Monday, February 20, 2017
Panther's Rage - Jungle Action!
There is little doubt that the Black Panther epic story "Panther's Rage" which ran for two years in the pages of Jungle Action remains one of Marvel's great tales. Not only does it give us the Black Panther in his first series (the slightly troubling "Jungle Action" title notwithstanding) but it is the first showcase for the loquacious writing of Don McGregor. The story began as a partnership between McGregor and Rich Buckler, but sadly the artist had to step away from the series after the first several issues. He was eventually replaced by the great Billy Graham so the story was well served nonetheless. Over the next five days I want to take a look at the story and reflect on this epic over forty years after it first blasted onto the comics racks.
King T'Challa has been away. As noted elsewhere this month, the Black Panther became a vital member of the Avengers and that duty kept him located in New York City where he also developed the identity of "Luke Charles" and dabbled in teaching. His forays into western society allowed him little time to keep up with affairs in his kingdom of Wakanda and as we'll see, things have been changing. In the sixth issue of Jungle Action the Panther returns home with a lover, Monica Lynne, a modern American woman who is not all that comfortable in a foreign court, especially one which regards her with suspicion.
T'Challa swiftly discovers the threat of a new enemy named Erik Killmonger, a giant warrior of great strength who is attempting to take over the hidden kingdom and to do that he needs to kill T'Challa. He seemingly accomplishes that when he throws the Panther off a raging waterfall as the opening chapter closes.
But in Jungle Action seven the Panther survives (a short series otherwise) and washes up back at his royal court to lick his wounds.
Killmonger soon learns that his enemy has survived and sends the ghastly Venomm (a man named Horatio) to kill the Panther yet again. Venomm does not succeed and is captured by the Panther and imprisoned. Meanwhile the court intrigue continues to brew as Monica fends off the cold barbs of resentful court servant Tanzika. Many of T'Challa's advisors are fleshed out and we learn that Taku is a sensitive intellectual reluctant to fight, W'Kabi is a militant young man who harbors resentment against T'Challa for leaving this kingdom, and Zatama is an idealistic rebel who aspires to make Wakanda better. As part of his battle against Venomm, T'Challa learns that the Killmonger are digging out Vibranium from beneath the sacred mound, and apparently this is the source of funding for the revolution.
In the third installment of "Panther's Rage" in issue eight of Jungle Action, the last by Buckler, Killmonger sends his female agent Malice into the Panther's compound to free Venomm. Amidst much in the way of palace intrigue Malice makes her way inside.
Her plan to free Venomm ultimately fails but the Panther begins to realize that Killmonger employs agents with great power and its source is a mystery.
It is in some ways regrettable that Buckler could not continue on the series. He was clearly in another of his chameleon modes. He was an artist with a distinctive style of his own but he also could mimic great artists like Jack Kirby, Neal Adams and John Buscema. In the Panther stories he is using his own style with a whisper of Buscema and Adams but clearly he is attempting in places to evoke Jim Steranko's classic storytelling as revealed all too readily by the double-page splash for the eighth issue.
Tomorrow "Panther's Rage" continues.