The Shuri Series
Marvel recently blessed us with a brand new Shuri series. Written by African scholar and award-winning novelist Dr. Nnedi Okorafor, Shuri gives the mystic scientist a voice that rests in the delicate space between the original comic book character and her young, jovial movie counterpart. The result is a mature and intuitive, yet cheerfully passionate, Shuri that breaches perfection.
With past works such as Zahrah, The Windseeker, and her Binti trilogy, which focuses on weaving the values of the African ancestry into fantasy and science fiction, Nnedi is the perfect voice to write Shuri. As the Princess of Wakanda, the most technically advanced nation in the world, and sister of the Black Panther—also having for a time been the Black Panther herself—Shuri is one of the most powerful images of excellence at the intersection of feminism, blackness, and science fiction in both comics and film.
Shuri is the nation’s most brilliant scientific mind. Beyond that, though, she practices the mystic arts, derived from the depths of her ancestral history. It is a combination of traits, abilities, values, and traditions scarcely ever seen, especially in these speculative fiction genres. In fact, it’s so unique that it has its own genre, Afrofuturism.
What is Afrofuturism?
Afrofuturism, as it refers to literature, is the exploration of science fiction and fantasy from the Black and African perspectives. Simply including black bodies in comics or film, even as a front-running character or main protagonist, does not qualify that content as Afrofuturistic. In order to be defined as such, the work must also clearly tie to the cultural sensibilities, traditions, values, or ancestries of Black or African people, and creators must weave those aspects into the story.
Of course, some may wonder why this is important. Honestly, that shouldn’t even be a question. Unfortunately, people in our society ask it frequently. The answer is simple. For decades, centuries even, stories not touted as “the default” (stories primarily featuring white characters) have been rarely given opportunities or exposure. When we step into the realm of fantasy and science fiction, that occurrence is even less so.
Futuristic depictions have, for a long time, been painted as the default. We have to dig for stories like those from Nnedi, Octavia Butler, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. To be clear, Afrofuturism isn’t new. It’s as old as the culture itself. But it’s only recently been receiving more recognition in popular culture due to strong efforts from the black community.
Importance of Afrofuturism
Ignoring or trying to suppress these stories in the mainstream is a form of cultural oppression. People from all walks of life enjoy the magic of fantasy and science fiction, and all people deserve to see how these stories reflect them and may relate to them on a cultural level. Furthermore, we shouldn’t have to dig to find them. Black and African ideas deserve to be realized in all genres, and the expression of that culture should be allowed to flourish. Afrofuturism explores what the future could be, from the perspective of the seeds of the African diaspora.
Shuri not only grants us a story and picture of Afrofuturism, but she also intersects that with the power of being a black woman. Though Shuri has existed since 2005, it is only now that she’s been fully realized. The debut of the Black Panther, unquestionably the most successful film in the Afrofuturistic genre, certainly helped that realization.
Black Panther toppled barriers. It’s important, now, that we seize the moment and grab the opportunities provided by these freshly paved roads and open new pathways at the same time. Nnedi gave us perfect examples of how to do that. Now, with Shuri, she has the perfect vehicle to travel these roads and find new ones.
Shuri #1 released on October 17, 2018. I highly recommend you go to your local comic book store and pick it up, or you can purchase it online digitally. Shuri is written by Nnedi Okorafor, with art by Leonardo Romero, colors by Jordie Bellaire, lettering by Joe Sabino, and cover by Sam Spratt.