Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Jungle Action #6 - Panther's Rage.

Jungle Action #6, Black Panther vs Killmonger
Inspired by the Black Panther's appearance in the trailer for Captain America's Civil War movie, which has just been unleashed upon the world, I thought I'd do a review of the first instalment of Panther's Rage, the saga that filled the pages of Jungle Action for almost a year in the 1970s.

The series made a huge impact on me when I first read it reprinted in Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes and it was probably my favourite ever comic book storyline when I was a youth.

Unfortunately, my attempt at doing a normal review of it was a total disaster. So, instead, I thought I'd try a different tack and break it all down to its bare essentials.

So, here goes.

The Panther returns to Wakanda after a lengthy absence, super-heroing in America with the Avengers.

Upon returning, he finds that many of his subjects resent him for his absence and now doubt that he's capable of leading his country any more.

Jungle Action #6, the Black Panther
To make matters worse, civil war's broken out in his kingdom's extremities and a ruthless giant of a man called Erik Killmonger is out to overthrow him.

What's good about this issue:
Rich Buckler draws it like he's capable of drawing it, instead of drawing it like he's Jack Kirby with a broken arm, which means it looks great.

There's plenty of conflict between the characters.

Jungle Action #6, the Black Panther
Don McGregor gives us his determination to make comics more grown-up but, for now, avoids the over-verbosity that can drag his writing down when it goes into overdrive.

Nothing's black and white. The Panther may be the tale's hero but there's no doubt he's ignored his responsibilities to his country and his people and is at least partially to blame for what's happening.

Erik Killmonger's a genuinely menacing villain and clearly physically too much for our hero to handle.

The Black Panther gets to fight a leopard.

What's bad about it:
The Panther's American girlfriend Monica Lynne is spectacularly annoying and insists on calling T'Challa, "Ta-Charlie," which is the sort of thing you could imagine the Thing calling him. In fact, the Thing probably did call him that at some point. It makes me wonder if, next issue, she'll start to declare, "It's clobbering time!" at every opportunity.

Jungle Action #6, the Black Panther, Killmonger
W'Kabi, T'Challa's head of security, has clearly taken belly-aching lessons from Killraven's Hawk and spends the entire issue griping to the Panther about how he's let his country down and that he's probably not fit to rule it anymore. He really is the biggest wet blanket you've ever met and, as far as I can remember, he manages to keep his world-class complaining going all the way through the series. How he manages to keep his job is anyone's guess. The Panther must have the patience of a saint.

Tayete and Kazibe, Killmonger's two henchmen, quickly become portrayed as hapless and almost endearing comic-relief characters, even though they're ruthless killers. It's a shift in tone that feels somewhat uncomfortable, bearing in mind that we first encounter them torturing an old man to death.

The tale's too short. It's only thirteen pages. The thing's over almost as soon as it's started. Fortunately, that failing's resolved in later issues, with the strip expanding to completely fill the book.

The verdict:
Overall, it's a strong introductory episode. It looks good, it has a great moodiness to it, quickly gets us up to speed as to what's happening, introduces the major players and conflicts and features more of McGregor's strengths than his weaknesses. There's really little to hint at the strangeness and the ambition of what's to come but there's enough in it to make you know it's not going to be a typical super-hero strip. I can understand why I loved it as a youth, even though I can see its flaws as an adult.


Anonymous said...

What, no mention of Klaus Janson, Steve?
I would suggest his inks are probably responsible for the improved quality of Buckler's artwork (you can see the effect more clearly in the original run of Deathlok, when Janson started inking halfway through the series and suddenly it looked soooo much better)

Otherwise... I absolutely loved the Panthers Rage stuff at the time, and agree with pretty much everything you wrote here.
Although following the widget to other posts I might like - which ARE actually related for a change - I differ on the merits of Kirby's Panther series. How can you not love King Solomon's Frog and all that?


Steve W. said...

Sean, that Solomon's Frog issue has some good artwork in it but I do wish Kirby had been willing to work with a writer, instead of trying to do it all himself.

Anonymous said...

Well, Steve I reckon a co-writer would just have reined Kirby in, so I can't agree with you there.
But I do like your idea of McGregor as the anti-Kirby; it reminded me of how much Kamandi is like (and at the same time unlike) Killraven.

Btw, have you read McGregor's later Panthers Quest? It appeared in shorter episodes at the end of the 80s, so his writing is a bit tighter (well, relatively!). And the artwork is by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer, so obviously it looks fantastic.


Comicsfan said...

That sequence with the dying tribesman is telling, isn't it? I never did understand how Wakandans would be content with their ruler basically leaving the country indefinitely while taking on other responsibilities with the Avengers. How's that for dedication? Was he just expecting to be able to pick things up where he left off, finding everything just as he left it? (Assuming he ever decided to return?)

A very nice review of the various elements of the story, as well as the work of McGregor and Buckler.

Steve W. said...

Sean, I've not read Panther's Quest. I shall keep an eye out for it.

Comicsfan, thanks for the praise. :)