recently major studio films and cutting edge video games. Game developer Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers arrived two years ago for PlayStation xBox, Steam, and more. CD introduced the Black Panther: War for Wakanda Expansion only a year later–the company’s biggest expansion yet, and if you’ve seen the game or even previews you can imagine the hard work required building an entirely new world zone like Wakanda. Fans of the Black Panther, Wakanda, and the Crystal Dynamics game can see how it was designed in the new Marvel’s Avengers Black Panther War for Wakanda Expansion: Art of the Hidden Kingdom, a behind-the-scenes book looking at the making of the latest fantasy world inside a video game.
Writer Matthew Pellett reveals the game creators went back to the comics when trying to update T’Challa’s sleek panther uniform, to make it better align with the future technology we see in Tony Stark’s Iron Man. A half dozen costume variants used in the game come with all the concept art designs you’d expect. It also includes looks at various claws, throwing blades, and spears developed for use in the game.
Players–and readers–meet sister Shuri, who begins as a member of the royal family but rises to become Queen Regent when T’Challa abdicates the throne to become an Avenger. There’s also Okoye the general and the wise old advisor Zawavari (one of the game’s non-player characters of NPC). Wakanda itself is seen as both an ancient world and modern one, both populated with characters reflecting African cultures then and now. The villain of the story is Klaue, but gamers will also meet Crossbones, known more by comics readers as a Captain America enemy. Readers will get multiple looks at Klaue’s sonic cannon–the arm tech that prompted his entry into our own borg Hall of Fame. It also leads the character into a more monstrous form for gameplay. The work of several concept artists is highlighted in the book, including art director Jeff Adams’ giant magenta-tinged battle sequences.
In interviews, Adams details all the key elements of the game, how they were imagined initially, what inspired them, and he offers early iterations that were discussed before arriving at final designs. The Birnin Zana throne room is a sweeping, epic setting for the king. The armory has design detail like nothing game players have ever seen on the screen. Vibranium is Klaue’s goal, and Wakanda’s most important asset, and readers will see the different states of vibranium in the world of Wakanda as envisioned for this game. Murals and panther totems all invoke imagery from history.
Readers will also see how closely development of a major game like Marvel’s Avengers matches the development of a big-budget movie. Samples of storyboards illustrate an action scene. Every page includes images of the same types of production sets, visual effects, costumes, props, and set decoration you’d see on any movie set. Several set pieces call back to the updated look of Star Trek in JJ Abrams’ 2009 movie, as well as the Microsoft store look that seems to infuse its way into 21st century visions of the future. The overall look of the game is a balance of both fantasy and science fiction, consistent with the character in the comic books.
Dig into the artistry behind the game expansion in this coffee table-style hardcover book containing never before published concept sketches, character art, storyboards, and fully rendered scenes along with insights into the creative process from the talented creators behind Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers game. Marvel’s Avengers Black Panther War for Wakanda Expansion: Art of the Hidden Kingdom is available for pre-order now here at Amazon. It’s scheduled to arrive in time for Christmas for your favorite Black Panther fan, available December 20, 2022.