Warning! Spoilers ahead for Black Panther #23 from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuña, and Ryan Bodenheim
Black Panther’s most epic war is about to come to Wakanda, and the nation’s gods have arrived, though their intentions remain unknown. Assembled as the Orisha, these mighty beings have arrived in the penultimate moments when the wayward Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda is about to launch an invasion upon King T’Challa’s Wakanda Prime, resulting in a war of epic proportions. However, the Orisha’s presence does not bode well, as they have been noticeably absent from Wakanda’s recent struggles. As such, the Black Panther is right to be suspicious, and the goddess Bast does nothing to reassure him either.
At the beginning of this run from Ta-Nehishi Coates, the Black Panther sent a team out into space to go through a time-distorting wormhole in another galaxy. After being sent back into the past, these Wakandans founded a second nation in the stars. However, this second Wakanda lost their way over the course of 2,000 years, having been transformed into brutal conquers led by their Emperor N’Jadaka. The Black Panther eventually met with them, but the Emperor captured T’Challa and wiped his memories, fearing that the king would destroy his empire if he were to learn how it was built with cruelty and on the backs of a massive slave labor force. However, Black Panther eventually regained his memories, joined the resistance fighters known as the Maroons, and made a return to Wakanda Prime. In the battles that ensued, it was believed that they had destroyed N’Jadaka, but he has survived via his alien symbiote, resurrecting himself using the deceased body of Eric Killmonger to rule once more.
Now, the reborn N’Jadaka/Killmonger is planning an all-out assault on Wakanda Prime, though he has lost much of his forces thanks to T’Challa. This is because the Black Panther reunited with his ancestors in order to restore all of the memories of the Nameless, the empire’s mind-wiped slave force. Not only that but the sacrifice of the Maroons’ general Nakia also significantly delayed their assault. As such, Black Panther #23 begins with T’Challa rallying the assembled armies of Wakanda and his allies, while also remembering her sacrifice. However, the Orisha arrive after T’Challa’s speech, standing over Wakanda as massive titans, and the king doesn’t like it at all.
While Storm is a goddess of Wakanda herself, not even she knows what the rest of the Orisha are planning. Likewise, the goddess Bast does not appear to be quite so trustworthy either, despite her helping the Maroons to take down the Emperor and his fighters known as the Askari in prior issues. She appears before T’Challa, delivering a message to the Black Panther and his allies that the war has begun, right as the Orisha gather their power and N’Jadaka’s forces emerge from a portal above Wakanda Prime. As such, Black Panther fears that the Orisha have somehow betrayed Wakanda Prime in favor of the Empire, though it doesn’t seem as though it’s that simple.
It’s evident that the Orisha are planning something big as the war begins, though it remains to be seen which side will actually benefit. It could come to pass that the Orisha are finally taking action on behalf of all of Wakanda (intergalactic or otherwise) seeking to create lasting peace and unification going forward into a new era. In any case, it seems as though Black Panther is more than ready to expect the unexpected when it comes to the gods of Wakanda.