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JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 15 (May 1975)
X. THORNS IN THE FLESH, THORNS IN THE MIND
Synopsis: As this chapter of Panther’s Rage begins, we are in the Forest of Thorns, where the Black Panther has followed Killmonger, his army and his long train of caged dinosaurs which they captured in Serpent Valley. T’Challa’s need for rest after his exhausting and trying battle with the Tyrannosaurus Rex that Erik sicced on him added to the head-start which his enemy already had on him.
It is now a day or two later and our hero is deep into the Forest of Thorns. That forest is crowded to claustrophobic levels with nothing but thorned vegetation like trees, bushes, brambles, shrubs and even thorned leaves and fruits on the trees.
For literally millions of years the Forest of Thorns served as an impenetrable natural barrier which prevented Wakandans from penetrating into Serpent Valley along the gradual incline on which that forest lay.
The precipitous, Grand Canyonesque stone walls of the Chasm of Chilling Mist had always prevented foot traffic into Serpent Valley from that direction. Therefore even though the Forest of Thorns spread all the way up to the plateau on which rested Killmonger’s rebel capital of N’Jadaka, no one had ever used it as a downward route into Serpent Valley.
Killmonger being Killmonger, he and his army were simply ramrodding their way through the Forest of Thorns with their machinery, sacrificing much of its natural beauty and leaving gaping pathways in their wake as they made the days-long ascent through this natural wonder.
We join T’Challa as he has paused for a drink and to change the dressing on some of his wounds in the water of a stream which winds its way through the Forest of Thorns. Surreptitiously making their way toward the Black Panther with the intention of attacking him are a few of Killmonger’s soldiers plus their leader, Salamander K’Ruel.
Out of Erik’s most recent visit to Resurrection Altar back in the Land of the Chilling Mist, Salamander K’Ruel was the only one of Killmonger’s men to survive and gain superhuman powers from his exposure to the extraterrestrial rays of that Altar. The others, as usual, died agonizing deaths as their bodies were horribly mutated.
(Remember, as part of Killmonger’s callousness toward even his own followers he is content with those odds: gaining one super-powered minion per group of human guinea pigs, while the others in the group die painfully. Malice, King Cadaver and Sombre were the others who gained paranormal powers from Resurrection Altar while their fellow “offerings” died horribly.)
Salamander K’Ruel, as Erik christened him upon his survival of the ritual, grew raised, pimply sores all over his body and out of each of those sores his body hair continued to grow. Due to his mutation from the rays of Resurrection Altar, K’Ruel’s body hairs (except for those on his head) grew out of the sores as long, thin, needles.
Those long needles covered most of his body and not only served as a natural protection in close-quarters physical combat but could be shot from his body at will like porcupine quills. Salamander K’Ruel’s natural skin oils had mutated into toxic fluid which coated his needle-hairs/ quills and could either knock-out or kill anyone hit by his needle-hairs/ quills.
In addition, Salamander K’Ruel (easily the most whimsical Revolutionary Name that Killmonger bestowed on one of his followers) used a bow from which he fired Napalm-tipped arrows – years before Stallone in Rambo III and Mark Gregory in Thunder Warrior.
At any rate, K’Ruel and his handful of soldiers were left behind by Erik/ N’Jadaka to kill T’Challa just in case he survived his battle with the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They now launch their attack on the Black Panther. Continue reading