Retro Review: Black Panther (Vol. 3) #13 – 49 By Priest, Velluto, Almond & Others For Marvel Comics!

Black Panther Vol. 3 #13 – 49, Deadpool #44 (December 1999 – November 2002)

Written by Christopher Priest (#13-49; Deadpool #44)

Pencils by Sal Velluto (#13-17, 19-23, 25-29, 31-33, 35-45, 48-49), Kyle Hotz (#18), Tomm Coker (#19), Mark Bright (#24), Norm Breyfogle (#30), Jim Calafiore (#34-35, Deadpool #44), Jorge Lucas (#46-47)

Inks by Bob Almond (#13-17, 19-23, 25-29, 31-33, 35-43, 45, 48-49), Eric Powell (#18), Jimmy Palmiotti (#19), Walden Wong (#24), Norm Breyfogle (#30), John Livesay (#34-35), Steve Geiger (#44), Justin Thyme (#44), Jorge Lucas (#46-47), Jon Holdredge (Deadpool #44)

Coloured by Brad Vancata (#13-17), Steve Oliff (#18-29), VLM (#30-36), Jennifer Schellinger (#37-49), Shannon Blanchard (Deadpool #44)

Spoilers (from fourteen to seventeen years ago)

I apologize for the length of this column, but there was no easy place to break up the impressive and long run that Priest, Velluto, and Almond mostly shared.

Let’s take a look at who was in this series:

Villains

  • Reverend Dr. Michael Ibn al-hajj Achebe (#13, 22-23, 36-37, Deadpool #44)
  • N’Jadaka/Eric Killmonger (#13, 15-16, 18-25, 36, Deadpool #44)
  • Hydro-Man (#13-14)
  • Dzhokhar Gapon (Russian mafia; #13-14)
  • Nightshade (#16-17, 38-41, 43-45, 48)
  • “Boss” Morgan (#16-17)
  • Cottonmouth (#16-17)
  • Stilletto (#16-17)
  • Cockroach (#16-17)
  • X-Ray (#19)
  • Nightmare (#21-22)
  • Titania (#23, Deadpool #44)
  • Constrictor (#23, Deadpool #44)
  • Nakia/Malice (ex-Dora Milaje; #13, 23-25, 31-33)
  • Lord Ghaur (Deviants of Lemuria; #26-29)
  • Klaw (#26-29)
  • Warlord Kro (Deviants of Lemuria; #27-28)
  • Mephisto (actually Black Dragon; #30, 34-35)
  • Man-Ape (#32-35, 48-49)
  • T’Charra (T’Challa’s future son; #36-37)
  • Lord Karnaj (#36-37)
  • Baran Macabre (#36-37)
  • Sombre (#36-37)
  • Madame Slay (#36-37)
  • Venomm (#36-37)
  • Salamander K’Ruel (#36-37)
  • Black Dragon/Chiangtang (#38-40)
  • Kiber the Cruel (#43)
  • Loki (#46-47)

Guest Stars

  • Justice (#13-14)
  • The Hulk (#15, 17, 35, 38)
  • The Falcon (#16-17, 37)
  • Power Man (#16-17, 37)
  • Iron Fist (#16-17, 38-40)
  • Jericho Drumm/Brother Voodoo (#17-22, 37)
  • Black Goliath (#17)
  • Iron Man (#19, 23, 41-45, Deadpool #44)
  • Moon Knight (#20-22)
  • She-Hulk (#22-23, Deadpool #44)
  • Edwin Jarvis (#22, Deadpool #44)
  • Deadpool (#22-23, Deadpool #44)
  • Triathlon (#23, Deadpool #44)
  • Hank Pym (as Goliath, #23, Deadpool #44; as Yellowjacket, #42)
  • The Wasp (#23, 27, 42-44, Deadpool #44)
  • Storm (#25-27)
  • Mister Fantastic (#26, 30, 43)
  • Captain America (#27, 30, 42)
  • Scarlet Witch (#27, 42-43)
  • Namor (#27-29, 35, 38)
  • Dr. Doom (#27-28)
  • Magneto (#28)
  • Henry Peter Gyrich (#30, 34-36, 38, 40-43, 45-46, 48)
  • Dakota North (#31-33)
  • The Thing (#33)
  • Valkyrie (#34-35, 38)
  • Nighthawk (#35, 38)
  • Silver Surfer (#35, 38)
  • Hellcat (#35, 38)
  • Dr. Strange (#35, 38)
  • Colleen Wing (#38)
  • Misty Knight (#38)
  • Wolverine (#41-44)
  • Pepper Potts (#42-43, 45)
  • Vision (#42)
  • Warbird (Carol Danvers; #42-43)
  • Quicksilver (#42)
  • Guardian (James Hudson; #42-44)
  • Vindicator (Heather Hudson; #42-44)
  • Invisible Woman (#43)
  • George W. Bush (#43-45)
  • Sasquatch (#43-44)
  • Shaman (#43)
  • Snowbird (#43-44)
  • Puck (#43-44)
  • Thor (#46-47)
  • Rawhide Kid (#46-47)
  • Kid Colt (#46-47)
  • Two-Gun Kid (#46-47)
  • Odin (#47)

Supporting Characters

  • Monica Lynne (#13, 15-16, 18-22, 24, 26-28, 30, 32-33, 36-37, 44-46, 48)
  • Everett K. Ross (State Department; #13-32, 34-49)
  • Queen Divine Justice (Chanté Giovanni Brown, Dora Milaje; #13, 15-22, 24, 26-29, 31-36, 38-39, 41-49)
  • W’Kabi (#14-16, 22-24, 32-33, 35, 40-41, 49)
  • Nikki Adams (Ross’s boss; #14-20, 22, dies in #24, body shown throughout #25)
  • Sergeant Tork (NYPD; #16)
  • Okoye (Dora Milaje; #16, 18-20, 24-25, 32, 34, 41-43, 49)
  • Ramonda (T’Challa’s step-mother; #18, 21, 24-25, 32, 41)
  • Taku (Communications; #18, 23, 26, 36, 40, Deadpool #44)
  • Zuri (advisor; #18-21, 23-24, 27, 32-33, 35, 40-41, 44, 49)
  • Hunter, the White Wolf (#22, 24-28, 36, 44)
  • Hatut Zeraze (Dogs of War; Wakandan Secret Police; #23, 25-26, 44)
  • N’Kano/Vibraxas (#25-29, 31-35, 48-49)
  • T’Chaka (T’Challa’s father; seen in flashback; #30)
  • M’Koni (T’Challa’s cousin; #31, 33)
  • Omoro (Wakandan Consulate; #31-33, 38)
  • Faida (T’Challa’s future daughter; #36)
  • Suspended Animation Kirby Suit Black Panther (#40-49)
  • Senator Kamal Rakim (#41, 45)
  • Toyosi (Queen Divine Justice’s ‘grandmother’; #41)
  • Junta/Vicente/Danny Vincent (NSA, LCL; #41-45)
  • Ma (Danny Vincent’s robot drone; #41-45)
  • Abner Little (Jack Kirby creation, adventurer; #41-45)
  • Princess Zanda (Jack Kirby creation, adventurer; #42-45)
  • Sundance Ross (Ross’s Western ancestor; #46-47)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • Ross continues to narrate this run, and starts by recapping Nakia’s story as a Dora Milaje, from her early preteen crush on T’Challa to her deceitful dumping of Monica Lynne in the jungle.  T’Challa comes to her bed chambers in full regalia, demanding that she explain what happened to Monica.  He threatens to send her back to her tribe in shame, but Nakia tells him nothing.  After he leaves, she gets on her sky sled and flies away.  Later, the sled having run out of power, she crashes outside a rural church, where she is found by a priest who looks a lot like Achebe.  He drags her to his church by her hair.  We see a flashback to McGregor’s 70s run, where Eric Killmonger threw T’Challa down a waterfall, and he ended up meeting Monica.  We see that Monica is lost in a Wakandan jungle, hanging out with a leopard.  T’Challa, who now wears a full-length cape, talks to Ross outside the ruins of his palace.  We learn that the search for Monica is not going well, and that the Panther must return to New York to deal with political issues.  He appoints Ross his regent in his absence.  We see Hydro-Man infiltrate an airplane.  In Chicago, we are introduced to Queen Divine Justice, a motormouth local activist who tries to keep a turbaned ice cream seller out of her neighbourhood because of reasons that don’t make a whole lot of sense.  When the cops try to stop her from creating a disturbance, she decks one of them.  We learn that Russian mafioso Dzhokhar Gapon is being extradited to Europe, but Hydro-Man kills the pilot and cockpit crew.  Justice is working out at Avengers Mansion when T’Challa comes looking for the rest of the team, or just Captain America.  They are interrupted by an alert about what’s happening on the plane, and the Panther tells Justice to come with him to a Quinjet.  We see that Nakia is strung up outside the burning church, and that Killmonger is there.  In Chicago, Queen Divine Justice is visited by a guy in tribal gear, who wants her to join the Dora Milaje.
  • Ross has been working as the Regent of Wakanda for a little longer than he expected, since the Panther got involved in the Ultron storyline in Busiek and Perez’s Avengers.  He’s mostly enjoying himself, but feeling a little out of his depths.  The Panther and Justice arrive at the airplane that’s been hijacked by Hydro-Man.  The Panther leaves Justice flying the Quinjet, and travels to the plane himself.  W’Kabi tries to advise Ross, who is more interested in reading the Wakandan plan for an attack by Galactus.  There is some kind of hunt that Ross is expected to attend.  The Panther boards the plane, finding the cargo area flooded, and starts to fight Hydro-Man.  He temporarily defeats him, and boards the plane proper, which is out of fuel and unpiloted.  The passengers don’t know what’s going on, and he attempts to deal with the marshals accompanying Gapon, who are resistant.  Hydro-Man attacks again, and they fight for many pages before the Panther tricks him into entering into electrolysis.  The plane is about to crash into the White House, but between Panther’s use of Kimoyo and Justice’s powers, they are able to put it down with no deaths.  Hydro-Man, who gives the Panther enough information to figure out that he’s been hired by N’Jadaka (I don’t remember who that is at the moment), is defeated by his own stupidity once again.  As Panther and Justice oversee the passengers disembarking and discuss the Panther returning to the Avengers, Nikki, Ross’s boss and the Panther’s former lover, arrives on the scene.
  • Priest returns to the layered narrative structure he so often employs with issue fifteen.  The framework of the issue is that Ross is narrating his misadventures with the Panther to Nikki, who is in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast.  Ross begins by talking about getting dropped off in New York by Dr. Jericho Drumm, and running into the Hulk, who wants to ‘smash’ him.  Ross flees the Hulk, and the Panther tries to rescue him, but as he’s not fully prepared for him, he’s not all that effective.  Queen Divine Justice is also on the scene, and she scolds the Hulk for trying to toss someone’s car at the Panther, who Hulk refers to as “black-man”.  Just as it looks like she’s calmed the behemoth down, she recommends that he toss the arriving police car at the Panther instead.  The Panther’s boots protect him, and Hulk and QDJ leap off to go clubbing.  Nikki scolds Ross for jumping around in the narrative, and we return to earlier, when Ross is still regent of Wakanda, and is taken on a ceremonial hunt by W’Kabi and others, wearing a Black Panther outfit.  Ross is expected to kill a gigantic rogue elephant bull, but stalling, he calls Nikki, who is having an awkward and mostly silent meeting with the Panther.  After she hangs up on Ross, the two former lovers begin to talk about how she has been avoiding T’Challa, and how he feels dishonoured by her sending her lover to work as his attaché.  Ross calls T’Challa, and he orders W’Kabi to protect the man.  T’Challa insists that Ross be told of his and Nikki’s former relationship.  W’Kabi and his men secure the elephant, and expect Ross to kill it, but he refuses.  At that point, the elephant frees himself and starts chasing Ross.  As Ross is chased, a large man appears and attacks the elephant, putting it down.  Monica Lynne also appears, with the leopard Preyy.  The man who stopped the elephant is N’Jadaka, who hired the Hydro-Man, and who is also known as Eric Killmonger, who has been hanging out with Monica.  
  • Nikki searches for information on N’Jadaka on her iMac, while in Wakanda Killmonger fights Ross’s entourage, including W’Kabi, with whom he has some history, while Ross cowers and is harassed by Preyy.  Monica stops the leopard, and eventually stops Killmonger from killing W’Kabi.  Nikki finds the information she’s looking for, while the Panther searches for Killmonger in Harlem, with Sgt. Tork.  Nightshade appears out of nowhere and attacks them, using her science to protect herself from the Panther’s energy daggers, and using gas pellets to control Tork.  She places paralytic acid on the Panther’s outfit, and has a large number of men prepare to give him a beatdown.  He is saved by the Falcon, wearing a terrible 90s outfit, who takes him to Okoye, who uses the heart-shaped herb to revive him.  Ross and W’Kabi are taken to the village of N’Jadaka, named after Killmonger, and built as a neo-facist state.  It is clear that our people are there as guests now, and they are given time to freshen up.  Nikki continues to research Killmonger, which takes the form of a Marvel Universe entry on the man (courtesy of a geocities website – so 2000!).  In Harlem, the Panther refuses further help from the Falcon, and prepares to just wait to see who Killmonger sends after him next.  Queen Divine Justice is in New York, and argues with the older tribal man who has brought her there.  Ross calls Nikki, and lets her know he’s with Killmonger.  Nightshade blows up the Panther’s limousine, and reveals that she has gathered some other villains, Morgan, Cottonmouth, Stiletto, and Cockroach, to help her.  Just as a fight is about to start, Falcon turns up, accompanied by Power Man and Iron Fist.
  • Trying to sleep in the guest chambers in Killmonger’s house, Ross is awoken by the arrival of Jericho Drumm, Brother Voodoo.  In New York, the gathered heroes from last issue support the Panther in fighting the gathered villains, and these scenes are handled with a fair amount of banter and humour, as none of these villains are particularly difficult to manage.  At a point when heroes and villains end up lined up against each other, Brother Voodoo suddenly appears with Ross, creating more confusion.  At this point in the narration, Nikki kicks Ross out of her hospital room, frustrated with his storytelling.  We see that all the heroes, including the Hulk and Queen Divine Justice are in the waiting room.  The Panther goes in to talk to Nikki, admonishing her again for not telling Ross about their shared past.  He threatens to tell him himself, which he sees as a loss of face for all of them, and he heads out the window.  QDJ hears this conversation.  She takes over the narration, recapping what went before, and then letting Nikki know that Voodoo had sought out T’Challa to tell him that he’s felt a disturbance in the force, like someone in Wakanda had returned from “the deadside”.  Everyone starts to fight again, when Black Goliath, wearing a terrible chest/stomach exposing outfit, also arrives, to tell the Panther that the Hulk is wrecking the Brooklyn housing projects where he has established his home.  There’s a transmitter on the Hulk that has led him there.  Ross knocks it off him when Voodoo teleports him and the Panther to the scene, which we saw in issue fifteen (although it’s not explained how Ross is suddenly wearing a suit and not the sleepwear he was in pages before).  Nikki asks QDJ about her trip to a nightclub with the Hulk, and we see that scene play out.  The Panther goes to the club too, expressing concern about Killmonger, and arguing with QDJ about how bringing the Hulk there endangers everyone, especially since Ross called in backup.  She leads the Hulk out and tells him to go away for a while (although he clearly followed her to the hospital later).  Nikki shows up at the club and breaks her leg on the metal detector that the Hulk broke.  As QDJ finishes her narration, Ross walks into the room just as she mentions Nikki’s relationship with T’Challa.  He looks stricken.
  • Issue eighteen features guest art by Kyle Hotz and Eric Powell, and their Kelly Jones-style approach works well with the content of this issue.  It opens with Ross standing in the rain outside Nikki’s apartment, reflecting on the fact that she had a relationship with T’Challa, and feeling betrayed because he didn’t know about it.  She invites him in, and disturbingly, he smacks her.  They fight, and he backs up his narration (again) to explain what led to this place.  The Panther is standing vigil in Wakanda.  He sends Brother Voodoo and Zuri to the Resurrection Altar to see what’s going on with this Deadside stuff, and reflects on past defeats at Killmonger’s hands.  Ramonda checks in on him, and they talk about Monica.  We see Monica defeat Killmonger in a game of basketball in N’Jadaka Village.  Killmonger explains that he is not focused on defeating the Panther, but instead, in a very complicated way, is seeking to diversify Wakanda’s economy through his creation of a company called iFruit.com, which is about to have an IPO.  He plans on crashing the country’s economy to turn the people against T’Challa.  It’s a bit complicated, but Priest comics always are.  In the narrative present, after fighting, Ross discovers that Nikki has been researching iFruit.com, and that it’s both an online fruit delivery company, and a black ops provider.  The Dora Milaje come to get Ross to take him to Wakanda, but he refuses to go, claiming that T’Challa is no longer his friend.  In Wakanda, we learn that the Panther has purposefully distracted Zuri, and arranged his troops for some kind of plan.  A courier goes to the United Press to hand in a press release.  T’Challa himself dissolves Wakanda’s Parliament, and nationalizes all foreign companies operating in Wakanda.  Killmonger reacts in anger.  Ross learns about this, and discovers a large black man in Nikki’s apartment (I’m not sure if I’m supposed to know who this is).  The Panther goes to the Resurrection Altar, and Killmonger arrives with Monica his hostage, and backed up by a number of troops on flying platforms.
  • Issue nineteen marks the return of the regular art team, for the lead story in the issue, and Tom Brevoort’s arrival as editor.  Apparently the book was behind, so he used an inventory story for half the issue, and shuffled things around a little in the lead, which is why the cover has nothing to do with the contents.  Anyway, we see reaction to T’Challa’s economic actions, as the world teeters on the brink of global recession, Tony Stark looks surprised, and Bill Clinton is yelling in the White House.  We learn that the guy who grabbed Ross at Nikki’s apartment is a reanimated agent of Killmonger.  Queen Divine Justice starts to fight him.  In Wakanda, the Panther is fighting more of Killmonger’s zombies in the Resurrection Altar, while Killmonger shoots a wristblaster at him and drags Monica around by her hair.  Okoye shoots the zombie at Nikki’s, but another busts through the wall.  Zuri and Brother Voodoo chat during the chaos, and Voodoo’s dead brother pulls a Deadman and enters Killmonger’s body.  The Dora Milaje stop the new zombie in New York.  With Killmonger unable to control his body, the battle shifts in Wakanda.  T’Challa refuses to kill or incarcerate Killmonger, citing Wakandan tribal law.  Instead, he challenges him to combat at Warrior Falls, where they battled before.  Throughout the story, we’ve watched a stock exchange ticker keep track of the price of the Wakandan Design Group.  It finally stabilizes, and Tony Stark puts in an order to buy up its stock.
  • The backup in issue nineteen features very early art by Tomm Coker, and tells a story from the middle of the first story arc.  The Panther and his entourage, including Ross, get carjacked in Brooklyn by a guy named X-Ray and his crew.  The entourage take care of the robbers, while the Panther chases down X-Ray.  It’s a pretty straightforward story.
  • Ross and Nikki are flown in a jet towards Wakanda by the two Dora Milaje, Okoye and Queen Divine Justice.  Ross is nervous about going, knowing that Killmonger wants him dead (Ross is still regent), but QDJ is sure that the fight is over.  Instead, we see three straight pages of T’Challa and Killmonger fighting.  I like the way the fight is shown only through T’Challa’s eyes, in a series of five horizontal panels.  This is used again and again.  The fighters break, and we see that they are at the waterfall where I suppose these challenges traditionally take place.  The jet arrives at N’Jadaka Village, and is fired upon by Killmonger’s people.  They crash and find themselves in the village, which looks a lot like New York.  The Panther and Killmonger fight for another page, this time shown from Killmonger’s perspective.  Dr. Voodoo arrives in Brazil, where Stephen (Moon Knight) Grant is vacationing with his girl Marlene.  Drumm freezes time, and tells Grant to meet him at the statue of Christ before disappearing.  The two fighters continue to fight and argue about the nature of their hate for one another.  Drumm tells Moon Knight that he needs his help to fix a mystical imbalance.  Ross and his entourage ride a monorail in N’Jadaka Village.  QDJ is affected emotionally by the beauty of being in a technologically advanced African village.  When they arrive at the station, they are met by Zuri and Monica Lynne.  Monica wants them to go help T’Challa, which Zuri doesn’t agree with.  Monica is worried that Killmonger will kill T’Challa.  Those two men continue to fight, as Killmonger explains that he basically has T’Challa in checkmate; even if he kills him, Killmonger has forced T’Challa to tank Wakanda’s economy and make himself a failure as king.  Ross, Zuri, and Monica race towards the falls on a skycycle.  T’Challa has Killmonger down and on the ropes, but the arrival of Ross and the others creates a short distraction, which Killmonger takes advantage of, flipping T’Challa and thumping him on the chest.  Just as Moon Knight and Drumm arrive, Killmonger declares T’Challa dead.
  • Ross, feeling guilt over what just happened to T’Challa, remembers when he drove over his beloved pet dog as a child.  He finds the T’Challa is still alive, and is upset when Killmonger moves in to finish him, since T’Challa neither yielded the fight, nor put it on hold.  Ross, as regent of Wakanda, against Zuri’s advice, declares the contest over and yields on T’Challa’s behalf.  This means that Killmonger is now the Chieftain of the Panther Clan, effectively making him the Black Panther.  Brother Voodoo explain how Killmonger has come back to life a number of times, but that the Resurrection Altar cannot be used to revive T’Challa.  Instead, Voodoo transports everyone except Killmonger to Tranquility Temple, where the chief priest prepares T’Challa’s barely-living body.  Moon Knight’s ka, or spirit, travels to the Land of the Dead, where he finds T’Challa.  They are attacked by the Ennead, spirits who try to keep our heroes from the temple of Khonshu.  They fight their way past them, and find inside that Khonshu has taken the form of Ross.  In Wakanda, four days have passed, and Ramonda sits with her step-son.  Queen Divine Justice checks in on them, and she and Ramonda bond a little.  Ross comes along and verbalizes his trust in T’Challa’s having planned for all eventualities.  In the Land of the Dead, Moon Knight expresses disbelief in this aspect of Khonshu.  We learn that T’Challa needs a copy of the Book of the Dead.  In Wakanda, eight days have passed and a very frustrated Ross goes looking for Brother Voodoo, hoping to speed things along.  When he finds him, he is surprised to see that his throat has been slit, and we are led to believe that he is dead.  In the Land of the Dead, Moon Knight still does not believe that this is Khonshu they are dragging around with them.  They arrive at the Panther God Pavilion, where they find that the souls of all the chieftains that preceded T’Challa are now dead.  The Enneads attack again, and Ross/Khonshu slips his bonds, revealing himself to be Nightmare.
  • Ross has a weird waking dream wherein he defends Ka-zar in court, before waking up and finding himself standing over Brother Voodoo’s dead body.  In the Land of the Dead, T’Challa continues his fight with Nightmare, and is thrust into a memory of his father and Klaw, before almost fighting Moon Knight, as Nightmare’s hold on him shifts around.  T’Challa tries to figure out what Nightmare needs from him, and is shifted into a Batman and Robin scenario, with Ross cast as an Africanized Boy Wonder.  We see Achebe as the Joker, and Nakia as Catwoman, in a weird scenario where the Panther and Ross/Robin chase the villains in their strange Batmobiles.  T’Challa tells Ross that he counts on him to make tough decisions, when we suddenly see Ross revived in the waking world by Queen Divine Justice, Monica, and Nikki.  Ross figures out that T’Challa was sending him a message and runs off.  In the Land of the Dead, T’Challa and Moon Knight fight the Ennead again, and travel to ancient Egypt, where they find Khonshu and other Gods in their human forms.  Khonshu tells T’Challa that his body is healed, but that he needs to reunite his ka with the Panther God to rekindle their connection.  The Panther figures out that his ancestors’ souls are still alive but imprisoned, and Moon Knight conjures his plane to take him there.  In Wakanda, Ross speaks to the comatose T’Challa, and argues with W’Kabi, who does not want to follow his wishes as regent.  As T’Challa and Moon Knight approach Nightmare’s realm, they see that they are being pursued by the Egyptian gods, and T’Challa starts ripping up the Book of the Dead, which he believes will stop Nightmare from leaving the Land of the Dead.  T’Challa has figured out that Moon Knight is Nightmare.  We see T’Challa wake up in Wakanda.  Later, we learn that Drumm is still alive and healing, and that Moon Knight is fine.  Drumm, who cannot yet speak, identifies Malice as his attacker.  T’Challa calls for his advisors.  Ross meets with, and offers a job to Hunter, the White Wolf.  In New York, Killmonger, identifying himself as the new Black Panther, goes to Avengers Mansion to take his place on that team.  Also in New York, Achebe shows up to hire Deadpool, which leads the story into Deadpool #44.
  • I read Deadpool #44 on Comixology, so I’d be current with the story (it’s priced too high to pick up in a store these days), and since it’s also written by Priest (I don’t think I ever knew he did a Deadpool run; he’s not a favourite character of mine), I decided it made sense to fold that issue into this column.  It opens with T’Challa, still recovering from his injuries and confined to a ‘zero-gravity chair’ venturing into the technological jungle beneath Wakanda’s central city, where he meets with his communications minister, Taku.  We learn that Killmonger is at Avengers Mansion, and that Tony Stark keeps calling, but T’Challa wants to ignore this, instead focusing on the hunt for Malice.  In New York, Achebe hires and manipulates Deadpool to get him, Titania, and Constrictor (who I guess were working with Deadpool at this time?) to get him Killmonger’s leopard Preyy, who he claims was stolen from him.  Killmonger and Preyy are hanging out with Triathlon on the grounds of Avengers Mansion while Goliath and Wasp chat with Iron Man about whether or not they should arrest Killmonger or allow him on the team.  They don’t think they can do either thing.  Deadpool arrives disguised as an animal control worker who looks like Tom Cruise, and teleports Preyy and Triathlon away.  Achebe impersonates T’Challa in a video call with Tony Stark, wherein he tells him to admit Killmonger onto the Avengers, and to keep his shares of the Wakanda Design Group.  Tony is confused.  The Avengers fight Deadpool until Achebe drives an ice cream truck through the garden wall and Titania and Constrictor join the craziness.  After a few pages of fighting, the two villains grab Deadpool and escape, to find that Achebe has vanished, and that the teleporter did not send Preyy to Deadpool’s home, as it was supposed to.  The Avengers arrive to stomp the ice cream truck, Iron Man turns up at the Mansion to learn from Jarvis that they think they know where the cat and Triathlon went, and T’Challa learns that something was teleported into Wakanda.
  • Back in the Panther’s own book, Deadpool, Titania, and Constrictor are imprisoned and arguing.  The Avengers, including Killmonger, are on their way to Wakanda, where the Wakandan Air Force is unhappy with their entering their sovereign territory.  Killmonger, unimpressed with what he sees as the Avengers’ weakness, commands the jets to leave them alone.  Achebe has Triathlon and Preyy in an underground Wakandan complex.  He uses a teleporter to bring Deadpool there as well.  The Avengers meet with Ross and Zuri, while Deadpool finds Triathlon running with gazelles and prepares him to return home.  The Avengers and Killmonger enter the techno-jungle, following Preyy’s tracking device.  T’Challa and Taku monitor their progress, but do not want to intervene.  The Avengers are attacked by the Hatut Zeraze (although I have no clue under whose orders).  They dispatch them, and bust down the door to where Preyy is supposed to be, but find Deadpool instead.  He and Killmonger fight.  Triathlon finds himself lost in the techno-jungle, where he has a chat with a shadowy figure who is presumably T’Challa.  Deadpool and Killmonger trigger one of Taku’s escape routes, and are ejected into the central city, where Ross gets them to stop fighting.  A little later, the Avengers, Killmonger, Ross, W’Kabi, and Zuri all talk.  Killmonger decides that he does not want to be an Avenger, and Ross asks them for a ride home, not wanting to be regent any longer (whereas W’Kabi is eager to take on that role).  She-Hulk reveals to Ross that she has some papers from the State Department that say that Ross’s US citizenship has been revoked.  In the techno-jungle, Taku and T’Challa discuss the fact that while they can’t find, some dead Hatut Zeraze suggest that Malice is also in the techno-jungle hiding out.
  • Mark Bright returns to draw an issue.  Killmonger goes to the abandoned church where Achebe had been hiding out and finds his leopard, Preyy, dead.  Queen Divine Justice is trained in the ways of the Dora Milaje.  Ross worries over being stripped of his citizenship, while Malice attacks T’Challa in the techno-jungle.  It turns out that Malice is actually Nakia, the spurned Dora Milaje, who is operating separate from Killmonger, and out for revenge on her own.  T’Challa, still confined to a flying chair, evades her and goes to his office, where he is met by Hunter, who wants his approval, once again.  Killmonger arrives, demanding T’Challa give him Achebe, and blaming T’Challa for Preyy’s death.  Ross and Nikki arrive asking for help with Ross’s citizenship, while W’Kabi wants Ross stripped of his place as regent.  Monica asks to go home, while QDJ wants to complain about her trainer.  T’Challa wants Killmonger to take his place as chieftain of the Panther Tribe, without having to go through any rituals.  While everyone argues, T’Challa slips away.  In Texas, a glowing person appears and causes a train to explode.  T’Challa works at his physical therapy, and is joined by Ramonda, who questions Killmonger’s motives.  Meanwhile, Killmonger has to face Zuri and a group of warriors to ascend to the chieftain’s position.  He makes short work of them, while Nikki tries to talk to Ross about her relationship with T’Challa back in the day.  Monica leaves a note that she’s leaving and tries to slip away, but she is followed by Malice/Nakia.  Killmonger finishes off the warriors and demand he be given the heart-shaped herb, while Ross continues to feel hurt, and Nakia attacks Monica.  T’Challa starts doing gymnastics as Killmonger eats the herb, and Nikki and Ross hear Monica scream.  Nikki steps into the hall and screams herself.  Killmonger and T’Challa both collapse at the same time (I’m not sure if this is connected), Ross goes to the fallen Nikki (who has Malice’s knives sticking out of her back) while QDJ leaps to Monica’s aid.
  • Issue twenty-five is one of the most dense and complicated issues of this run, yet it’s also the one that made me decide it was time to start buying Black Panther.  It’s a tie-in to the Maximum Security event (which had the Earth declared a penitentiary for intergalactic criminals), as if it didn’t already have enough going on in it.  I love how Priest could take such a stupid reason for an event, and make it work so seamlessly with numerous plot threads he was already working with.  Civil Wars II should pay attention.  The issue opens with Ross floating in orbit around an alien planet.  It then backs up to a dead Killmonger, who T’Challa tries to save, and leaves on life support.  As Queen Divine Justice fights Malice/Nakia, Ross tries to resuscitate Nikki, who is dead.  In Texas, a Wakandan who looks like he could be Taku tries to reach Reed Richards on the phone while being shot at by police.  Later, Ross has taken Nikki’s body to the Resurrection Altar to try to bring her back, and the Panther and QDJ try to stop him, claiming that Nikki would not be herself if brought back.  Okoye, in a Talon fighter, moves to blow the altar up, and a group of heavily armed lizard-aliens appear out of the surrounding snow to stop her.  They shoot down Okoye’s jet, and QDJ goes to help her, while the Panther fights the aliens.  Inside the Altar, Ross prepares Nikki.  T’Challa comes to stop him, but the temple works its magic, and she returns just as the aliens come busting in, and are attacked by a second group of aliens.  Nikki also joins this fight, firing beams from her eyes.  As it turns out the Altar is an ancient teleportation device, and Ross and T’Challa find themselves on a distant planet, where they are attacked by aliens trying to destroy the temple.  The force of their blasts push Ross out of orbit (the planet has very weak gravity).  Off-screen, T’Challa negotiates his rescue and transport home.  While waiting for that, Ross goes off on the Panther’s use of the word ‘friend’ when describing him, and blames T’Challa for all that’s gone wrong in his life.  When Ross punches T’Challa, things get a little physical.  The Panther shows anger for perhaps the first time, bringing up his own problems, and pointing out the trust he’s shown in Ross.  He makes it clear that it’s because Nikki was dating him that he respected and trusted Ross, which makes Ross lose his anger.  Back in Wakanda, QDJ continues to work to rescue Okoye from her downed jet.  Later, we see that Okoye is Okaye (sorry), and that Ross and T’Challa have returned.  We learn through narration that T’Challa switched Wakanda’s money to the US dollar, fixing his earlier effect on the global economy, and re-privatized the American industries that he sabotaged earlier to stop Killmonger.  T’Challa also intends to help Ross regain his citizenship.  T’Challa is surprised to learn that Storm has come to visit him.
  • In Texas, the police fire on N’Kano (who we’ve seen for a couple of issues now, but who hasn’t been named yet).  He uses his sound powers, but also saves the cops from the accident he causes.  In a flashback, we see Storm and T’Challa as kids, although T’Challa is shown as being older than he was earlier portrayed as being when his father was killed, despite his father still being alive in this scene.  In the present, the Panther and Storm fly to the Resurrection Altar, where Barney Fiddler, of the US Commission on Superhuman Activities is gathering up the left over aliens from Maximum Security.  He’s portrayed as a typical American, standing on the neck of one alien, who starts yelling for her child in Yoruba.  The Panther has Taku initiate satellite scans of the area, and Storm starts flying around looking for the kid.  In America, N’Kano talks to Reed Richards about his newly unreliable powers.  Richards suggest he return to Wakanda, despite his having apparently denounced T’Challa (I really don’t remember anything about Vibraxas).  In Wakanda, T’Challa plays host to Lord Ghaur from Deviant Lemuria, who claims that one of his citizens has been mistaken for an alien and captured by the Americans.  T’Challa is scheduled to accompany Monica and Ross back to the US, where Ross has his citizenship hearing, but instead the Panther and Queen Divine Justice head back to the Resurrection Altar.  Storm, still flying around, finds an African-looking child, who hits her with some sort of mindblast, just as Fiddler and his people arrive on the scene, capturing the child.  T’Challa arrives just after that, but finds Ororo not herself.  She flies after the American’s transport, and attacks it.  T’Challa enters the fight, while Storm rescues the alien.  T’Challa figures out that the child has swapped minds with Ororo.  As N’Kano approaches Wakanda in a borrowed Fantastic Four flying thing, Hunter the White Wolf shoots him down.  Storm, in the child’s body, calms the child in Storm’s body, and they transfer back.  Lord Ghaur arrives to take them back to Lemuria, but when T’Challa learns that the child, looking human, awaits execution for extreme physical deviancy, he makes it clear that they can stay in his country.  Ghaur storms off, promising war.  Hunter has his Hatut Zeraze open fire on Vibraxas, agitating his abilities (he claims this is being done to help restore T’Challa to power).  The Vibranium Mound (I assume) is affected by N’Kano’s power, splits open, and Klaw is revealed.
  • The Panther sends a number of N’Yami class warships to surround Deviant Lemuria as a reaction to Ghaur’s declaration of war.  News leaks that there is a conflict coming, and we see the Avengers and the White House react to it.  Wakanda is portrayed as the aggressor.  Namor the Sub-Mariner, in his role as King of Atlantis, has a conversation with T’Challa, wherein he refuses to support him, and urges him to stand down.  Dr. Doom, in his role as King of Latveria, is also a part of this conversation, and he also urges that T’Challa return the Deviant child to Ghaur.  In Wakanda, Ororo, Queen Divine Justice, and the Deviant baby enjoy some naked flying time.  Ororo keeps referring to QDJ as ‘princess’, but won’t explain why.  QDJ finds N’Kano lying in the jungle, unable to make a noise.  When he tries to grab her to make himself understood, she gets angry and leaves him there.  Hunter manipulates Klaw, telling him about his history and how Klaw’s massacre of Wakandans, including King T’Chaka, affected his life.  Hunter makes it clear that he wants Klaw to either strengthen T’Challa’s position as King, or to kill him.  Monica finally prepares to leave Wakanda as the Panther gets ready to address the UN.  Monica expresses frustration at constantly being drawn into T’Challa’s orbit.  Ororo also comes to say that she is leaving, and to warn T’Challa that he is walking a path similar to the one that led Magneto to become a villain.  Ororo and T’Challa (while being spied on by Monica) exchange a long, tender kiss, after which T’Challa admits to not fully knowing how things will turn out, and that he is afraid.  She reassures him, and stresses he won’t become like Magneto, because of Ross’s influence on him.  In a news interview with Lord Ghaur, we learn that the Deviants are winning the war of public opinion.  The Panther arrives at the UN in New York, where he gets into a brawl with Warlord Kro, who claims T’Challa is playing into Ghaur’s hands.  Hunter has taken Klaw to Libya, where he sends him on a mission.  Just as the Panther is about to speak to the UN General Assembly, word comes through that the Panther has fired upon the US aircraft carrier Roussos (but we know it was Klaw).
  • I remember that it was with issue 28 that I completely fell in love with this series (having not checked it out until Moon Knight appeared, and having not bought it regularly until issue 25).  This might be the tightest issue of this whole series, in terms of Priest’s vision of T’Challa as a practitioner of realpolitik in a superhuman world.  As the issue opens, Hunter meets with Klaw, and is outmaneuvered by him, when the sonic villain has bribed a waiter to poison Hunter’s water.  Ross goes to Monica’s apartment looking for help, since he can’t find T’Challa anywhere.  She sends him to the school where he used to teach in Harlem.  Ross finds T’Challa meeting with Magneto, Dr. Doom (via hologram), Warlord Kro, and Namor.  The various world leaders discuss the current situation, and quickly move past blustering to figuring out what is really going on.  They want to know why Lord Ghaur, who has a history of trying to destroy the universe, is so concerned with one child, and also postulate that the sinking of the Roussos, which has sparked George W. Bush to want to launch strikes against Wakanda (this is prescient, as it was published before 9/11), was done by an outside player who has not tipped his hand yet.  T’Challa sends Ross to Deviant Lemuria.  In Wakanda, Queen Divine Justice entertains the Deviant child (who is still nameless), when N’Kano shows up, looking to avoid T’Challa, but telling QDJ that Hunter stole his powers.  In Lemuria, Ross figures out that the child is actually Lord Ghaur’s which starts to explain everything that’s going on.  Literally tossed aside, Ross recognizes Klaw, who attacks Ghaur and then imitates his voice to order a missile launch.  In New York, T’Challa stops to deal with a robbery in a liquor store, but he is interrupted by Namor, who attacks him, furious that T’Challa has operated behind his back.  Apparently his forces have fired on Namor’s, who were blockading Wakanda’s blockade of Lemuria.  T’Challa denies all knowledge of this, when Magneto arrives as well, and the leaders realize that, when the Wakandans discovered that the Lemurians were opening their missile silos, they disabled the Atlantean ships, so they could stop the Lemurian missiles, thus sparking a conflict.  The other leaders leave, and T’Challa moves to stop the conflict, when he is attacked by Klaw, who has orchestrated all of this, blocking T’Challa’s Kimoyo card.  Klaw is shaped like a subway on the elevated track, moving to run T’Challa down.
  • The conclusion of the Stürm and Drang arc is almost as good as the last issue, although the lengthy fight scene takes some points away.  In Wakanda, Queen Divine Justice, the Deviant child, and N’Kano are hustled towards safety by some guards.  The Panther fights Klaw in New York.  His new vibranium and anti-metal suit weave and claws make short work of Klaw, who retreats.  T’Challa goes to Namor to parley.  In Deviant Lemuria, Ross saves Lord Ghaur from drowning as the Atlantean and Wakandan vessels fire on each other outside the city, causing some collateral damage.  Atlantean forces attack Wakanda, and the US Government fires cruise missiles towards the country.  T’Challa makes it clear to Namor that he wants to end the conflict, but since his Kimoyo card is disabled, the easiest way for this to happen would be for Atlantis to surrender.  As Namor departs, Klaw attacks again, this time using his powers to form himself a very large body made of water.  Wakandan forces destroy the American missiles, but this leads to them crashing into the central city.  QDJ, N’Kano, and the child are caught in a collapsing building.  The Atlantean forces withdraw in Lemuria, while Ross aggressively negotiates with Ghaur, revealing that the child is Ghaur’s, knowledge of which will effectively ruin his rule.  Ross offers him a deal.  The Panther continues to fight Klaw’s water body, but using his father’s vibranium knife and the Kimoyo card, he is able to return the villain to his usual form.  Having defeated Klaw, the Panther continues to beat on him, until a crowd of New Yorkers try to stop him (they recognize him as being a dictator who sank an American carrier).  A police officer comes to arrest him.  Trapped in Wakanda, QDJ kisses N’Kano just as Namor arrives to dig them out and demand he be given the child.  Ross arrives in New York (in Lemurian gear) to explain to T’Challa that he has fixed everything.  He got Dr. Tambak (who is often mentioned but never shown) to write a death certificate claiming that the child was killed in the US attack.  After this, Ghaur withdrew his declaration of war, while Namor gets to keep the child in Atlantis.  Dr. Doom sent footage proving that Klaw sank the Roussos, so the US will stand down.  Ross notices that T’Challa is handcuffed, just as the crowd around them becomes violent.
  • Issue thirty, which features guest art by Norm Breyfogle, opens in 1941, as Captain America leads a group of US soldiers into Wakandan territory, and is confronted by T’Chaka.  When Cap refuses to fight, he is allowed entry into the central city.  Cap is telling this story to a senate intelligence committee, during a closed session, where the topic is T’Challa’s behaviour and the threat he poses to the United States.  T’Challa is there, and Ross is representing him.  Cap is asked about times when T’Challa has made him angry, and Reed Richards recounts his first meeting with the king.  Ross admits that T’Challa is completely unpredictable.  The officer from the mob scene outside the UN last chapter also testifies, explaining that the Panther saved her from the situation.  Ross continues to list T’Challa’s idiosyncrasies, but also makes clear that he is a monarch and the chieftain of a religious order, not a superhero.  Later, T’Challa is at Monica’s apartment, and while she is still angry at him about how he has complicated her life, he offers her a ring, and she tells him to leave.  They kiss on the fire escape, and she sends him away.  At Avengers Mansion, T’Challa thanks Cap for standing up for him, and gives him the original, triangular shield that he had left in Wakanda in the 40s.  In a flashback, we see that T’Chaka gave Cap some vibranium (which was later worked into his round shield) and that the two men parted as friends.  In the present, Cap returns the shield to T’Challa and salutes him.  Ross cleans up his apartment, remembering Nikki, and learns that his new boss is Henry Peter Gyrich, the famous Marvel scoundrel.  Ross is visited by Mephisto.
  • I believe that issue thirty-one is the first one not narrated by Ross, who barely appears.  The issue opens on Malice in bed with an unidentified man.  As he kisses her, she reflects on her life and does not speak.  This rendez-vous is photographed by Dakota North, who delivers the photos to a woman.  At the Wakandan Consulate, which is ringed with anti-T’Challa protesters, T’Challa and Omoro discuss things.  The King opens a letter with a note saying only ‘She’s dead,’ which he immediately recognizes as a message from Nakia/Malice.  He calls his cousin M’Koni, who is the woman with the cheating husband.  Although she says everything is fine with her and her husband, Wheeler, T’Challa knows she is lying.  He orders his mother and the Dora Milaje to America (although at the same time, Okoye is with him).  Malice, still not speaking and examining moments from her life, kills a female police officer and takes mental control of a male one, who now has her symbol on his neck.  T’Challa meets with Dakota North, telling her that he will protect M’Koni (her client) while she is to very visibly surveil Monica Lynne.  In Wakanda, Queen Divine Justice hangs out with N’Kano, who thinks she is a cook, and resists his romantic gestures.  The Panther continues to investigate the letter Malice sent him, which was posted in Lhasa.  He tries to figure out if anyone is missing from the Leslie N. Hill projects, where he keeps offices.  A visit to the post office reveals that a former student of his, Maria Henckel, is missing.  In her apartment, T’Challa finds Nikki Adams’s hairbrush and clothes, clearly left there by Malice as a message to him.  N’Kano and QDJ doze together, when they are interrupted by N’Kano’s godfather, the man responsible for him getting his powers.  The man is angry, QDJ leaves, we get a recap of Vibraxas’s hero career, and N’Kano learns that QDJ is Dora Milaje.  Velluto does a great job of registering his shock.  T’Challa visits Nikki’s apartment, and finds Ross there.  Examining the apartment, he finds Wheeler’s body stuffed in the water heater.  We see that M’Koni has taken a lot of sleeping pills.  Malice arrives at the gates of the Wakandan consulate, and starts swinging a spear around.  The Panther starts to fight her, but the crowd of protesters attack him, and Malice’s pet cop opens fire.  The cop and Malice drag the bleeding Panther away (although he’s wearing his habit, and that usually stops bullets).
  • Monica Lynne has noticed Dakota North staking her out, and goes to befriend the woman, claiming that T’Challa has sent her there to remove her from the board.  We learn that Malice has the naked T’Challa strung up and infected with the same Jufeiro Spore she has been using to control men.  She has made him watch as she’s had sex with a priest.  T’Challa is angry at the disrespect shown to his throne, reminding us that the whole Dora Milaje gig is kind of suspect.  Basically, Malice wants T’Challa to love her unconditionally, and she is prepared to kill everyone he loves to make that happen.  In Wakanda, Zuri and W’Kabi make clear to N’Kano how his actions with Queen Divine Justice are problematic.  QDJ and Ramonda are sharing a jet to America, and discussing how QDJ’s actions with N’Kano could lead to tribal war.  QDJ hears a noise in the back of the jet.  Monica and Dakota go shopping, pursued by Malice’s cop.  We learn that Monica is very hurt by the fact that T’Challa opened up to Storm and not her.  T’Challa frees himself from the ropes that bind him, and removes the spore from his neck.  Ross shows up, but does nothing to help him aside from pointing out that something has changed.  Omoro shows up right then, with guards, and administers an antitoxin to the spore.  He also shows the King that the totem of the white gorilla clan was placed on M’Koni’s husband’s corpse.  QDJ discovers that Man-Ape has stowed away on her jet, and he takes control of the plane, using it to shoot down its escort jets.  The Panther and Okoye discuss how to deal with Malice, and the Dora Milaje wants to be the one to stop her.  To his credit, T’Challa does question whether or not the Dora Milaje system of keeping teenage virgins as potential wives might be problematic, but Okoye points out that scrapping it would lead to tribal warfare.  Dakota and Monica are attacked in a fitting room by Malice’s mind-controlled cop and priest, and Dakota is able to save them.  A doctor controlled by Malice goes to check on M’Koni, whose sleeping pill had been adulterated.  Malice joins the doctor, but when she goes to kill M’Koni, we see that Okoye has taken her place, and she gets the drop on Malice.  T’Challa stops her and cuts Okoye up with his claws before kissing Malice.  QDJ leaves her crashed jet and finds herself prisoner of Man-Ape.
  • N’Kano is upset to learn that Queen Divine Justice’s jet has gone down, and is even more upset when he learns that W’Kabi, following the Panther’s orders, is taking Wakandan forces in the opposite direction from their crash site.  N’Knao vows to go rescue QDJ.  We see that Man-Ape still has QDJ, and is spouting some isolationist Luddite stuff, when she escapes from him, only to find herself in a frozen crystal forest.  Man-Ape’s aid informs her that QDJ is their clan’s queen, while she learns that her Kimoyo card is not working.  We see that it is actually being ignored, as W’Kabi brings a strike force to Q’Noma village.  Monica and Dakota sneak into the hospital, where they find Omoro, and learn that he has been controlled by Malice.  The Panther, apparently still under the influence of the Jufeiro spore, makes out with Malice in the embassy, but refuses to go further with her until they are wed, out of respect.  Malice leaves and Panther talks to Monica and Dakota, who are outside the window.  It is clear that they have fouled up his plans.  W’Kabi orders the evacuation of Q’Noma village.  The Panther suits up and leaves the embassy to hunt for Malice, while Monica and Dakota hang out there.  Malice attacks Dakota, but Monica tries to intervene.  T’Challa shows up and fights the girl.  While fighting, they talk about guilt, and T’Challa asks for the antidote to the poison that M’Koni and presumably Maria are dying from.  T’Challa threatens to destroy Nakia’s village to protect his country from the war her actions will cause, and she gives up, giving him the antidote formula before escaping.  Later, we see that M’Koni is fine, and that The Thing has located Maria in Tibet, where he has helped her recover as well (apparently he was a substitute teacher back when T’Challa was Maria’s teacher).  In Wakanda, QDJ is found by Man-Ape’s clan, who begin to bow down to her.
  • Ross finally returns to narrating the book, but something has changed with this new arc, drawn by Jim Calafiore.  We learn that Mephisto has swapped bodies with Ross, leaving him in his gigantic devilish form.  Gyrich phones Ross to complain that T’Challa is late for a meeting, confirming to Ross that he is not dreaming.  T’Challa arrives to meet with Gyrich, who shows off his Palm Pilot by rattling off Wakandan information from some proto-wikipedia.  Ross goes looking for T’Challa, but is turned away from the Consulate.  Gyrich rides hard on T’Challa, basically being Henry Peter Gyrich, but is surprised when Okoye arrives with a jet to take T’Challa to Wakanda to finally rescue Queen Divine Justice and Ramonda from Man-Ape, and insists that Gyrich accompany him.  Ross discovers that Mephisto is posing as him, and is finding career success.  The Panther and Gyrich jump from the jet into the crystal forest where Man-Ape’s people, the Jabari tribe, live.  T’Challa discovers that Vibraxas has gone ahead of him, and expresses concern for the youth.  Ross’s attempt to meet with the Avengers ends with him attacked by the Mansion’s automated defenses, and he heads off to look for Doctor Strange.  As the Panther and Gyrich speed through the forest on a skycycle, QDJ is visited by Vibraxas, who is immediately dropped by Man-Ape and QDJ’s servants.  Man-Ape explains to QDJ that he wants to secede from Wakanda and rule his people, who were outlawed by the Panther.  He tells QDJ that her parents were Jabari royalty, and exiled and killed by T’Challa’s rule.  Ross arrives at Doctor Strange’s house, and is attacked by Valkyrie (of the Defenders).  QDJ is dressed for a ceremony, all in diamonds, and T’Challa speaks to her, sort of admitting that Man-Ape’s words were true.  She is called to the ceremony, which she has assumed is a wedding.  She learns that Man-Ape is her cousin, and T’Challa, disguised as an officiant (we don’t really know what the ceremony is), attacks Man-Ape, but everything stops at QDJ’s order.  T’Challa challenges Man-Ape to a tribal challenge, but because Man-Ape is forbidden from hurting T’Challa by QDJ, the King names Gyrich his champion, and Man-Ape moves to attack him.
  • W’Kabi and a village chieftain walk through the village Nakia came from, where other tribes have massacred her people in response to her having shamed the King.  W’Kabi looks down on tribalism like this.  Ross, still in Mephisto’s body, is attacked by the Defenders outside Dr. Strange’s house.  Strange stops the chaos.  We get a history of M’Baku, the Man-Ape, from Gyrich’s Palm Pilot, right before Gyrich invokes a Wakandan custom to make the tribal challenge one of skill, and not to the death.  While Man-Ape is distracted, T’Challa and Queen Divine Justice look to rescue N’Kano.  Dr. Strange inspects Ross/Mephisto and finds that Mephisto’s energies are being ‘simulated’.  Gyrich has figured out that Man-Ape wants to use QDJ to ensure his own rule as chieftain.  Our heroes find the unconscious and tied-up Vibraxas, and QDJ insists the Panther tell her the story of her parents.  As a new king, T’Challa had to put a stop to the Jabari and their heretical ways.  He split up the tribe, but that made them targets for genocide.  While T’Challa was out of the country, Chanté’s parents, who were tribal royalty, fled to the US, where they had her.  Later, they were murdered (not at T’Challa’s behest, it seems), and T’Challa sent an elderly female member of the elite guard to pose as the girl’s grandmother and raise her.  Chanté is unhappy to learn that she became Dora Milaje as a pawn.  She triggers a trap, and Vibraxas falls into a pit, taking her with him.  Man-Ape begins tossing Gyrich around, but is stopped by the Panther, who begins to fight him.  Dr. Strange feels that Iron Fist should be brought in to help Ross/Mephisto, as Ross (who might not be Mephisto) shows up and takes everyone out using magic.  QDJ wakes N’Kano with a kiss, and his powers vibrate out of control (the parts of his costume that help him control his abilities have been taken from him).  T’Challa and M’Baku continue to fight and argue, and M’Baku references a secret buried in the crystal forest as the main reason why T’Challa has outlawed the Jabari.  Man-Ape drops, just as N’Kano’s wild powers shatter a statue.  QDJ comes looking for help for the youth, whose powers have injured him, and everyone is surprised to see that the statue held the body of someone M’Baku calls ‘the original Black Panther’, looking a lot like the iconic image of Captain America frozen in ice.
  • Issue thirty-six was one of the 100 Page Monster issues that Marvel was putting out in the early 00’s, making readers pay $3.50 (or $5.25 in Canada) to buy a regular sized issue of the series, paired with some reprints.
  • Strangely, Priest decided to jump the story some twenty-four years into the future.  Ross, the former US Secretary of State, is summoned to meet the Panther, despite the fact that T’Challa has sworn to never return to the United States.  He gets into the Panther’s flying car.  Faida, the Panther’s daughter, who is being raised by Queen Divine Justice, crashes a skycycle in a race.  T’Challa, who now looks a lot like Zuri, with his dreads, hunts with his son, T’Charra, and kills a rhinoceros.  Returning home, he receives a call from Monica Lynne telling him that her ex-husband, Ross, has been kidnapped, and accusing him of already knowing about this.  T’Challa refuses to go to the US to rescue his friend.  Faida visits Achebe in prison, accusing him of having something to do with Ross’s kidnapping.  Ross wakes up to learn that he is being held by an assortment of Panther’s old foes from the Don McGregor days, all of whom are working for the revived Killmonger.  Faida meets with Hunter, the White Wolf, and arranges to have him help her look for Ross.  They attack a business that manufactures chemical weapons, which triggers some stock trades that allow them to figure out where Killmonger is.  They arrive to rescue Ross, which Killmonger expected, but then T’Charra arrives, ahead of Killmonger’s schedule (suggesting that they were working together).  T’Charra shoots Killmonger and Hunter.  Faida expresses anger, considering that T’Charra has always been favoured by T’Challa, and it is suggested that T’Charra shoots her too.  In Wakanda, the Panther talks to Monica again, and then suits up and travels to New York.  Ross, now T’Charra’s prisoner, is concerned that things aren’t going as T’Challa expected, when Achebe shows up.
  • The rest of this issue is given over to Fantastic Four #52 and 53, some filler by Priest and Velluto, an old map of Wakanda, and Jungle Action #8, which features the original Malice.  I liked the last story.
  • Still in the future, T’Challa discovers the body of his dead daughter Faida, who he had always shunned, and feels intense grief which gives over to a form of seizure.  Monica Lynne arrives and administers an injection which helps calm the aged King.  T’Charra and Achebe have moved Ross onto a subway train (which, around 2025 will fly through the air).  The Panther gathers allies, convincing Sam Wilson, who is now the mayor, to suit up as Falcon again to help him.  Luke Cage and Brother Voodoo are already with him.  They go looking for Ross at the closed Coney Island amusement park.  Cage expresses fear of going into the Tunnel of Love, so Drumm does it, and gets into a fight with Macabre, Sombre, and their shared zombies.  Falcon finds Achebe and Ross in a typical ‘damsel tied to the roller coaster tracks’ scenario.  He sends Redwing to help Ross (how long does a falcon live, anyway), while he goes to gather Luke in the Haunted House, and they get into it with the rest of Achebe’s gathered elderly villains.  Redwing unties Ross, and the Panther arrives just in time to pull him off the tracks seconds before Achebe runs him over (I’m pretty sure we are homaging Dark Knight Returns here).  T’Challa drops off Ross and goes after T’Charra, while the other heroes finish off the villains.  Father and son move through the subway yards, where T’Charra has left some traps for his father.  It becomes clear that T’Charra’s plan involves wearing T’Challa out to the point that he dies from another seizure, on American soil, giving the new King a reason to seek revenge against the larger country.  It almost works, but the arrival of the NYPD allows T’Challa to regain his focus.  Thinking he got away, T’Charra boards another subway train, but isn’t surprised to find his father there waiting for him.  They fight again, and the father defeats the son, dumping him in the trunk of his waiting car, which has Ross and his Dora Milaje driver waiting for him.  The Panther has another seizure, and a vision of his dead daughter, but Ross revives him, and they head back towards Wakanda.
  • Back in the present, actually, a few weeks before the present, we see Colleen Wing engaging in some kind of samurai ritual when she is attacked in her home by Nightshade, who manages to drug her and steals an urn filled with ashes.  She also takes Wing’s priceless sword.  Later, Misty Knight checks up on her.  We see that she uses the ashes and a corpse and some science to resurrect Chiangtang, who she dubs the Black Dragon, a shape-changing dragon from K’un Lun, who she has rigged with a genetic time bomb, so that she can control him.  She wants him to kidnap Ross; he turns into his dragon form, wrecks the place, and takes off.  In the present, T’Challa, Gyrich, and QDJ fly to the US.  We learn that the Man-Ape stuff is taken care of, and while we don’t know what the deal was with that ‘original’ Black Panther, it’s suggested that he’s in stasis on a N’Yami battlecruiser that the Panther has hidden under American waters.  T’Challa goes to the Wakandan consulate, where we find Ross, looking like Mephisto, being held.  T’Challa recognizes him as Ross, and we learn that the Defenders were not able to help him beyond recognizing that his powers use magic from K’un Lun (which now makes sense).  T’Challa visits the imposter Ross, who we know to be the Black Dragon, at the penthouse of the Plaza, and the dragon refuses to swap bodies back.  T’Challa rescues Nightshade from the Dragon, and has the Dragon’s eggs, which are hidden under Long Island Sound.  The Dragon is angered.  Elsewhere, Iron Fist (who no longer has his Iron Fist powers) has been hunting Colleen’s sword.  The Black Dragon arrives, restores his powers, and makes him into his ‘champion’.  The Panther confers with his entourage, and heads off the N’Yami to confront the Dragon, when his underwater one-man vessel is attacked by Iron Fist, in his red suit Dark Iron Fist outfit (which, I remember, was a Priest invention).
  • Issue thirty-nine is part of the ‘Nuff Said event that ran across all Marvel books in February 2002, and which had writers and artists create ‘wordless’ stories, although text could be shown as part of the art.  This issue opens on Queen Divine Justice packing up her stuff at the Wakandan Consulate in New York, and leaving a note that she’s taking off for a bit to work things out (we see her thinking about her parents and Man-Ape).  On the N’Yami, Ross, still in the Black Dragon’s body, is ill, and reverts to Chiantang’s form.  He reads about dragons in a children’s book (which is somehow on the N’Yami) and using a marker fills in some needed exposition, revealing the flaws on the ‘Nuff Said experiment.  He is surprised to see his one hand turn into a dragon’s paw.  Under the water, the Panther and mind-controlled Dark Iron Fist fight.  The Panther gets away and surfaces.  When he surfaces, Iron Fist can’t find him.  Ross-in-Chiantang visits Nightshade, who uses the same kids book to explain that Ross is going to die.  The Panther, climbing onto a pier, is attacked by Iron Fist again, and they fight.  Ross, turning more into a dragon, gesticulates to the guy who looks like he’s in charge of the N’Yami.  Ross keeps growing, and now only has the head of a human, while the rest of his body is that of a dragon.  Panther and Fist fight some more, and the Panther slips his earpiece into Fist’s ear.  It does something, after a few more pages of fighting, and Iron Fist collapses, followed quickly by the Panther.  Ross, now completely dragon and huge, leaves the N’Yami, and it looks like Black Dragon, in Ross’s body, rides his head.  The Panther uses his Kimoyo card to drain the evil energy out of Iron Fist, which turns his costume back to green.  Ross, now a gigantic dragon, surfaces near the heroes.
  • In Wakanda, we see that tribal fighting has grown, and that W’Kabi, with Zuri at his side, is trying to squelch the unrest with the Wakandan Air Force.  In New York, we learn that Chiangtang, the Black Dragon, is back in his old dragon body, and is trying to destroy New York before he dies.  The Panther and Iron Fist try to figure out how to stop him, while Ross, back in his own body, provides a recap of the last couple of issues, spotlighting how T’Challa has tried to undermine the Dragon’s original plans.  The N’Yami battle cruiser engages the Dragon, which allows Nightshade to escape her cell.  She discovers the suspended animation Panther from the Man-Ape arc, while Iron Fist finds Colleen Wing’s sword, dropped from the N’Yami.  He and the Panther continue to try to figure out how to stop the Dragon, while Gyrich calls in an airstrike, further damaging the city.  Nightshade, thinking Suspended Animation Kirby Suit Panther is our Panther, tries to revive him.  Our T’Challa stops the fight to confer with the Black Dragon, offering him a different perspective on things.  The Dragon decides to destroy Wakanda, since he can’t see Iron Fist anymore (because he’s on the N’Yami looking for Nightshade).  The N’Yami jets back to Wakanda via space, while the Dragon, which has perhaps a half hour to live, somehow beats it back there, stopping at the sight of another tribal skirmish that W’Kabi and Zuri are in the middle of.  Iron Fist jumps out of the newly arrived N’Yami (how does anything get from New York to Western Africa in a half hour?), and the tribesmen unite to fight the Dragon as well.  The Panther busts out of the inside of the Dragon (I guess he was eaten off panel?), where he has been laying bio-implants inside the creature, which return him to his human form.  The tribesmen attack him while T’Challa confer with Iron Fist and Ross, who are surprised to learn that the Panther has cured the Dragon.  They hear a Stan Lee-ish speech about protecting the Dragon, as he is a fallen foe, and see the Suspended Animation Kirby Suit Panther being warmly received by the tribesmen, with Nightshade at his side.
  • Enemy of the State II, the five-part arc that began in issue forty-one might be one of Priest’s most complicated.  In addition to a story about the intricacies of conspiracy theories, he also tossed in the doppelganger Jack Kirby Panther.  Anyway, to summarize:  We begin with Ross talking about a record executive named Myron MGM Mason, who was also the leader of a street gang, 66 Bridges, and an operative for the CIA.  His death has stirred up the Panther’s old rival, Senator Rakim, who wants Tony Stark to get the Avengers to investigate the situation.  He keeps mentioning Volcan Domuyo, the nation that was involved in the Wakandan coup in the first Enemy of the State arc.  Stark calls T’Challa, but gets the Kirby version (who Ross call’s Happy Pants Panther), who acts oddly, as he is gleefully fighting a bunch of warriors at the same time, while Ross expresses surprise that Nightshade is still with them (she explains that she is the only one who can keep him alive).  Our regular T’Challa cuts into the call with Stark, and uses it as a chance to insist that Stark return his shares in the Wakanda Design Group.  Zuri and W’Kabi refuse to tell Ross what’s going on with the doppelganger Panther, who is drawn as if by Kirby himself.  Our T’Challa chats with Ramonda about Queen Divine Justice’s being in Chicago, and how T’Challa is avoiding his duplicate.  QDJ returns to her childhood home, and lets her grandmother know that she knows her family’s history, and that her grandmother is not related to her.  The two Panthers converse for a bit, and while our T’Challa is preparing to leave for Canada, he suggests that the other stay close to home.  Immediately, he calls up Abner Little (from Kirby’s first issue), and they grab Ross and head out on an ancient B-52 for some sort of adventure.  QDJ gets a call from Vibraxas, asking her to meet at the Merchandise Mart.  Stark reminisces about T’Challa’s actions during Enemy of the State, and then is approached by Gyrich, who wants to keep Stark in play after Panther sidelined him.  Arriving for her meet with Vibraxas, QDJ is instead attacked by Danny Vincent and his robotic drone mother.  T’Challa, in Sault Ste. Marie, meets with Wolverine, telling him that the CIA has taken over the Canadian government, on behalf of the shadowy group XCon, and that America is next in their sites.  Like I said, this was a complicated issue.
  • The Panther’s ‘man’ goes to the UN Secretary General to inform him that Wakanda is taking ownership of an island in Lake Superior, Canada, on behalf of its indigenous people.  Tony Stark discovers that the company that provides all of his, and the Avengers’, cabling, is in fact owned by T’Challa, and filled with nanites.  Princess Zanda, from the Kirby run, is working at a fast food restaurant, when doppelganger Panther, Little, and Ross come to get her, talking about King Solomon’s Frog.  Queen Divine Justice fights Danny Vincent, who claims he tricked her into meeting him because he needs her help.  Iron Man talks to the assembled Avengers about this betrayal by T’Challa, and proposes expelling him from the Avengers.  Tony Stark and Henry Gyrich hang out at a floating casino off Sault Ste. Marie, which is apparently a front for XCon.  They see that the Panther is there.  T’Challa plays poker against a turbaned man, and cleans him out of millions.  Tony Stark comes to the table, putting up his shares of WDG, and T’Challa calls Tony out on his need to check his privilege (although he calls it entitlement, you know that Ta-Nehisi Coates would word this scene differently).  The turbaned man, who has left the scene, is in fact Wolverine, who goes about taking out security and uploading a Wakandan virus into the XCon computers.  While the Panther continues to play card with Stark, his hand shakes, and we see a flashback to the beating he took from Iron Fist.  The Panther folds (with a winning hand), giving Stark WDG, and leaves the table.  He and Okoye join Wolverine and break into XCon’s control centre, and as they open a vault, are attacked by Iron Man.  The Panther subdues the Iron Man armor, but then Logan starts ripping it apart.  While they go through the vault, Panther takes a call on his Kimoyo about dump trucks he’s donated to the country of Paolo Santera.  Elsewhere, as the UN announces Wakanda’s move on the Canadian island, Guardian and Vindicator suit up.
  • Various heroes react to the Panther’s annexation of Anishinabe Island, as does QDJ, who is in a hotel room with Danny Vincent.  Their conversation provides some exposition, when they are interrupted by the sudden appearance of George W. Bush (who was president at that time).  Iron Man and Gyrich provide some further exposition, and we learn that Iron Man has used a gas to be able to track the Panther, and hack his jet, sending him, Okoye, and Wolverine into Lake Superior.  Crazy Pants Panther and his Kirby crew, alongside Ross and Nightshade, fly towards Kiber Island in the Atlantic.  We learn that this Panther is dying from a brain aneurism, and is in constant pain, although he doesn’t show it.  Iron Man attacks Panther and his friends as they swim through the lake.  As the fight rages, Pepper Potts lets Tony know that federal marshals are seizing everything at Stark Industries.  The dump trucks the Panther donated to Paolo Santera allowed the newly-wealthy farmers of that country to take over a bank that in turn gave them receivership of Stark International.  Wolverine disables the Iron Man suit using a foam he got from T’Challa, and when Stark tries to escape, he is blocked by a N’Yami battle cruiser.  George W. gets into an argument with QDJ about his policies.  Panther, Wolverine, and Okoye make it to shore, and are met by Alpha Flight, and the spokesperson for the First Nations tribe that the Panther is purporting to help.  (It really annoys me that this issue uses a singular First Nation, as if there was only one in Canada before Europeans came, and that they spell Anishnabe with a single ‘a’, but I guess for an American comic about an African king published in 2002, this is still progress).  Guardian and T’Challa talk about the various implications of T’Challa’s actions, which are based upon a treaty that a drunk Frenchman made with T’Challa’s grandfather in 1892 to save his life, and everyone basically admits that they can’t see all of the Panther’s moves in this.  Wolverine opens the case that they stole from XCon, and shuts it incredulously.  On Kiber Island, Kirby Panther and his crew fight Kiber the Cruel’s hordes, as well as various warriors from different eras, and Ross figures out that this all about the time travel abilities of King Solomon’s Frogs (now plural).  Princess Zanda retrieves Kiber’s frog, and we learn that our T’Challa has the other one in Canada.
  • It looks like Bob Almond needed a month off, so Steve Geiger and a gaggle of other inkers (under the name Justin Thyme) pinch hit, and it gives me a real appreciation for Almond’s work on this book, as Velluto’s pencils just don’t look as good as they usually do.  The issue opens with Iron Man and Wasp discussing T’Challa’s future with the Avengers, and the Wasp suggesting that Stark might be moving too hastily.  Monica Lynne is visited at home by Kirby-suit Panther, while QDJ and George W. Bush continue arguing, this time at a night club, where she and Danny Vincent (now fully being called Junta) is trying to hide him, since they know he’s been replaced by a duplicate.  T’Challa and Stark meet in T’Challa’s new office at Stark International (which used to be Tony’s office).  Their conversation reveals a lot – Stark knew that T’Challa wasn’t bugging his offices and mansions, but pretended to go along with the fake out, knowing that there was something T’Challa couldn’t just tell him.  After escaping the Panther in Lake Superior, Stark flew to the Prime Minister’s office in Ottawa, where he found Hunter, the White Wolf, who has taken over XCon as revenge for their arranging Achebe’s coup in Wakanda.  Using King Solomon’s Frogs, XCon has replaced the PM (Chretien or Martin?) and Bush with their duplicates from the near future, who are mind wiped when they arrive disoriented in the present.  Vincent got Bush away, but now XCon is in charge of North America.  Hunter had the Hatut Zeraze attack Iron Man, but he escaped and got help from Alpha Flight and Wolverine.  Stark has a lot of resentment for T’Challa, who is nursing his own grudges.  The other Panther arrives with the other Frog, and his entourage, including a very angry Monica.  Kirby Panther uses a gas to knock out Stark, and everyone heads to the Stark vault, which has something the Panthers need.  We see a future version of Stark arrive in the office, showing us that XCon was going to replace Stark next (which makes sense, since Hunter’s upset about the whole WDG thing).  This Stark puts on a specialized version of the Iron Man stealth armor which was designed to fight the Panther.
  • The final chapter of Enemy of the State II opens with Ross, in a cowboy suit, testifying to a senate subcommittee, in a White House that has been trashed.  He explains the XCon body switching, and then the story moves back to Tony Stark waking up at Stark International, realizing that he has also been duplicated.  The Panthers and their entourage fly towards Washington, while QDJ, Junta, and good Bush (well, okay, chronologically acceptable Bush) sneak through the White House.  Panther appears, and has the two hero-ish types move Bush to the ‘snack room’.  Stealth Armor XCon puppet Iron Man attacks and begins fighting the Panther.  Of course, Panther has figured out a few ways to neutralize the Stealth Armor, and so their fight requires some serious exposition by Ross.  A single panel flashback to Panther’s fight with Iron Fist again foreshadows possible problems for T’Challa, who gets knocked out in the fight.  ‘Good’ Iron Man escorts the Panther Squad’s helicopter, where they learn that it is our T’Challa now wearing the Kirby suit, which means that the dying Panther is the one fighting ‘Bad’ Iron Man.  That Panther attaches a negator pack to that Iron Man, and their fight continues.  T’Challa injects a code into Iron Man that shuts down his artificial heart, and they both end up crashing through the roof of the White House Oval Office (prior to that, they ended up in the air), where T’Challa suffers an unplanned seizure.  The usual versions of Stark and T’Challa arrive, and everyone goes to the ‘snack room, which is actually a safe room.  King Solomon’s Frogs are due to disappear into the timestream, so Little uses them to send back the future doppelgangers.  Bush chides Nightshade for her clothing, Monica wonders why she’s there, and Junta offers to retrieve the real Canadian PM, while T’Challa and Stark talk about how their relationship is very strained.  It looks like things are settling when Gyrich takes charge, and grabbing the frogs, sends himself, both Panthers, QDJ, Ross, and Monica to the Old West.
  • Sal Velluto and Bob Almond take a couple of issues off as the T’Challas and their crew head to the old west, turning up in Alberdene Texas in 1875 because of King Solomon’s Frogs.  Before that, a mysterious cowboy is greeted by an old man who thanks the All-Father for his presence, in a busted up bar in Danville.  In Abilene, our crew immediately attracts attention.  Ross is arrested after he is mistaken for a man named Sundance while everyone else hides out in a barn.  Gyrich is sent to pawn T’Challa’s gold to buy clothes, wearing a fake Marshall’s badge.  Ross is busted out of jail by the real Sundance, who looks just like him.  Wearing period clothing, the rest of the group heads into town.  Kirby Suit T’Challa tries to join a posse that is hunting Ross down, but runs afoul of an old man with mystical powers who uses that T’Challa’s telepathy to his own ends.  The regular T’Challa and Monica are tossed out of a restaurant and sent to the back.  Sundance and Ross are followed by the guy from the first page, while T’Challa attracts some attention from a black woman who is pleased to learn he is a King.  Ross recognizes the mysterious man to be Thor while a group of people who are unhappy that T’Challa is dressed well and has money cause trouble for him.  Thor stops Ross from telling him anything about the future, while the old man who has read the other T’Challa’s mind is upset to learn that his father will die one day (this guy is obviously Loki).  The Panther is joined by Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, and Two-Gun Kid, who were sent a telegram asking them to come by the other Panther, who, when QDJ comes to rescue him from Loki, he attacks, before putting on a familiar horned helmet.
  • Loki and a gang of train robbers rob a train, looking for a certain crate.  We learn that Sundance was supposed to give that same crate to Thor, but after Loki gave him an enchanted deck of cards, he gave up on it.  We learn that the crate has Idunn’s apples, that keep the gods young, explaining Thor and Loki’s craggy appearances, which I at first thought was just Jorge Lucas being gritty.  Loki eats an apple and becomes young, while Thor, Sundance, and Ross wait for him to appear at the train’s destination, but instead they are met by the Panther and his three friends from the era.  They continue waiting, but Thor decides to return to Asgard to die, turning into his usual look and flying away.  The Kirby suit Panther, mindcontrolled by Loki, drives the train, now covered with Trolls, right at his friends, there is some fighting and chaos, and the train ends up riding up the Byfrost Bridge right into Asgard.  T’Challa and his friends (Monica and Gyrich have stayed behind, I guess) confront Loki, and end up imprisoned in some Troll mine.  Using Sundance’s enchanted deck, they somehow break the control on Kirby Panther, and take the fight to Loki.  Getting a golden apple, the Rosses go looking for and revive Thor while the rest keep fighting.  Back to his old self, Thor makes quick work of Loki’s forces while the Trickster slips away; Thor decides to revive Odin in order to send the Panther and his group back home, and to wipe his new knowledge of the future.
  • Issue forty-eight returns Velluto and Almond to the art credits, and T’Challa to Wakanda, where he sits brooding in his throne room.  We see Nightshade crying at her inability to keep the Kirby Panther alive, and she is comforted by Monica Lynne.  Backing up, we see that Ross and the women rushed to get him to Wakanda before he expired.  Backing up a bit, we see everyone return from Asgard, and Kirby Panther tell Monica that his telepathic powers reveal her heart.  They kissed, and he collapsed.  Ross decides not to go comfort our T’Challa, seeing it as a sign of respect.  Alone for three days, T’Challa imagines getting into an argument with Magneto (this is right after Grant Morrison destroyed Genosha, and when Erik was believed dead), still rejecting Storm’s comparison of the two men.  In the recent past, QDJ, Ross, and Nightshade discuss where Kirby Panther came from, which causes QDJ to go visit Man-Ape in prison, although he claims to know nothing more about why that Panther was hidden in Jabari lands.  QDJ seeks out Vibraxas, admitting her love for the youth, and getting him to help her with freeing Man-Ape and the rest of the Jabari.  Monica talks to T’Challa, bringing up how upset she was to see him kissing Storm a ways back.  QDJ and Vibraxas free Man-Ape, and have him agree to three conditions (that he return to his own land peacefully, that he not seek revenge on T’Challa, and that he return for his trial).  T’Challa tells Monica of how the other Panther turned up some time after T’Challa thought he destroyed King Solomon’s Frogs, and that he told T’Challa of his brain aneurysm before falling unconscious.  Knowing that he would contract the same illness one day, T’Challa chose to not marry Monica.  Now he knows that he has the same aneurysm after his fight with Iron Fist.  After Monica leaves him, Man-Ape attacks, destroying the status tube that Kirby Panther lies in, leading us back to where the issue began.
  • Issue forty-nine, which is Velluto and Almond’s last, opens eighteen months before the Panther meets Ross, as he and Kirby Suit Panther are bounding through the jungle together, having just met.  Future Panther explains why he is so much more joyful than Present Panther, admonishing him to enjoy life.  In the present, the Panther leads the Wakandan Army to the land of the Jabari, demanding that they surrender Man-Ape, or go to war.  Man-Ape defies this, and Queen Divine Justice, supported by Vibraxas, tries to get him to calm down.  T’Challa lets the youths know that they are also criminals in his eyes, and things get heated.  T’Challa starts to imagine that Magneto is there, and as they argue (and we are reminded once again that T’Challa is suffering from the effects of his inoperable aneurysm), T’Challa attacks Vibraxas, who buries him in the Earth.  QDJ goes to him, trying to rescue him and negotiate peace, but T’Challa, confused, drives his claws into her chest.  He immediately realizes what has happened, and collapses, while Man-Ape orders his forces attack.  There are a couple pages of fighting, until QDJ, gathering her strength, orders them to stop.  She asks T’Challa to free her people.  Now the story returns to Ross, standing outside the doors to T’Challa’s throne room, and we understand that when we saw him mourning last issue, it wasn’t just for his future self.  We learn, from the imagined Magneto, that Queen is going to live, and that T’Challa has given all of his power over to the Tribal Council.  Magneto fades out, and Ross, deciding to go to his friend, finds only his ceremonial habit lying on the throne, with no hint as to where T’Challa has gone.

With that, one of the greatest runs in Marvel history came to its close.  Yes, the title continued, but Velluto and Almond left, and Priest shifted the focus to Kaspar Cole and America, in what was apparently a desperate attempt to build on sales.  The issues I’ve summarized above, from thirteen to forty-nine, comprise the books that show the Panther at his absolute best, and are much better than the overly rendered Marvel Knights issues that preceded them.

There is just so much to love in this book.  Priest built on previous authors’ work in ways that were respectful, but didn’t compromise his vision of T’Challa as an inscrutable ruler, always a few steps ahead of his friends and enemies.  Wakanda works as a strange amalgam of a futuristic city tied to a tribal rural society.  That tension, which led to the Dora Milaje, the inclusion of Queen Divine Justice into the book, and ultimately, to the death of the Panther’s future version, fueled much of this comic, even though it was rarely explicitly discussed.

I recently read an interview with Priest about this series from a few years ago, and he discussed how the constant pressure to raise sales caused him to try every gimmick going (which I guess explains the tie-ins to Deadpool, Maximum Security, and ‘Nuff Said), and led to him constantly bringing in characters from the wider Marvel Universe to interact with T’Challa.  That in itself was interesting, because most of the guest stars were underused and unloved at the time, like Moon Knight, Brother Voodoo, Power Man, and Iron Fist (which gave Priest the chance to fix a plot point from his run on the PM&IF title).  I remember being excited by the parade of 70s characters and characters of colour who never previously got their due.

I also loved the retconned inclusion of Hunter and the Hatut Zeraze into the Panther mythos.  They made a lot of sense, and provided Panther with a complicated nemesis (not that any of Panther’s relationships in this book are uncomplicated).  I also, over this pile of comics, began to like Everett K. Ross, who at the beginning was an annoying and unfunny character.  With time, and with the increased confidence that comes with being a true friend of a powerful monarch, he becomes likeable and insightful.

Priest’s experimentation with chronology and story structure meant that this is a comic that always has to be read very carefully.  This book really benefits from the approach I take to this column, reading only one comic a day.  I remember often finding the wait between issues to be frustrating when these first came out, and now recognize that I would have missed out on a lot of the finer plot points, simply because I couldn’t have possibly kept it all in my head.  

The art, predominantly by Velluto and Almond, is wonderful.  Velluto takes a very classical approach to panel layout, and does nothing to get in the way of clear storytelling.  As his run advances, he begins to exert more control over some of the more extreme musculature he drew at the beginning, giving Panther a sleek, cat-like appearance.

This column is already pretty long, because there was no clear place to break this run, so I’m not going to continue for much longer.  Priest kept this book tightly plotted for a number of years, with each new storyline both building on the previous, and laying the groundwork for the next one, culminating in the brilliance that was Enemy of the State II.  Heading into the Kaspar Cole issues, where the mantle of the Panther is passed on to an American, we are left wondering what Hunter might be doing with XCon, and how T’Challa is going to escape the death sentence of his brain aneurysm.  I actually don’t remember how either of these plot points were resolved, so I feel like I’ll be looking at these issues with fresh eyes.

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, including the previous two on the Black Panther, click here.

Marvel has recently been collecting Priest’s run, and you can get these issues in the following trades:
Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection Volume 1
Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection Vol. 2
Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection Vol. 3

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