Sunday, February 5, 2017

Black Panther - The Mighty Avenger!

After the Black Panther's debut and subsequent appearances in the Fantastic Four it was probably a great question what to do with him. And so he would become an Avenger, taking a seat at that table of heroes and bringing at long last a bit of racial diversity to a team which while having had mutants and humans had always to that point had only a white face (save for the Hulk of course). But the process to make him an Avenger begins really in the pages of Tales of Suspense and the involves the great Captain America.

The battle begins in Tales of Suspense #97 immediately after Cap has revealed to the world his identity as Steve Rogers. Hard on the heels of that he comes under attack from many in the underworld and he fights for his life as in Wakanda the Black Panther finds unusually garbed soldiers guarding odd installations on the outskirts of the kingdom. He too comes under attack. Agent 13 (not yet named "Sharon Carter") takes on a mission too and longs to spend time with Cap who likewise misses her. After the Panther's battle he contacts Cap and says his problem is something related to Cap and sends one of his high-tech ships to bring the Living Legend to Wakanda.

(Reprints Tales of Supsense #98 - this time with words.)
In Tales of Suspense #98  Cap arrives in Wakanda and in is set upon by the Panther who does so test his mettle and confirm his identity. The two heroes exchange pleasantries and then the Panther fills Cap in on the threat which is a deadly death-ray satellite operated from Wakanda territory.

The two head to confront the enemy and come under attack. Meanwhile Agent 13 assumes the identity of "Irma Kruhl",a deadly agent who delivers vital coordinates to the very villain Cap and the Panther are confronting. The two heroes are captured in a pit and the enemy is revealed to be the thought-to-be-dead Baron Zemo.

In Tales of Suspense #99 Cap is staggered that Zemo, the man who Cap holds responsible for the death of Bucky Barnes, is still alive the Black Panther and he climb out of the pit but are still prisoners. The battle Zemo's forces and furiously so,but eventually are brought low again. Agent 13 has arrived and is forced by Zemo to shoot both heroes. The story ends as she is about to do just that.

Tales of Suspense becomes Captain America with its hundredth issue and the tale concludes. After a brief intro which reprises the events of Avengers #4 in Cap's groggy memory,

Agent 13 is able shoot over the heads of Cap and the Panther as they duck and Zemo is, for the moment convinced of her loyalty. But she quickly turns the tables and produces a flame thrower in her attache case and she and the two heroes battle Zemo's forces once again.

The battle is ferocious but in the end they defeat Zemo and it is revealed that he is in fact not the Baron but his former pilot who stole his identity to gain a following for his schemes. His henchmen shoot him dead and then realizing their plight surrender to the Black Panther's forces.

Cap and the Panther wrap things up as Agent 13 gets rid of the deadly satellite's defenses which allows Nick Fury and SHIELD to blow it up good. On the way back to New York, courtesy of the Panther's high-tech ships Cap suggests the Prince of Wakanda step in and take his place in the ranks of the Avengers. The Panther seems amenable to that idea as the story ends.

It is in the pages of Avengers #52, the very next month that the Black Panther follows up on Cap's recommendation. He arrives at Avengers mansion just in time to find the team at one of their lowest ebbs. Only Goliath, the Wasp and Hawkeye remain as members and they have been captured by the new menace of The Grim Reaper. The Black Panther is key in defeating the Reaper and proves himself worthy to join the ranks of the Assemblers who welcome him.

The Black Panther serves the Avengers with distinction and plays a crucial role in many stories. Of some note is that the Panther's mask was altered to show some of his face for a few issues, a bold move at the time it's sad to say. It didn't last.

The team even travels to Wakanda where T'Challa must defeat the menace of The Man-Ape who seeks to unseat the absent king.

Later still he finds himself fighting the Sons of the Serpent and the series even takes an issue to give us a closer look at the Black Panther's origin.

The Panther even becomes a frequent partner with Daredevil, The Man Without Fear. Eventually the Panther will play a decreasing role with the team as his responsibilities as monarch loom larger and larger. But that's a whole bunch of other stories.

Next up we look at Jack Kirby's return to the Black Panther when he takes over his adventures in the late 70's. It's a Black Panther like none we've seen before.

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