FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE
JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 8 (January 1974)
III. MALICE BY CRIMSON MOONLIGHT
Synopsis: In an opening layout of brilliantly drawn panels that even Will Eisner could have envied, in the first few pages of this issue we readers are shown multiple events going on in one night:
*** The Black Panther is undergoing various physical ordeals as part of the periodic rituals he must endure to prove he is still deserving of the Panther Herbs that give him his superhuman abilities.
*** Malice, a beautiful, super-strong and super-fast woman who wields a vibranium spear, makes her stealthy way out of the surrounding jungle, through the nighttime streets of Wakanda’s capital city and penetrates the Panther Palace itself.
Presently we join one lone event – Malice’s further infiltration of the Panther Palace. She overcomes Zatama, one of T’Challa’s (The Black Panther’s) Tribal Advisors, and threatens him until he reveals the location of the cell where her fellow villain Venomm is held prisoner. (Last issue the Black Panther captured Venomm and shut down the secret operations of Killmonger’s Death Regiments in the mines behind Warrior Falls. )
Once she has the info she needs, Malice knocks out Zatama and conceals his body. Then she resumes her ninja-like advance to the Palace’s prison cells.
Back outside the palace walls, the Panther Herb ritual has advanced to the point where T’Challa is lying face-up on the ground while the High Priest Mendinao and his subordinates have begun to coat the Black Panther’s body with liquid versions of the herbs.
American singing star Monica Lynne, T’Challa’s Royal Consort, happens to stumble upon the scene and mistakenly believes that the prone Black Panther is in danger. She interrupts the ongoing ritual, hurling accusations at W’Kabi and Mendinao that they’ve been bribed by Killmonger to assassinate T’Challa.
As we’ve seen in previous chapters, the men and women of Wakanda are already suspiciously hostile toward Monica since she is an Outworlder. This ugly incident prompts W’Kabi and Kradada and some of the other participants in the Ritual of the Panther Herbs to get rough and threatening with Monica.
The Black Panther completely abandons the ritual to protect Monica from any potential harm and we get another bitter and acrimonious exchange between T’Challa and his Security Chief W’Kabi. Once again W’Kabi accuses his Chieftain of becoming too polluted by foreign influences, possibly to the point of no longer being worthy of the throne OR the super-powers granted by the Panther Herbs.
T’Challa shuts down further conversation, insisting that his guest Monica needs him, and the two head back toward the palace, unaware of Malice’s activities inside.
Meanwhile, Malice surreptitiously approaches Venomm’s cell and is disgusted to hear her fellow operative of Killmonger has gotten on pretty intimate terms with Taku, T’Challa’s Communications and Technology Chief. The two men are discussing Venomm’s origin as Malice draws nearer.
Venomm (Horatio Walters) tells Taku how he came to be disfigured: he was a bright but socially ostracized teenager and when he was getting harassed one day by the allegedly “normal” students one of them threw a chemical beaker in his face, forever scarring him from the acid that was in the beaker.
From there Horatio became even more reclusive, but continued his biochemical researches as best he could. He became an expert in poisonous snakes, learning to absolutely control them through gestures, touches and whistles and making himself immune to all snake venom.
He first met Killmonger under his real name N’Jadaka when they were both attending night classes at a college in New York. Horatio’s poetic but bitter nature appealed to Killmonger, whose own charisma made Horatio as dedicated to him as his future followers would be.
The bond between the pair of outcasts was further cemented one night when a gang of punks were beating on Horatio because of his ugliness. Killmonger saved Horatio from the gang members, killing them.
He then gave Horatio his revolutionary name Venomm and promised that he would one day take him to a realm beyond imagination (Wakanda of course). He further assured him that they would take that place by force and make it theirs.
We are not told if Horatio ever asked “But if we’re just saying my revolutionary name out loud to people how will we convey the fact that there are two m’s at the end?” (I’m kidding!)
Malice meanwhile, ponders slitting Venomm’s throat for discussing his relationship with Killmonger with one of T’Challa’s Advisors. It becomes clear that Killmonger’s troops regard the Outworlder Venomm with the same suspicion shown by the Black Panther’s people toward Monica Lynne.
Malice takes down Taku, frees Venomm from his cell and the two begin to make their escape. Just then the Black Panther and Monica encounter the pair. Venomm is recaptured and as T’Challa and Malice fight it out we get some nice character bits regarding the villainess.
Malice bitterly refers to her mother, an ignorant peasant woman who was happy to accept whatever trinkets and charity that Wakanda’s ruling families would grant the poor and the working class. Thanks to Killmonger, Malice has risen above such a background and has learned that “oppressors” must be dealt with on equal terms through the only thing they understand: violence.
The Black Panther tries to get Malice to tell him how Killmonger is able to grant superpowers like the kind she possesses. He worries that the rebel has stolen or cultivated his own version of the Panther Herbs, intent on creating an army of super-powered soldiers.
Malice refuses to answer and escapes. Her super-speed makes it impossible to catch up with her. W’Kabi shows up, even angrier than before. He insists – apparently not for the first time – that T’Challa should FORCE Venomm to reveal the location of Killmonger’s hidden village called N’Jadaka.
And – also apparently not for the first time – our hero dryly asks W’Kabi “And who would you have be his torturer?” as this issue comes to a close.
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR PART FOUR.
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MAIN LIST OF CENTAUR COMICS SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MAIN LIST OF THE RURAL HOME/ CROYDON SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MEMBERS OF INFINITE HORIZON CLICK HERE
FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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