Wisely side-stepping T'Challa's earliest adventures with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers this volume starts with the Panther's first solo appearance in Jungle Action #6 from 1973. The next 13 issues feature Don McGregor's epic tale "Panther's Rage" which over two years sees T'Challa returning to his African kingdom of Wakanda after a long stint in The Avengers to find in his absence the country has been ravaged by revolution led by Eric Killmonger aided by a bunch of superb looking mutated allies Malice, Venomm, Baron Macabre, Lord Karnaj, Salamander K'Ruel and King Cadaver. His girlfriend Monica Lynne has accompanied him to Africa and it's not long before he is accused of putting his romance ahead of his country. McGregor weaves a superb tale of a nation suffering from the lack of a leader, families torn apart, villages ransacked as the Panther tracks Killmonger across Wakanda, through an African version of the Savage Land complete with prehistoric beasts and through thorn forests, across deserts and the land of the legendary White Apes before returning home to lead the defence of his land from Killmonger's final assault. The original colour comics were stunning to look at with the lettering on the splash pages blending up rock faces and across bridges and featured some cracking full page spreads and a nice ending as one victim gets a measure of revenge but the scars left across the country were deep. As if that wasn't enough the next issues sees the Panther accompany Monica back to the states for her sister's funeral only to become involved with the Klan in a shorter but no less visually stunning series whose storyline raised some eyebrows at the time. The Jungle Action series oddly ended part way through the Wind Eagle story and a few months later the Panther returned to Africa in a tale that could only have been written, drawn and edited by his co-creator Jack Kirby. The first 10 issues of Kirby's run are included here and are typically off the wall with a small statue of a frog that brings a deadly inhabitant from Earth's future, rival collectors involved in a search for King Solomon's tomb, a hidden Samurai city, the Yeti then a return to Wakanda to battle his mutated step-brother. The contrast between McGregor's thoughtful epic stories and Kirby's fast moving all action tales couldn't be wider yet both work, I loved the Jungle Action series at the time but stopped buying then at the end of the Klan storyline. I remember picking up Black Panther #1 with King Solomon's Frog and thinking what the hell...... but years later having re-read it for the first time in almost 4 decades it works well and is far better second time round.. There are some nice extras with draft storyboards and layouts at the back of the book and a letter from Don McGregor to fan (and future Marvel star) Ralph Macchio adds a nice touch as it is due to their correspondence that Macchio was invited to the Marvel offices and the rest is history.
This book highlights the diversity in Bronze Age Marvel.
McGregor's Panther and Kirby's Panther carry the same name but may as well exist in parallel universes.
The teenage me in the seventies held Don McGregor in high regard as one of the most distinctive voices of the new guard of writers starting to appear in the pages of Marvel Comics. His stories still hold up well when viewed through the prism of middle age. What remains apparent is his commitment to his craft and this is reflected in some of the extras in the back of this book. The Black Panther along with Killraven and Luke Cage form the early part of a fine body of work.
McGregor and a range of talented collaborators make up the first half of the book and is very much writer centric. The back half of the book is driven by the visuals of character creator jack kirby.
Kirby's imagination is still on overdrive in this part of the seventies and the art although not kirby at his peak is still good quality, late Kirby; with sound inks by Mike Royer