Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tales From the 50 Cent Bin! - Black Panther (1988)

You know, I realized something back in December during my DC kick: I haven’t looked at anything Marvel-related since April of last year. I knew I liked DC, but dang! I left Marvel out in the cold like a dog. My excuse is simple: I had no time for it. So, I think I need to make up for that time with a hero who I really don’t know much about: The Black Panther. For those who don’t know, T’Challa is the king of the African country, Wakanda. Whenever someone becomes the king, they take the title of the Black Panther. He was also one of the first black superheroes in comics which makes it even nicer since it is Black History Month. If you want to know more about the guy, go to Wikipedia or something  since I don’t know everything about the dude.

I’ll go on and admit that T’Challa isn’t one of my favorite superheroes but I do like him. I’ve tried to get into some of the different runs in the last few years, but I haven’t made the chance to do it. I think I like it more when he interacts with other heroes like the Avengers or Marvel’s Illuminati group. I enjoyed the character in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as well as Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers run which is something I need to catch up on one of these days. I haven’t gone past issue 5 yet since Marvel had the “bright” idea to have their books cost about $4 an issue.

I found this four-issue miniseries in the 50 cent bin some time ago. Since it had Black Panther and all four issues were available, I decided to get it. It was released in 1988. I haven’t heard of any of the creators on this except for the editors and the penciler. So, let’s get to it.

Black Panther (1988)
Writer: Peter B. Gillis
Pencils: Denys Cowan
Inks: Sam de LaRosa
Colors: Bob Sharen (#1-#3) and Max Scheele (#4)
Letters: Rick Parker
Editor: Mark Gruenwald
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

For some unknown reason, Black Panther feels different. Even his court sees that he isn’t right. Not only did he get into a fight with a rhino (apparently that happens in the MU), he also got attacked by panthers. T’Challa wonders if he is losing his connection to the Panther god which is something I never knew about. Apparently, some Panther god gave T’Challa powers at this time. I was wondering why he was sporting cat eyes and had fangs here. I knew Dracula didn’t get to him!
You know you're probably in Africa if someone's riding a rhino.

The main thrust of the story comes as the neighboring nation of Azania is going through turmoil. A lot of violence was happening since Azania was under an Apartheid system. Things get worse when someone who transforms into a were-panther starts killing off white politicians. This gets the Azanian natives to revolt. People believe that it’s the Black Panther doing all of the killing. In order to quell any more violence, T’Challa holds a conference to soothe both sides. Unfortunately, this action (along with his other issues) makes his advisors question his actions. He’s forced to prove himself as he goes up against a White Ape. While he beats the White Ape, someone finds a device on his advisor that drains the strength of White Apes. Because of this, T’Challa’s advisor is exiled and T’Challa has to give up his throne until the land’s Tribunal makes a decision.

In order to deal a blow to Wakanda, a general in the Azanian government sends in a team of superheroes called the Supremacists to kill T’Challa. I gotta say, the name sounds subtle. Yes, that is sarcasm, folks. They even got a guy named the White Avenger! In Wakanda, T’Challa is still trying to deal with losing his throne during this troublesome time. While he gets into another match of manliness, the Supremacists attack. They do their best to tear up the village, but Black Panther is able to stop them all.
The Supremacists: the most non-subtle name since the Wrecking Crew.

Some time later, he receives a chilling message from his former advisor. It turns out that the general is going to send a nuclear missile towards the country. Since his council won’t listen to him, T’Challa decides to leave Wakanda and take care of the problem himself. His journey leads him to Paris where he runs into Melaika, a former love and Wakanda’s ambassador. She helps him get into contact with a Richard Littel, a man who will help clear T’Challa’s name in the world public. T’Challa and Melaika then travel to Anzania to stop the missile. T’Challa heads in alone to the base where the missile is.

First, he tries to stop the situation peacefully by talking to the general. They let him do a TV conference where he’s supposed to tell the Azanian rebels to stop. Instead, he pulls a move from Rambo 2 and tells them to never give up. He tries to take on the guards, but he gets knocked out by gas and locked up. Luckily, his imprisonment doesn’t last as the were-panther (which turns out to be the Panther god???) shows up. Even though the god is pretty peeved at T’Challa, he frees him.  T’Challa is able to get to the missile as it launches and disable it.

He, Melaika, and his advisor head back to Wakanda and all seems good. Unfortunately, T’Challa has that Panther god on his mind and knows he has to face him. At the behest of everyone, he heads to the jungle to face the ticked off god. They start to fight and the god proves to be a challenge to T’Challa. The god tells Black Panther that he’s chosen another body because T’Challa hasn’t done enough for the Azanian people. Though the help of his electronic jungle, T’Challa’s able to weaken the man who’s being controlled by the Panther god. Unfortunately, the god takes his true form and beats the crap out of T’Challa and chastises him more.

T’Challa gives in and tells the god that he messed up and didn’t do enough to help his people. Somehow, this appeases the god and he leaves. In Azania, Mr. Littel uses his influence to prove to the government that Black Panther didn’t cause the revolts. Afterwards, the Azanian government does what it can to end hostilities by ceasing fire and setting up commissions to keep the peace. The rebels stop their fighting and try peace. In the end, the injured Black Panther heads to his kingdom with the will to help with the peace process.

While it’s not perfect, I did like this outing for the Black Panther. I liked the story for the most part. I liked how T’Challa himself was used. As I said before, I haven’t read a lot of his stories but I like the character. He gets put through the wringer here. He gets blamed for a revolt and his kingship is threatened. I also liked his adviser and Melakia since they were provided some personality other than the other supporting characters.

I also liked that it touched on real issues like apartheid. It actually made me want to research on that outdated system, so it succeeded in that area. I also thought the story started out quite well. I also liked that we got a little bit of superhero action with him fighting the Supremacists. Yeah, their name was really cliché, but it was fun seeing Black Panther beat up some folk called the Supremacists. While I thought the artwork was not to my taste, it still had some good moments.

Now, I did have some issues with the mini. The biggest one was the art. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t that good either. Faces tended to look different from issue to issue. I have to say it got to the point where you didn’t know who was who in some places. The only reason I knew who T’Challa was because he was sporting those cat eyes. The art also goes downhill in the last issue. The new colorist just didn’t jive with me in that one.
Eh? Well, I guess it had to end some way...

The villains were also pretty one-note especially the general. I guess it makes sense he would retaliate at Wakanda, but he seemed evil for the sake of being evil. The Panther god was another thing that didn’t make much sense. Originally, I was thinking that the man who transformed was part of some plot to discredit Wakanda. Instead, we get a really weird explanation for that. The final battle between T’Challa and the god was pretty weird as well. In fact, when the god revealed he was a god, I started to enjoy it less.

Overall, I did like this story even if it petered out towards the end and had other things I didn’t necessarily care for. If you’re a fan of the Black Panther, check it out if it’s in a bin. You might like it. If you’re a fan of the Black Panther, point me towards some good stories because I am pretty curious.Well, I’m outta here. I need to do some exercising. Peace and God Bless.

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