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Black Panther Epic Collection: Panther's Rage Paperback – October 18, 2016
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The stories include the two issue debut of the Panther from Fantastic Four #52 and #53 (1966).
Plus the entire run of Jungle Action's new Panther stories. Jungle Action #6 through #24 which ran bimonthly from 1973 to 1976. For Jungle Action #23 (a reprint of a Daredevil issue with Panther) only the new cover is printed.
I am kind of at a loss to explain why some of the Panther's other early appearances aren't included. I am talking about the FF Annual plus issues of Daredevil and the Avengers. Compare this to the first Moon Knight volume which probably went too far with the Defenders appearances. It seems like the editors change the rules with each volume.
The two issue run of the Fantastic Four from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduces the character. Rereading these books it is interesting to see what a large role Wyatt Wingfoot had during this time, he almost functions as a team member and gets involved in the battles.
A few other recollections that were probably dropped from the Panther Mythos was a scene of T'Challa ( Black Panther) smoking a cigarette. Also their is a reference to his Panther Powers which includes his ability to see in the dark. If somebody ever followed up on these I would like to know. Please leave a comment after this review.
We also get the introduction of the metal Vibranium and the Black Panther's arch enemy Klaw, the master of sound.
Don McGregor's 18 issue run of The Panther in Jungle Action is comprised of two long stories. Especially long for the mid-seventies. The Panther's Rage set in Wakanda runs a whopping 13 issues with the epilogue. While the follow up story set in the American South ran five issues.
Don McGregor broke into comics as a writer in 1971 working on Warren Magazines. To get his foot in the door at Marvel he started as proof reader a short while later. He worked his way up to the Editorial department. At the time Jungle Action was reprinting 50's white jungle heroes in stories he felt were racist. He proposed writing new stories with the African Hero as the lead.
Don McGregor is truly one of the great writers, but I had forgotten how wordy he is. For example in one scene where the Panther is prying the mouth of a crocodile open he talks at length about the state of the Crocodile's dental work. His teeth are covered in slime and rot and little parasites living in his mouth are festering on his gums.
The Panther's Rage is a great and intricate story with many themes. While the Action is continuous the back story are equally fascinating about Politics, Love, Betrayal, Loyalty, Honor, Greed , Jealousy and much more.
The basic plot is between The Panather and Erik Killmonger who like T'Challa has remade himself. Killmonger has a whole batch of evil lieutenants who sport clever wordplay names like: Venomm ( two m's and no symbiotic costume) Malice, Salamander K'ruel, Sombre, Baron Macabre and King Cadaver.
Monica Lynn his American Songbird girlfriend which he met in the missing Avengers issues is a big presence in this saga in which she is even jailed and accused of murder in a big subplot.
The Klu Klux Klan saga which moves the story back to America is also quite good and groundbreaking for its time.
The art for this collection is excellent including the opening salvo by the great Jack Kirby at the top of his game. Inked to perfection by Joe Sinnott. Rich Bucker starts off the McGregor run with some beautiful art before the ultra talented African American artist Billy Graham takes over as regular artist. Also worth mentioning is the talented Klaus Janson who inks a ton of the stories with his realistic style. Gil Kane does the lion's share of covers and a complete fill in issue. All these guys make this a book which is equally great with both writing and art.
The back of book includes an additional 20 pages of extras many from the collection of Don McGregor of scripts, sketches and unseen production work.
This is an outstanding work which needs to be in the library of any Black Panther fan. I hope the new movie and subsequent sequels not only uses the work of Lee & Kirby but also draws on the great material from McGregor, Buckler and Graham.
It is one of those series that has - somehow - flown under the radar for a lot of fans. Ask an older fan, or someone who's read very widely, and more often that not they'll immediately tell you how great this run of Jungle Action is and why everyone should read it at least once. Easily the most ambitious project any of the Big Two attempted during the Bronze Age, it has a scope that was practically unthinkable during the 1970s and needed what can only be described as visionary creators in McGregor, Buckler and Graham to bring it to life.
I first read the latter parts of this forty years ago and I continue to revisit it on an annual basis, enjoying new formats like this as well as the original issues. If you're a Marvel comic fan in particular this is on the list of top series that are absolutely essential reads, up there with Lee and Kirby on FF, Simonson on Thor and Starlin on Warlock in terms of innovative brilliance.
My only advice is to treat it like a good book: keep it for when you have ample time to properly savour it. Parceling it out so you are reading it one issue a night, for instance, won't do it justice. Let the world of T'Challa pull you in and stay there for a while. This is not an ordinary comic series by any measurement and it will repay an investment of time and attention.