FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE
JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 11 (September 1974)
VI. ONCE YOU SLAY THE DRAGON …
Synopsis: T’Challa, W’Kabi and Taku lead Wakandan forces through the jungle for a sneak attack on Killmonger’s concealed village called N’Jadaka. Expository dialogue informs us that it has been weeks since the Black Panther discovered that Baron Macabre and King Cadaver were in charge of Killmonger’s raids on Wakanda City’s advanced weapons and technology.
The pair of villains escaped while T’Challa was confirming the extent of their operation’s penetration, but since then the Panther has shut down the network and rounded up any conspirators who were helping Killmonger.
In addition, since then he has solved Zatama’s murder:
The omnipresent serving girl Tanzika was secretly having an affair with Zatama and when he dumped her she killed him and framed Monica Lynne for the crime.
Despite Monica’s status as Royal Consort, Tanzika knew she could count on Wakandan bigotry toward all Outworlders to help the frame job work. Tanzika starts to attack T’Challa, who disarms her, then presumably takes her downtown and books her. (I’m kidding.)
The “Who Killed Zatama” subplot wasn’t as pointless as it may seem in synopsized form. It provided plenty of opportunities for subtext about prejudice as the Wakandans were anxious to railroad Monica.
During one exchange with T’Challa during the ordeal, Monica grimly predicted a Sacco and Vanzetti style fate for herself, saying that maybe decades down the road Wakandan history books might depict her in a sympathetic light “but for right now, for today, they need a sacrificial scapegoat and I’m it.”
NOTE: I’ve pointed out several times that I’m not an authority on Comic Book history. BUT in the research I’ve wound up doing for these and other stories from Marvel Comics’ creative peak in the late 1960s to mid 1970s I think Marvel’s writers blazed trails that are usually credited to the MASSIVELY overrated and overpraised Alan Moore.
Back in the present, with the Black Panther and his troops approaching N’Jadaka Village, W’Kabi tells T’Challa that his quick, decisive handling of events in the past few weeks has made him regain his respect for T’Challa, who again seems like the man W’Kabi served under years ago.
We readers are also told that Taku learned N’Jadaka Village’s location from the prisoner Venomm, who at last conveyed the information willingly. This followed up on MORE subtext from previous issues, in which W’Kabi and others were condemning T’Challa for not having Venomm tortured to extract N’Jadaka’s whereabouts.
At last the attack begins, with the Black Panther once again crushing the comic relief bad guys Tayette and Kazibe, who are horrified that “the Panther Devil” as they call him, has struck at them HERE, in N’Jadaka, where they used to feel safe.
A large scale battle rages, as T’Challa’s troops take on Killmonger’s revolutionary army. It becomes clear that Erik Killmonger, King Cadaver and a large percentage of Killmonger’s forces are away on an expedition we’ll learn more about next time around.
Eventually the action in N’Jadaka Village becomes hut-to-hut fighting as the villainess Malice uses her superhuman powers to kill plenty of T’Challa’s loyal troops. She does this while bickering in a disrespectful way with the huffy Lord Karnaj, this issue’s new villain, who was left in command during Killmonger’s absence.
Lord Karnaj was given his revolutionary name by Erik because of his sadistic talent at devastating villages who refused to come over to Killmonger’s side, so the Black Panther is at last face-to-face with one of the main people behind so much of the suffering this war has unleashed. Lord Karnaj’s weapons are a pair of sonic pistols that fire incredibly destructive sonic blasts.
The ever-shifting tide of battle soon separates the Panther and Lord Karnaj, and T’Challa presently finds himself battling Baron Macabre once again. As our hero goes on to again defeat Baron Macabre in battle, W’Kabi gets to shine as he and his troops subdue and capture Malice.
Lord Karnaj resumes his attack on T’Challa and inadvertently kills a little boy with his gun’s sonic blasts. In typically simplistic and overwrought comic book fashion this sets Taku weeping AND infuriates him as he maniacally attacks Lord Karnaj, beating him nearly to death.
He then carries the child off to be buried as mopping-up operations commence now that T’Challa’s forces have emerged triumphant. T’Challa and W’Kabi discuss Taku’s unanticipated role in the battle. The Black Panther ties things back into the title’s theme of “the mythical dragon” that he says W’Kabi and his commandos set out to slay.
The metaphor that T’Challa is referring to goes “Once you slay the dragon, its blood often stains more than just your hands.” I was impressed with the subtle and unexpected angle pursued by the writing in a “mere” comic book.
This theme was set up early on in this issue and was left hanging until T’Challa finally delivered the punchline at the end, but it was NOT done in the simple-mindedly one-sided way that it would have been done today. Or by Alan Moore, who would have had the “lesson” of the metaphor depicted in the form of a finger-wagging lecture from either T’Challa or the gentler Taku to W’Kabi.
The implication in an Alan Moore (or Alan Alda if it was a tv show) presentation of the metaphor’s meaning would have been a simplistic sentiment like “Don’t ever go to war because bad things can happen …. SEE! … SEE! This little kid got killed!” In fact Moore and Alda would likely have made it be W’Kabi who accidentally killed the little boy, not Lord Karnaj … and that W’Kabi would then forever renounce the use of violence anywhere, under any circumstances.
Instead, the author Don McGregor gave the metaphor a more expansive meaning AND used the story’s events to make readers feel for the first time that W’Kabi and Taku really are friends who care about each other despite their opposite way of approaching Wakanda’s problems.
W’Kabi and T’Challa agree that the atrocities being committed on a regular basis by Killmonger’s forces could not be allowed to continue. W’Kabi has not been “taught” any silly lesson that “fighting is bad.” However, he does admit to T’Challa that the day’s events have unleashed in Taku a side that W’Kabi now wishes had not had to be unleashed in his friend.
It is clear that if W’Kabi could, he would have spared Taku the painful experience that has forever changed him. And it is in THIS context that T’Challa completes the metaphor that “Once you slay the dragon its blood often stains more than your hands.”
Very good pulp fiction writing. Readers got a thought-provoking ending instead of a simple-minded, shrill lesson AND it was all rendered in a way that deepened the characterization of W’Kabi and Taku. (To keep it light-hearted I’ll compare it to those Star Trek episodes when events force Spock and/or McCoy to drop their surface antagonism and show their genuine respect and affection for each other.) +++
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR PART SEVEN. SAME PANTHER-TIME, SAME PANTHER-CHANNEL.
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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