Friday, April 20, 2018

Jack Kirby's Black Panther

Black Panther Vs. Abominable Snowman!
Jack Kirby's Black Panther (1976-78; collected in two volumes 2005): written by Jack Kirby with Jim Shooter and Ed Hannigan; illustrated by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer with Denys Cowan: Jack Kirby's Black Panther followed the cancellation of Jungle Action and the premature end to Don McGregor and Billy Graham's run on Black Panther in that Marvel comic book. Readers who followed the character from one book to the next must have suffered from whiplash. 

Kirby's Black Panther is a super-scientific adventurer whose first multi-issue adventure involves a team-up with a diminuitive collector of weird antiquities named Mr. Little on a quest to find the second of two objects known as King Solomon's Frogs. They've discovered one. It periodically pulls someone or something in from another time. Together, the two assume, the two frogs should form a controllable time machine. OK!

This is Jack Kirby in full-on lunacy mode. It's great lunacy, mile-a-second action, wild double-page spreads, and some of the oddest of Kirby's 1970's narratives. I mean, a time machine shaped like a frog (why?) is weird enough. 

But the time machine will eventually pull in a dangerous, hyper-evolved human from millions of years in the future. There will also be a hidden kingdom founded by seven samurai. There will be a half-brother of T'Challa (that is, the Black Panther) who will seize control of the kingdom of Wakanda. There will be a Council of relatives of the Black Panther who will come together from across the world to battle that half-brother while T'Challa is stuck in the samurai kingdom.

Oh, and a lost Black Panther will stumble across a science-fiction movie filming in the North African desert. It isn't Star Wars, but it's clearly a nod to the Tunisia filming location of Star Wars. Kirby's work on a film adaptation of Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light would be used to help some of the American hostages out of Iran. Remember Argo? They actually shot but didn't use a scene with Jack Kirby. It's true!

Whiplash, though, oh boy! This is rollicking science fantasy laced with absurdity. If you like more serious versions of Black Panther that address social and racial concerns, this is probably not your Black Panther. I love it. I love McGregor's version too. I am entertained by multitudes! Highly recommended.

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