Contents: Jungle Action #6 (September 1973) to #22 (July 1976), and #24 (November 1976); and Black Panther #1 (January 1977) to #10 (July 1978)
Key Creator Credits: Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Keith Pollard, Jack Kirby, and others
Key First Appearances: Erik Killmonger, Venomm, Mister Little, Princess Zanda, N’Gassi,
Overview: Coming in on a 12:30 flight, we are taking a journey to the land of Wakanda on the African continent. A country built on Vibranium, a rare and powerful element that makes this small country one of the most important ones in all of the world, which in turn brings a lot of threats and dangers to the land. This is Essential Black Panther!
For years, we’ve known of the Black Panther as a supporting character. First introduced in the pages of Fantastic Four, he was a member of the Avengers for many years. Now, we see Black Panther return home, to handle the responsibilities of leading his country.
This collection is broken up nicely into two distinct runs. In the first run, writer Don McGregor, with art from the likes of Rich Buckler and Billy Graham, gives us two great storylines that show the range of the Black Panther character. The Panther’s Rage storyline has Black Panther fighting off a challenge to his throne by Erik Killmonger. The story runs across Africa, from deserts to jungles to waterfalls and caves, Black Panther stands up to the challenges of Killmonger and Venomm to protect his land.
The second storyline from McGregor has T’Challa returning to the United States with his girlfriend Monica Lynne, only to encounter the racist threats of the Ku Klux Klan. This is a powerful story arc on a subject that doesn’t get enough coverage in comics.
The second run in this collection comes to us from the mind of Jack Kirby, so sit back and enjoy the run. During his return to Marvel in the mid-1970s, Kirby was given complete control over his projects and went balls-to-the-wall with everything he did, with titles like Captain America, The Eternals, 2001, and Devil Dinosaur. But my favorite run in this period is his work on Black Panther. He takes Black Panther on a wild journey, chasing after King Solomon’s Frog that can travel through time or bringing in his cousins to protect Wakanda from the radioactive Jakarra. These may not be the greatest Black Panther stories, but they have to be the most fun Black Panther stories.
What makes this Essential?: These are some must-read stories for the Black Panther character, but I don’t know that this is the best collection to read these stories. I would have liked to have seen the Black Panther’s first appearance reprinted in this collection, or even his origin story. You can track those down in other Essentials, but it would have been nice to have them in this book, too. The final five issues of the 1977 run (including Jack Kirby’s final three issues!) are not included here. You cannot even find them in an Essential. I truly believe that Black Panther should have been done in two Essential volumes, to include all of these missing issues.
My other issue is the printing process for this collection. With a character that where’s a black costume, reprinting the story in black and white makes these stories hard to read at times. This is one of those rare times when I wished I had read all of these stories in a color edition.
With all of that said, I do really like these stories. This was the first time that Black Panther got to stand on his own as the lead character in a title or in his own self-titled book. The current success of the character would not be possible without these stories laying the groundwork to establish T’Challa as an A-list hero.
Footnotes: Jungle Action started as a reprint comic. Jungle Action #5 starts the Black Panther run in the title, reprinting Avengers #62, which told the Black Panther’s origin (see Essential Avengers Vol. 3). Jungle Action #23 was a reprint of Daredevil #69 (see Essential Daredevil Vol. 3). The covers to issues #5 and #23 are included in this collection.
The 1977 Black Panther series ran for 15 issues. Kirby stayed on the book through issue #13. The series was cancelled, but the storyline was finished up in Marvel Premiere #51-#53. Those issues of Black Panther and Marvel Premiere can be found in the Black Panther Marvel Masterworks Vol. 2.
If you like this volume, try: any of the following choices. There are so many great options when it comes to tales involving the Black Panther.
- The first choice has to be the Christopher Priest run of Black Panther from 1998 to 2003. This originally started out as part of the Marvel Knights imprint, but moved over into the main Marvel publishing group with issued #13. You cannot mention Black Panther without mentioning Priest’s name. So much of what we think of with T’Challa, Wakanda and all things Black Panther were introduced in this series. The entire series was recently collected in four Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection trade paperbacks.
- The Black Panther series that followed the Priest run is great too. There is a period around 2007 when Reginald Hudlin was writing Black Panther and Dwayne McDuffie was writing Fantastic Four. During the Initiative storyline, Black Panther and his then-wife Storm were serving as members of the Fantastic Four, replacing Reed and Sue. There are a lot of fun stories in each title, and the time-traveling Brass Frogs make a re-appearance.
- Finally, it would be hard to imagine anyone not having viewed it yet, but the 2018 Black Panther movie is a must watch. If you have not seen this movie, stop reading this blog and go watch it. If you have seen the movie, finish reading the blog and then go watch it again. This may be one of the most visually-stunning Marvel movies to date, and it is both a critical and box-office success.