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JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 13 (January 1975)
VIII. THE GOD KILLER
Synopsis: After surviving the night following his battle with an entire pack of Devil Wolves, the Black Panther set out at daybreak, trekking through the ice and snow of the Land of the Chilling Mist. At length T’Challa made his way back to Resurrection Altar, where Erik Killmonger/ N’Jadaka has been periodically transforming some of his rebel soldiers into super-powered beings like King Cadaver, Malice and Sombre.
This issue’s main action begins as the Black Panther jumps a pair of Killmonger’s soldiers who guard the outer perimeter of Resurrection Altar: Wenzori and Jakak. The duo are clad in heavy winter wear because of the perpetually freezing temperatures in the Land of the Chilling Mist.
One of them wields a traditional automatic rifle while the other employs a handgun AND a double-chained and double-headed mace, both heads of which sport spikes to enhance their deadly nature. Needless to say T’Challa overcomes both men, while bitterly reflecting on the way Killmonger’s followers never seem to have any identity outside of their powers or specialized weaponry.
Our hero’s interrogation of the sentries has revealed that Killmonger, King Cadaver, Tayette and Kazibe have departed for Serpent Valley. Sombre, meanwhile, has headed further inland from the Chasm of Chilling Mist, toward the Domain of the White Gorillas.
Sombre, the High Priest of Resurrection Altar, took the horribly misshapen remains of those followers of Killmonger who died agonizing deaths upon exposure to the cosmic radiation of the fallen meteor/ asteroid in the pit of the Altar. As usual, that is the fate of most of those human guinea pigs exposed to the unearthly rays.
For every Sombre or Malice or King Cadaver who gain superhuman powers from the radiation infesting Resurrection Altar, there are many more who suffer and die. Killmonger has long been content with those odds. The callous revolutionary accepts the deaths of so many of his men in return for the few super-powered minions he gains to help him in his uprising against T’Challa.
This latest batch of sacrificial victims did spawn one new supra-normal soldier for Killmonger and we’ll meet him two issues down the road.
The Black Panther continues trailing Sombre, who is transporting the misshapen corpses of Resurrection Altar’s most recent victims. His intent is to feed the bodily remains to the White Gorillas as he does after every ritual he performs for Killmonger.
The artwork for T’Challa’s adventures in Wakanda’s Hidden Realms (The Land of the Chilling Mist, the Domain of the White Gorillas, Serpent Valley and the Forest of Thorns) is exceptional. Readers can’t help but feel – well, chilled by the artist’s renderings of the snowy, icy Land of the Chilling Mist and by the way the mist is so thick and so powerful that even the sun can barely be made out in the sky. And what CAN be made out looks like a cold, pale blue circle, hardly a blazing star.
As T’Challa follows Sombre’s trail through the falling sleet the scene cuts to Killmonger, Tayette and Kazibe as they lead Erik’s accompanying troops in the perilous descent down the Grand Canyonesque Chasm of Chilling Mist. The massive body of men has nearly arrived at the bottom of the chasm, where lies Serpent Valley.
Killmonger – typical of his blatant contempt for T’Challa – is just now finally getting around to chewing out Tayette and Kazibe for leading the Black Panther to Resurrection Altar. Unfastening his bandolier of spikes to use as a weapon Erik begins lashing Kazibe around and drawing blood from him by way of punishment.
Tayette sheepishly tries to intervene to help protect his friend from Killmonger’s wrath but accomplishes nothing but inviting the same type of bloody lashing at the end of Erik’s spike-barbed bandolier. Thoroughly enjoying himself, Killmonger gives Tayette a chance to spare himself further suffering.
He has but to ask Erik to turn his violent attentions back to the whimpering Kazibe. In a nice character bit for Tayette the still-terrified man refuses to gutlessly spare himself by asking Killmonger to resume punishing Kazibe. Instead he meekly mentions that he won’t let him continue tormenting Kazibe and begs Erik to please just talk with him about the situation.
Erik/ N’Jadaka laughs even more heartily at that. In grand villain manner he tells Tayette that he has surprised and impressed him. He (Killmonger) did not believe his comic-relief lieutenant capable of such selfless loyalty to a friend.
As a mock “reward” for his display of devotion to Kazibe, Erik promises Tayette he’ll give him the first shot at trying to corral and tame one of Serpent Valley’s dinosaurs. Killmonger plans on using an army of those dinosaurs as a mounted horde with which he will attack Wakanda City. (And this was YEARS before either Jurassic Park OR Dino-Riders.)
Back with the Black Panther, another night has fallen in the Land of the Chilling Mist. He has finally caught up with Sombre, however, and he peeks tentatively from the top of a cliff beneath which Sombre dances among the White Gorillas.
T’Challa is awestruck at the sight of the enormous White Gorillas, creatures which he thought long extinct IF they ever existed in the first place. The White Gorillas were the totem animals of Wakanda’s other main religion. Our hero wears the sacred garb of the Black Panther faith. The monstrous gorillas below are the objects of worship for the religion practiced by T’Challa’s old foe the Man-Ape and others.
We are told that because our protagonist has had a lifetime of exposure to real-life black panthers he has come to take them for granted. Seeing the mammoth, shrieking and seemingly “dancing” White Gorillas below has made T’Challa feel as vulnerable and superstitious as he felt when he was a child around the campfire, hearing tales of the dreaded White Gorilla gods … and their treatment of any black panther worshippers who fell into their clutches.
Sombre now calms the wild cavorting of the White Gorillas amid sacrificial stakes for occasional living victims and amid the bones of many of their slain meals from over the centuries. Sombre taunts T’Challa by telling him he’s been aware that he was following him for quite awhile and he dispatched one of the White Gorillas to creep up on the Black Panther from behind. The dancing and shrieking served to distract T’Challa from its approach.
Our hero turns to see one of the huge male White Gorillas right behind him, cutting off his escape and leaving him cornered there at the edge of the cliff, at the base of which – far below – lie Sombre and the rest of the White Gorillas. With no choice the Black Panther begins his futile battle with the enormous simian.
Meanwhile, back in Wakanda City, T’Challa’s Royal Consort Monica Lynne and his Communications Technology Chief Taku are visiting Karota, whose husband was killed by Baron Macabre a few installments back. Monica is still trying to befriend some of T’Challa’s subjects.
Karota’s son Kantu is going through the same process of anger and mourning that the Black Panther went through back when he was a boy and Klaw killed HIS father. Kantu is growing fond of Monica but his mother Karota makes it clear to Taku that she could do without these visits from T’Challa’s “Outworlder Woman.”
Back at the Royal Palace, W’Kabi – T’Challa’s Security Chief – is experiencing severe marital strain with his wife Chandra. They argue – not for the first time – in front of their children about how they’ve become strangers because W’kabi spends so much time at his duties.
With the Black Panther temporarily gone in his pursuit of Killmonger, W’Kabi is busier than ever. Because Wakanda remains a nation divided by war, W’Kabi as Security Chief rules in T’Challa’s absence, not Taku or the High Priest Mendinao. This soap opera marital situation goes unresolved for this issue but will be addressed again down the road.
We return to the Land of the Chilling Mist, where the Black Panther has been getting the crap beaten out of him in his battle with the White Gorilla. The pain and fury of the battle has forced him to see the White Gorillas in something of a concrete, non-divine manner.
“The campfires have been extinguished” is a line that the author Don McGregor uses to help convey the way this real-world encounter with these mythic beasts has caused T’Challa to lose his religious regard for both them AND by extension the black panthers his people worship.
Hey, it’s not exactly Stephen Dedalus’ painful loss of his Catholic faith in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but what do you expect from a comic book? This loss/ rejection of religion on T’Challa’s part will be important going forward and is the main point of this chapter, whose very TITLE signals its concern with theological crises.
As usual for adventure fiction, at literally the last possible moment our hero turns the tables on the White Gorilla attacking him and causes it to fall over the cliff. The beast falls below, and dies impaled on one of the sacrificial stakes intended for living sacrifices that Sombre sometimes feeds the creatures.
Again I will give Don McGregor credit for how well he handles this moment in particular. The narrative seems more Grand Myth than mere Comic Book Story and almost took me back to my own youthful loss of faith.
The physical death of the fallen White Gorilla cements its loss of mystique to T’Challa, who feels mingled triumph at surviving the ordeal, pain at the loss of the crutch of his religious beliefs and the horrible, sobering loneliness that accompanies a realization/ conviction that one is truly alone, with no higher beings to appeal to or to care about us.
I will once again point out Marvel Comics writers like Don McGregor and others were light years ahead of the overrated and overpraised Alan Moore. If Moore had written Panther’s Rage it would be as hyped as The Watchmen or V for Vendetta and his other works.
Again, I’m not calling comic books High Art but if you have a precocious child or two you could do a lot worse than to buy them one of the collected volumes of all 13 parts of Panther’s Rage. Many movies and television shows don’t handle adventure fiction with subtext as well as this serial does.
Wrapping up this chapter, the sun rises (as well as it can in the Land of the Chilling Mist, anyway) as the Black Panther looks down at the frantic, mourning White Gorillas and at Sombre who stares angrily back up at him. +++
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR PART NINE. 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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