Sunday, March 15, 2009

Retro-View: Jungle Action Featuring The Black Panther #10 (Marvel Comics)

Jungle Action #10 (July 1974) features Part 5 of writer Don McGregor’s extended 1970’s epic, Panther’s Rage. "King Cadaver is Dead and Living in Wakanda!" begins with T’Challa, the Avenger known as The Black Panther, sitting upon a riverbank mulling the events of the previous issue. Suddenly the mighty king of the hidden, technological African nation of Wakanda is beset by a maddened 20 foot crocodile.

Though the Panther may have let the beast get the drop on him, given his renowned fighting prowess, the African Avenger quickly slays the massive river dragon. Called back to court by his trusted communications commander Taku, T’Challa ponders the fate of his American lady love Monica Lynne, who has been framed for the murder of another of his trusted subjects.

Seeking clues, the Black Panther returns to the scene of yet another earlier murder, in a nearby cemetery and is immediately attacked by the corpselike minions of Baron Macabre. Discovering that the skeletal figures are simply disguised tribesmen under the sway of Macabre, T’Challa enters the lair of the Baron’s true master…. King Cadaver!

With an immense act of will, the Panther sloughs off the mental assault of Cadaver and besting Macabre in combat, T’Challa uncovers an eerie and uncomfortable truth. Unlike the disguised human Baron Macabre, King Cadaver’s swollen, green, inhuman face; which is bloated with sac-like glands is his actual appearance. Not only that, but after T’Challa hurls the obscene creature through a window, the Panther is shocked to find an underground computerized chamber – part of Wakanda itself – where his archenemy, Killmonger has been stealing T’Challa’s own weapons to wage his rebellion against Wakanda.

Great stuff here by Don McGregor, Panther’s Rage was a high watermark of quality in Marvel’s 1970’s publications. This issue also marks the debut of artist Billy Graham, who takes over for Rich Buckler, following a brief Gil Kane fill-in. Graham’s pencils are a perfect complement to the script and the fact that Klaus Janson remained as inker, helped maintain a degree of continuity between all of the artistic shuffling. The story is only fifteen pages long, and while that may suggest that the readers were getting short shrift, the outstanding quality of Jungle Action #10 more than offsets the lower page count, and there are three nice bonus pages to flesh out the book. A full page pin-up of Jack Kirby’s original design for the Panther (originally meant to be called the Coal Tiger) and another pin-up of Panther’s Rage, master foe Erik Killmonger. The last "extra" page is a breakdown of the next issue, using various art panels as set-up.

If you don’t have these issues seek them out and revel in an excellent adventure tale by some guys that really know how to make good comics.

1 comment:

Wayne Skiver said...

This was a great series! I loved Kirby's Black Panther as well. Thanks for digging this one up! Now I'm going to have to dig through the longboxes to give em another read. :-)