Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Panther's Rage - Cemetery Plots!

After Rich Buckler stepped away from the "Panther's Rage" saga he was replaced for on the ninth issue of Jungle Action by the reliable Gil Kane. Frankly I'd forgotten this was the case, but I clearly see that Kane would've been a worthy replacement had he stayed on the book longer. He and Don McGregor tell a tale here which has a proper atmosphere of horror.

T'Challa investigates tales of the walking dead in a village cemetery and finds Jumbak one of his loyal citizens dead, This is a death which will resonate throughout the rest of the saga by the way. And the Panther also finds a strange opponent in Baron Macabre, a weirdly tall figure who fires lasers from his wrists. The Panther escapes this weird opponent with is life.

Returning to the cemetery a day later, his return stalled because of the murder of Zatama and Monica Lynne is implicated, the Panther gets to the bottom of the problem and finds not only Baron Macabre but his seeming master King Cadaver. While it is shown that Macabre is a fraud to some extent, the weird mind powers of Cadaver seem to emanate from his repulsive head. The Panther again survives the fight and defeats Macabre for the moment. But he learns that Killmonger's people are getting the technology the use from the very technological jungle he himself had created beneath Wakanda.

With Monica cleared of her crime, the Panther leads a counter attack against the forces of Killmonger in the village N'Jadaka (the original name of Killmonger himself) and find there not only Baron Macabre and the deadly Malice but a new villain named Lord Karnaj. It seems Killmonger fancies these dramatic names for his henchmen. The battle is ferocious and people die but the village is taken and Killmonger's men are captured.

These last two issues were drawn by the late Billy Graham, a rarity in the comic book business, a black man. While many will come into the fold in the following decades only a few had made any mark to this point and time. Richard "Grass" Green was having some success in the independent market and Wayne Howard had made quite a mark at Charlton, Many years earlier Matt Baker had been regarded as one of the best "good girl" artists in comics. But like the heroes themselves, black faces were relatively rare. Graham had made his mark at Warren Publishing with horror stories and would also draw Marvel's first American-born superhero title Hero for Hire. Getting him on this series was a major coup, and he and McGregor seemed to find a synthesis which brought out the best in both of them.

More "Panther's Rage" tomorrow.

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