Monday, February 26, 2007

Jungle Action featuring Black Panther #19

Jungle Action featuring Black Panther #19, January 1976, Marvel Comics
writer: Don McGregor
penciller: Billy Graham
inker: Bob McLeod
letterer: D. Wohl
colorist: P. Goldberg
editor: Marv Wolfman

A few housekeeping notes before today’s review. Firstly, I feel compelled to mention a potential violation of the A Comic A Day rules and regulations: last week, I reviewed The Brave and the Bold #1 by Mark Waid and George Perez (a post that can also be found with additional commentary at Geek in the City), an issue I excitedly purchased for its crisis-free superhero flare. A few days later, when the afterglow dimmed, I realized that I had read The Brave and the Bold #124, a classic issue featuring legendary artist Jim Aparo on the cover, a mere ten days into the A Comic A Day challenge. Remember, my first rule is, “I can only read one issue from any given series throughout the ACAD year. Therefore, if I read Action Comics #1, I cannot attribute any other issue of Action Comics to the challenge. (However, in this instance, other titles featuring Superman would still be in play, if only for one issue each.)” Now, here’s the loophole: if different series starring Superman are each in play, why not different series of the same title? The modern The Brave and the Bold is a much different work than its predecessor from the Bronze Age – in fact, the name is really the star, isn’t it? If it starts at number one, it’s a different series, that’s what I say! What? Stop looking at me like that . . .

Secondly, I purchased many of the comics I’ve intended for my Black History Month series at the San Diego Comic Con – yes, in some cases, I’ve planned that far ahead – but with the other issues I’ve acquired since then and reviewed in the last few weeks, I find myself with one more Marvel issue than I can read. Remember, my third rule is, “A maximum of four out of my seven weekly reads can come from one of the ‘big two’ publishers, DC and Marvel Comics. This limit guarantees exposure to several other, potentially independent publishers at least three times a week.” Since the ACAD week begins on Saturday, when I read a DC book, I only have three “big two” issues left through Friday, but four Marvel issues remaining that I intended for February. So, sorry, Luke Cage, but I’ll get to you in March. Black Panter, Brother Voodoo, and Archie Bunker are too pressing in this month’s context to ignore. (Yes, Archie Bunker. Keeping things interesting.)

Now, if I recall (since the Comic Con was several months ago, though it seems just like yesterday), today’s and tomorrow’s issues actually inspired my holiday-themed reviews in the first place. Comic books called Jungle Action featuring Black Panther and Strange Tales featuring Brother Voodoo beg for some attention during these racially sensitive times. Or, I wonder, is my sensitivity to the outdated and potentially offensive nuanses of these titles what makes these posts so offensive in the first place? When I find an issue of Amazing Adventures featuring Captain Cracker out there, I’ll feel a bit better, I bet.

To make matters worse, in Jungle Action #19, Black Panther fights the Klan. Yes, that Klan. He’s not even in the jungle – well, the urban jungle, perhaps, but I don’t think that was the originally idea for the self-proclaimed House of Ideas. Anyway, the Klan, and a more open-minded splinter group dubbed the Dragon’s Circle that has apparently welcomed a few black members, are attacking the Lynne family, first killing their eldest daughter then attacking her sister in the graveyard. Fortunately, Monica Lynne is a friend of Black Panther’s, who is desperately trying to solve the mystery of this cult, despite the Lynne families’ mournful, tight lips. He battles them several times in this thirty-one page issue, including ads, springing with the raw energy of righteous rage. Artists Billy Graham and Bob McLeod maintain an adventurous flow throughout this book that pops vibrantly in the mighty Marvel manner despite the captions of endless narrative that clutter each page . . . which is, I guess, in the mighty Marvel manner, too.

Yes, writer Don McGregor spares no expense setting up each scene, then detailing each scene lingually as it transpires visually, then wrapping up each scene to make sure we get a shorter second time around. I’ll admit, I was initially put off by the sheer volume of words on each page, a practice today’s writers actually try to avoid under some twenty-seven-words-per-panel principle, or something like that. Indeed, I dragged my eyes across every alliterative phrase until I came across this single panel’s worth of captions on page fifteen:

“The moon seems unnaturally huge; a prisoner in ahumid cage that can never escape. The buildings appear empty – as if they have not had residents in ages. Faded posters add to the impression. Yet with the morning, the door speak of the incredible dry spell. It seems the heat will be with them forever. They are as much prisoners of it as the moon.”

While this text paints such a distinct picture, one of three panels on the page, its cyclical imagery struck as a stroke of literary mastery, an element most often found in classical prose. Not what I’d suspect from a comic book called Jungle Action.

In the end, I enjoyed this book, and while the story is “to be continued,” Black Panther kicks enough Klan butt to satisfy my curiosity about the saga just fine. As royalty, Panther represents the best of Black History Month – retaining a legitimate position of political power (albeit tribal) while still pursuing a vigilant quest for social justice. Sure, donning a mask breaks the traditional rules of law enforcement – a phenomenon the Panther briefly tackles with a local sherrif in this issue – but, hey, I’m all for a little rule-bending, you know what I mean? Bending isn’t breaking. It’s creative flexibility with the bounds of preestablishment. You dig?

1 comment:

Juice Head said...

One of the most powerful Black Panther stories...ever!