Essential Black Panther Vol. 1

This collection reprints stories from Jungle Action #6-24 and Black Panther Vol. 1 #1-10. Stories are written by Don McGregor and Jack Kirby, and penciled by Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Keith Pollard and Jack Kirby.

This collection can really be split into two separate parts, as the approach to the character is fairly different between the two titles represented. That being said, I'm going to review them separately.

First the Don McGregor penned stories from Jungle Action. I'd heard many good things about these stories, and was hoping that they would be quite good. I heard wrong.

First of all, McGregor chose an extraordinarily verbose style for these stories, and it just plain doesn't work. There are so many narrative captions that do absolutely nothing to move the story along that one wonders if McGregor were being paid by the word rather than by the page. It seems that ninety percent of these captions serve to do nothing other than tell us how great the Panther is, and I for one think the stories would have been vastly improved had he simply let the pictures tell the story.

Another issue is that the stories are pretty much bereft of humor. There are a couple of recurring characters on the side of the enemy that are obviously there to provide comic relief, but they rarely show and their comedy falls flat for the most part.

However, the biggest failure I would say would be the decision to start off the series with a twelve-part epic story that was probably 8 parts too long. The story of Erik Killmonger's attempt at Wakandan revolution just drags and drags and drags and drags. Additionally, the second story arc which features the Panther up against the Klan (or a group using the Klan to shield their movements) also goes on too long and ends in a very unsatisfactory manner. Really, shorter stories would have made this so much more interesting.

It's not all bad. While the art starts out professional but pedestrian from Rich Buckler, Billy Graham takes it up a notch in later stories with some very nice layouts and use of black and white. That's not enough for me, but it may be something that others can latch onto.

The second part of the collection features the stories written and drawn by Jack Kirby for the Panther's eponymous title. The stories are plotted better, but I've always been one of those that felt that as a writer, Kirby was a great artist. There are some interesting ideas, and some very Kirby art, but ultimately it falls flat.

One other failing that I have to address is that neither McGregor nor Kirby do enough to make T'Challa an interesting character. McGregor treats him like a god on a pedestal, to be revered and respected, but doesn't do enough to tell us why. Kirby does a slightly better job, but there's so little depth in his stories and characters that you never really get the feeling about what the Panther is all about.

If it sounds like I'm not recommending this collection, that would be correct. I suppose it's interesting in terms of seeing T'Challa's roots, but I think they're better covered in his Fantastic Four/Avengers appearances. It's a shame because Christoper Priest showed just how interesting T'Challa, Wakanda and it's place in the world can be.

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Is there likely to be an essential Black Panther volume that encompasses Christoper Priest's run?

Given that there were at least 50 issues and only two trades were issued, I'd be shocked if there were.

Kirk G said:

Is there likely to be an essential Black Panther volume that encompasses Christoper Priest's run?

I'd imagine Priest and his collaborators would hold out for a more prestigious/high end collection of his BP work.  I believe the creators get more return on the flashier comics collections than they do for the Essentials/Showcases, even though the latter would sell much more.  The Essentials/Showcases are printed on tight profit margins.  I'd think that money aside, they would be quite disappointed to see their work produced in Essentials before appearing in better quality colour collections.

 

There's also the issue that the pages are probably meant to be seen in colour, and there is no B&W version of them as exists for the 60's/70s material.

 

For whatever reasons, largely because of the creators holding things up, there are very few 'phonebooks' of series later than the early 80s, and virtually none from the late 90s onward.  Too soon, I'd guess.

It also seems as if Marvel wants to distance itself from Priest's run as well, as many of the elements that he brought to the character were erased during Reginald Hudlin's run.  Like I said, there are only two full color trades available, and the last issue came out in 2003. I'd say there's more likelihood of seeing a new Hitman collection than one for Priest's Black Panther.

Haven't they been slowly releasing Hitman?  I think there is only a trade or two to go now...

A quick search on Amazon proves you correct.  The last I was aware of was Who Dares Wins, which I think was first printed in 2001. I want to say there was a lengthy gap between the release of that trade and the next.

Figserello said:

Haven't they been slowly releasing Hitman?  I think there is only a trsde or two to go now...

Apparently, the sole reason Ennis brought out the JLA/Hitman comic of a few years ago was so that he'd drum up some interest (maybe just within DC itself) to bring out the rest of the Hitman collections.  Look out for that crossover sometime before the next millenium on my JLA thread...

Agree that McGregor's (sp?) style was overly verbose, to the point of being pretentious.  Kirby's run on the Black Panther was a lot of fun although just a bit retro in it's style, but that was okay with me as he created the character.  Kirby was certainly capable of writing more sophisticated comics, as he was doing it in his other books at Marvel, and had previously done it in his Fourth World and other books at DC.  I think, in my opinion, that the Marvel fanboys of the era were more into pretension than they were into just having a fun read.  Kirby was versatile and could write for fun, or more seriously.  Storytelling was his thing.

     Allen Smith

That's fair.


A LOT of writers at the time could be said to be "pretentious".  ALL were long-winded. Steve Englehart was somehow more "natural" and "fun" and just "better" than any of the others.  Steve Gerber was "weird" and "funny". Roy Thomas was "stiff" and "educational" (maybe he should have been writing THE SUPER-FRIENDS in the early 70's? --heehee).  Gerry Conway was "serious" and "gloomy" and no fun. Len Wein was "wordy" just for the sake of being wordy. Marv Wolfman was "gloomy" and "intense", and despite his saying he hated horror and was scared of horror movies, most of his superhero books felt more like horror comics than superhero adventures. (See his first half-dozen issues of DAREDEVIL to see what I mean. Frank Miller WAS NOT the one who made D.D. "dark".)


And of all of them, Don McGregor was the MOST long-winded by far, and yet, one of my favorites, because he didn't just say what you could see, he told you what the characters were FEELING, he put more real warmth and humanity in than all of Marvel's writers combined.


My main beef was, they cancelled "PANTHER VS. THE KLAN" halfway into the storyline-- and without skipping a beat, started Jack Kirby's BLACK PANTHER series. No matter how you look at it, that just wasn't right.  If you liked McGregor, it was a slap in the face to McGregor.  If you liked Kirby, it was a slap in the face to Kirby, because McGregor fans were gonna be pissed off. Had Jack's book been coming out AT THE SAME TIME (perhaps taking place in a different time period-- it was once suggested the stories might have worked better if they were set before his debut in F.F.) or if a year had gone by between series, it might not have met with such resistence.


As it is, I bought one issue and stopped.  Later, I picked up his last issue or two, which was also cut off in the middle of a story, which someone else then finished off.  Sheesh.  And later still, they tried to make readers believe that the Panther had had amnesia for the entire length of Kirby's run, as McGregor's plot was still left hanging, unfinished.  Wouldn't it have made more sense to do the "missing" episodes, and simply set them BEFORE Kirby's debut???


I don't blame McGregor OR Kirby for any of this. I blame whoever the HELL was in charge (if there was anyone). It's madness, it's chaos, and it was an insult to both the fans and the creators, both of whom were immensely talented, each in their own VERY different ways.


20 years later, I got ahold of some of the Kirby issues I didn't buy before.  And LOVED 'em. Whatta ya know. As I got older, they got better. Unlike most stuff from Thomas, Conway, Wein, Wolfman, etc. etc. etc..........

For Randy and for anyone else interested, all of Priest's BP run has been collected in the last two years in 4 volumes under the title "Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection".  Volume 4 also includes all seven issues of The Crew, Priest's follow-up to Black Panther.

Randy Jackson said:

It also seems as if Marvel wants to distance itself from Priest's run as well, as many of the elements that he brought to the character were erased during Reginald Hudlin's run.  Like I said, there are only two full color trades available, and the last issue came out in 2003. I'd say there's more likelihood of seeing a new Hitman collection than one for Priest's Black Panther.

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