GRAPHIC NOVEL and TRADE PAPERBACK (TPB) REVIEWS

by The Masked Bookwyrm

The Black Panther

"With the sleekness of the jungle cat whose name he bears, T'Challa - King of Wakanda - stalks both the concrete city and the undergrowth of the veldt..."

For (uncollected) Black Panther mini-series see Black Panther (1988) and Black Panther: Panther's Prey.

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Black Panther: The Client 2001 (SC TPB) 128 pages.

cover by Mark TexeiraWritten by Christopher Priest. Art by Mark Texeira, Joe Quesada, Vince Evans and Alitha Martinez.
Colours: Brian Haberlin, Avalon Colors. Letters: Richard Starkings, Siobhan Hanna, Wes Abott, Comicraft. Editors: Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Quesada.

Reprinting: The Black Panther (3rd series) #1-5 (1998)

Rating: * * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

Published by Marvel Comics

The current revival of the Black Panther -- comicdoms first black super hero -- has been getting rave reviews. This TPB collects the first five issues, wherein the Panther, king of the super scientific African kingdom of Wakanda, arrives in America to investigate murder and corruption connected to an inner city charity he established. Meanwhile, back home in Wakanda, turmoil and revolution is brewing.

The Black Panther, when handled well, often plays with ideas that can stray far afield from your average two-fisted adventure comic: global and African politics, identity, honour, all held together by its brooding, thinking man hero. Writer Christopher Priest continues that trend (largely established by Don McGregor during a critically acclaimed 1970s run of Black Panther stories in Jungle Action) but he tweaks it just a little by also making it...funky. There's a hint of someone like Quentin Tarantino in Priest's style.

There's a lot of sassy humour, even absurdism, in this series. The story is narrated by Everett K. Ross, a U.S. government employee assigned to the visting Black Panther (The Client of the title). A fast talking nerd, the white Ross is bewildered by the ancient culture of Wakanda, but seems more confidant about his ability to handle inner city (read: black) America...not that we share his confidence as he gamely tells a hoodlum "Don't start none, won't be none," in his best street patois. He narrates the entire tale to his superior in a mixed up, back and forth, out-of-sequence way that is (intentionally) confusing for the first few issues. A lot of fun, but confusing.

Filtering the story through a white character might raise a few eyebrows. But Priest can get away with it in part because he's black himself, and though Ross initially dominates, the regal Panther quickly re-claims centre stage. By telling the story through someone else, Priest can indulge in the "Iconism" that has become so pervasive in modern comics, emphasizing the Panther's mystery and majesty. And it allows novice readers to be brought up to speed through Ross' reports. Besides, the Ross character gently turns cliches on their head. How many movies have you seen with the heroic white guy, and the comic relief black side kick? Here, Ross is the wisecracking nerdy pal. But what makes him work is that, clearly, Priest likes the little guy. Ross may get the laughs, but Priest isn't making fun of him.

And, as noted, gradually the familiar Panther, the one carrying the weight of the world -- or at least a nation -- on his shoulders, the idealist, the Hamlet-in-a-cat-suit, emerges from behind the self-consciously "hip" sun-glasses and bald pate 'tude and reassures us that Priest hasn't forgotten the character's roots. Although some of the supporting cast is, I think, new. As well, Priest expands the Panther's arsenal, giving him a bullet proof costume, a laser knife, etc. That seems to be the trend with modern heroes: accessorize. The costume has been fancied up a bit, and the Panther occasionally out does Batman on the mysterious front, appearing in locked rooms with no explanation for how he got in. But there was something cooler, more heroic, about the minimalist, self-reliant Panther, the guy who triumphed with skills and wiles alone.

Admittedly, Priest uses the jumbled narrative style to distract from a story that isn't as complex as he makes us think it is...or even as coherent. The Panther investigates a scandal and the murder of a child associated with the charity -- a molestation murder, one infers, though it's never clearly stated. But Priest never explains why anyone thinks the girl's murder is even connected to the charity. And the oblique way Priest alludes to the nature of the crime might seem to trivialize it, Priest not quite dealing with the seriouness of his subject matter. Meanwhile, the Panther's "detective" skills are basically to beat up and intimidate people. Sherlock Holmes, eat your heart out!

That raises it's own issues. The idealistic Panther is a character that has always leaned toward philosophizing, caught between the old world and the new, between what's right and what's practical. We learn he disbanded the Wakandan secret police years ago, unable to contenance their brutality. Yet the Panther beats up and intimidates people to get what he wants. What is Priest trying to say about, well, anything? Granted, the reason so many super heroes use such methods is probably less intended as an endorsement of torture and brutality, and more because the writers just aren't smart enough to write a real investigation.

Of course, the "investigation" is only part of the story, with the revolution back home being another thread, and the Devil being another.

Yeah, The Devil. Literally.

Seems Mephisto is looking to gain the Panther's soul, the Panther having been elevated to a level of purity previously reserved mainly for the Silver Surfer. The Devil stuff offers the story some delightful...weirdness, not to mention some genuine laughs (many revolving around some pants). The Devil sub-plot delves more deeply into the Panther's psyche, even as the resolution seems a bit...pat. Kind of like the charity investigation.

With all those diverse, but interconnected, plotlines, The Client covers a lot of creative bases, as well as fleshing out the Panther's background and origin, plus various digressions and asides. And maybe the fact that some of them aren't developed as well as Priest's unorthodox style fools you into thinking can be forgiven. And the trouble back in Wakanda, though reaching a stalemate, isn't resolved, leaving this "graphic novel" with a few threads dangling. It's no surprise Marvel rushed a second collection, Enemy of the State, onto the shelves, wrapping up the story (I assume).

The art is noteworthy. I don't know if it's truly painted, or just an elaborate variation on the usual computer colouring process, or whether it's Mark Texeira's rough, smudgy pencils and inks, but the book has a vibrant, painted look to it. Granted, the details aren't as detailed at times, having a (slight) Impressionist look. At the same time, there is a vivid realism, even photo-realism. Unfortunately, the art changes for the final issue. Normally, Vince Evans would be a perfectly fine, realist artist. But compared to what went before, it's a bit of a let down. Of course, Evans is only one man, whereas it's entirely unclear who did what on the first four issues. Texeira is generally credited, but Joe Quesada (who is also the co-editor) gets an ambiguous "storytelling" credit, and Alitha Martinez is credited with background assists. Plus there's Brian Haberlin providing the colour for all the issues. Whoever is fully responsible for the look, it combines with Priest's funky writing to make the story pretty electric at times.

I liked The Client, even though it's not as smart as it pretends, and some plot threads don't cleanly resolve (though most do). But reflecting back on it, I remember it with more fondness than negativity. It's simplistic at times, but so are a lot of comics (and movies, and TV shows). It's funny, and serious, and eccentric. Definitely worth a look and a respectable return of the Black Panther. Now if only Marvel would collect Don McGregor's classic "Panther's Rage" epic in a TPB...

This is a review of the story as it was originally serialized in Black Panther comics.

Cover price: $24.95 CDN./ $14.95 USA. 


Black Panther: Enemy of the State 2001 (SC TPB) 160 pages

Written by Christopher Priest. Art by Joe Jusko, Mike Manley, Mark Bright, with Amanda Connor. Inks by Jimmy Palmiotti, Vince Evans, Nelson Decastro.
Colours: Avalon Studios; Drew and Matt Yackey, Brian Haberlin, Chris Sotomayor. Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft. Editors: Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti, Nanci Dakesian.

Reprinting: Black Panther (3rd series) #6-12 - 1998-1999

Rating: * * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

Published by Marvel Comics

Considering Enemy of the State on its own is a bit tricky as it directly follows the previous Black Panther TPB collection, The Client. The Client covered the first five issues of the Panther's latest series and, though it was self-contained enough to be worth reading on its own, some plot threads were left dangling. These threads are tackled here. The Black Panther, super hero, and head of an African country, is in the U.S. in a kind of (ill-defined) exile, his throne having been usurped in a (sort of) coup covered in The Client. There's a certain ambiguity at work -- the Black Panther agrees not to return to his native Wakanda, to avoid instigating a civil uprising against the new regime...yet he is still treated as Wakanda's official ruler by the American government.

Anyhoo...

The Black Panther ends up tussling with villain Kraven (not, apparently, the original Kraven, but Kraven's son), and must avert a race riot and temporarily hook up with former teammates the Avengers. But all of this is a pre-amble to the main story, which has the Panther uncovering the international conspiracy that led to the coup, and his attempts to re-claim his throne.

Like in the previous book, Christopher Priest writes with a delirious eye for jumbling and juggling plot threads -- one story doesn't end for another to begin, but all are wrapped around each other, where even scenes that don't seem connected might, indirectly, have an impact on each other later. Also thrown into the mix is the fast-talking Everett K. Ross, the U.S. government agent who acts as The Black Panther's U.S. liaison, who not only provides plenty of comic relief, but narrates in a back and forth, mixed up way. Priest delights in throwing in scenes -- sometimes just an image -- that seems to have no meaning, only to reveal its significance a few issues later. One really believes Priest has plotted things out many issues in advance, which makes for an unusually sure footed read at times.

Added to all this is various relationship and character stuff, as Monica Lynn -- the Panther's on again/off again love interest -- returns, and the Panther must deal withh his ideological opposite, the White Wolf (and learning his history). Plus more minor things crop up, like learning Ross' boss/girl friend, Nikki, has a history with the Panther in a beautifully understated, but poignant scene.

And, of course, there's Priest's sassy humour, much of it courtesy of the bizarrely demented villain Achebe (with his talking hand puppet) and, of course, Ross. Priest is black himself and some of the humour is meant to be a little incendiary -- though I missed it myself (apparently a quip where a character speculates about the Panther ordering some ribs has a racial aspect to it???). There's also some humour in Ross' homophobia -- no, I don't mean Priest is advocating hate against homosexuals. There's merely humour in Ross' discomfort with anything that smacks of homoeroticism. But Priest is also serious, too, when dealing with things, whether it be race or the conspiracy against Wakanda taking the Panther into some unexpected quarters. Not that the book is some heavy tirade. Priest is a storyteller, first and foremost, and the comic is intended for people of all races and colours to enjoy. But it also wants to make you think, too.

All of this also means that both Black Panther TPBs will probably hold up for subsequent readings quite well. The first time through, you're just picking things up as you go. The second time through, you can better appreciate foreshadowing and early clues.

But a problem Priest has is that he's a little too keen to make the Panther...cool. To make him the ubersuperhero. Obviously the Panther is a sharp dude, and part of his appeal is his cool demeanour, his unflappableness. But he should also be human and vulnerable. Priest doesn't mind showing that with the Panther's relationships, and even as a super hero Priest grudgingly allows him a few weaknesses -- such as actually losing his first scuffle with Kraven. But a lot of the time, Priest doesn't permit him the opportunity to be human, with the Panther too often three steps ahead of the villains, so that the suspense is rather...muted. Priest even goes so far as to suggest that the Panther was wise to what was going on from the beginning, which kind of undermines some of the (perceived) emotion in early scenes. Priest seems too much in danger of subscribing to the Iconism of modern comics, where the hero isn't allowed to sweat, or bleed, or be anything less than totally in control. As I say, that's not always true here, but it's enough that it makes some of the later parts of the story seem lacking in a bit of tension. Is the Panther fighting back against overwhelming odds...or just cleaning house?

Priest even goes so far as to re-interpret the Panther's relationship with the Avengers in a way that, frankly, doesn't really jibe with earlier stories.

The art in this TPB is a mixed bag, with three different styles present. Joe Jusko illustrates the first three issues, with a photo-realist style that is captivating, even as it is, at times, a little stiff. Then he's followed by Mike Manley, a cartoony artist at the polar opposite from Jusko, and from the art in The Client. Manley looks like he's auditioning to draw for "Batman: The Animated Series", and though his storytelling ability isn't to be faulted, a lot of the atmosphere, the moody realism, of the comic is lost. Finally M.D. Bright wraps things up. I've become a bit of a fan of Bright's low-key, realist pencils in Green Lantern (circa the early 1990s) -- even if I once described his art as undynamic which, perhaps, it is. It's good comic book work, and I like it, and it allows the story arc to resolve respectably -- art-wise -- if un-extraordinarily.

I try to review books as stand alone works. Having already read The Client, I'm not sure how well this would read on its own. I think reasonably well, with enough of the plot elements relevant to this story introduced in these pages, just as The Client could be read on its own, despite some danging plot threads. But, in truth, the two books are meant to form a single, 12 issue story arc. The series was published under a Marvel imprint, Marvel Knights, then, starting with issue #13, it was published under the regular Marvel banner, a decision that seems to have led all those concerned to try to shape the first 12 issues into its own arc (though even then there're one or two threads left dangling).

After having read both books, I can't decide if Priest's Black Panther is the smartest, sharpest, most audacious and original, most provocative and ambitious (and funniest) mainstream superhero comic on the market...or whether there's a little too much flash with the substance. Priest's stuff is so good at times, there's a bit of a let down when it doesn't all seem to come together as well as you'd like, when there isn't quite the emotional pay off you were hoping for. Still whether it's that good, or whether it just seems that way at times, both books are worth tracking down, but if you can only find one or the other...they're still worth a read.

This is a review of the story as it was originally serialized in Black Panther comics.

Cover price: $__ CDN./ &16.95 USA 


Black Panther: Panther's Quest 2017 (SC TPB) 220 pages

Written by Don McGregor. Pencils by Gene Colan. Inks by Tom Palmer.

Reprinting: The Black Panther instalments from Marvel Comics Presents #13-27 (1989-1991)

Rating: * * * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Review posted: March 2018

Published by Marvel Comics

The Black Panther was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, but inarguably the guy who helped defined him was Don McGregor, who wrote the character's first solo series (in the pages of Jungle Action). McGregor very much a product of the 1970s experimentation when young Turk writers were trying to push at the borders of what you could do in, and with, mainstream super hero comics (his peers in this push including the likes of Steve Gerber and Jim Starlin) -- sometimes with more passion than polish. And the thing is McGregor could be brilliant and provocative -- and he could be indulgent and tedious. I've loved McGregor's stuff -- and hated it, too. And he very much has a distinctive style, recurring themes and obsessions in his work, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it falls on its face (one could liken him to Howard Chaykin in that regard).

Anyway, after his 1970s work for Marvel on the Black Panther (and the sci-fi series Killraven) he drifted away to other publishers. But then found his way back to Marvel in the late 1980s, and unleashed his biggest Black Panther saga -- Panther's Quest. He had already established the idea of the Panther as being a forum for epics with his inaugural 1970s "Panther's Rage" saga (clocking in at 13 issues) and clearly liked the idea of unifying his tales with a "Panther's ___" title (following this came "Panther's Prey"). Panther's Quest was serialized in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents, an anthology title which featured multiple (mostly) serialized series per issue (each usually afforded eight pages per issue). And at 25 chapters, I think Panther's Quest was the longest in that comics' run (and the final two chapters were double-sized -- for a total of about 216 pages!)

And despite the popularity of collected editions, for years Panther's Quest went uncollected -- which, given that its sheer length would make it difficult to collect in back issues, probably condemned it to obscurity. But anticipating the release of the Black Panther motion picture, Marvel finally decided to spring for a collected edition of Panther's Quest.

And -- spoiler alert -- it's good that they did!

But let me offer a caveat of that. Because actually the first time I tried to read this storyline -- I kind of got bogged down and gave up. Remember how I said McGregor tended to have a set style? Recurring themes? Well all those were on display. He tends to lather on the dense, introspective captions as he rambles about on weird little tangents, slowing down the action so a single moment will get spread over multiple pages as he waxes philosophic -- or conversely work in wacky humour, even slap stick, before slamming it up against some ugly, rending violence. He can feel like he sets out to write epic stories -- and then has no idea where he's going with it, so it just feels like he's killing time with isolated vignettes and episodes, rather than developing a complex Byzantine epic. So starting on it the first time, I was frustrated by how the "plot" just seemed to be spinning its wheels.

Then I sat down to read it again.

This time I realized that the isolated moments, the episodic vignettes, aren't because he doesn't have a story -- it's because those are the point of the story. In a way, the eight-page chapter format may be the ideal forum for McGregor's style, allowing him to zoom-focus on some minor moment, but in a naturally episodic format rather than feeling like he's wasting 20 pages while progressing nowhere.

In a way -- you don't read Panther's Quest. You immerse yourself in it.

And equally, maybe the trick is not to rush through it, but to take it as it was originally presented: in its episodic format. Read an eight-page chapter or two, then close the book and come back to it later. Because as I say: McGregor is notorious for the density of his prose, and maybe it's easier to digest this way. (I mean, to make a ridiculously pretentious analogy: isn't that how some people read James Joyce?)

Before we get too far along, let me also talk about the art. Here McGregor is teamed with Gene Colan, an artist he worked with on more than one project but (I believe) they eventually had a falling out over another story. And Gene Colan is an artist who is all about the atmosphere, the mood, and the weird way he can present dynamic, explosive super hero action married with lush, evocative sense of realism, with characters who look like real people (characters themselves who straddle realism and caricature, with almost photo-realistic faces and bent, slouched bodies as though Will Eisner drawings had come to flesh and blood life). Colan's depictions of the world around the characters, from the shanty towns to the parched open spaces, the blistering daytime to the sultry nights, really makes you feel like you're experiencing these environs, not just seeing drawings on a page.

You may get the sense that I kind of dig Colan's work. And you'd be right.

What's kind of funny is that often critically regarded artists gain that reputation precisely because their work is often brief and fleeting, only staying with a comic for a few "classic" issues. But Colan was a comic book workhorse, maybe making it easy to become blasé about his style because it was so frequently on display (heck he drew the entire 70-issue run of Marvel's Tomb of Dracula!) Sure, like every artist he has his hits and misses, stories or series he seemed less enthused about, or weren't to his strengths. In later years he got more experimental with panel composition, sometimes at the expense of clarity. But I would argue this Panther epic is Colan firing on all cylinders, and it's impossible to separate one's feeling about the story, of its emotional impact, from Colan's art. Maybe with a less stylish artist, with less subtle and mature visuals (remember this was an era when gritted teeth, big muscles, and pin-up model poses were starting to dominate comics) McGregor's dense, self-indulgent script would've collapsed in upon itself like a black hole of pretensions.

So the "story" of Panther's Quest -- the "quest" -- is that the Panther has learned a rumour that his mother, whom he believed had died when he was a child, is actually alive and a prisoner in South Africa. And he sets out to find her. But as I say, the story isn't really the point here.

The "point" then, well, is South Africa -- written at a time when the country still suffered under Apartheid but just as the international community was finally rousing and taking it on as a major social/international issue of its day. South Africa had had Apartheid for decades -- it had even been booted out of the British Commonwealth, in part thanks to Canada, as far back as the 1960s. But somehow it never really became cause celebre until the mid-1980s. The Black Panther had already been used to tackle the idea of South Africa -- notably in a 1988 mini-series in which he became embroiled with a fictional, South Africa-like nation, and even in a short story in Marvel Team-Up #100. But those filtered the socio-political issues through a very comic book-y lens of sci-fi and super villains. But here McGregor tackles it head on with a far more realist, in-depth approach (and one where Colan's pencils are so important to presenting the tale).

A white writer, there's little doubt McGregor tackles racism with sincerity (he had the Panther battle the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s, presented some of comicdoms earliest inter-racial relationships, and created the black sci-fi hero, Sabre) and that he comes at the South African setting seeming reasonably familiar with it (some chapters opining with quotes from books and documentaries). As such when the saga veers into depicting intra-tribal violence, you don't get the sense McGregor is using it as weasley both-side-ism (here are white bad guys, here are black bad guys) but because he is sincerely trying to take the reader with him through the grim realities.

Which isn't to say the story gets tripped up on its own earnest self-importance, or suffers from a pedagogical "it's good for you" earnestness. McGregor's technique (for better and worse) is to filter his story and scenes through the characters, keeping the focus on the human element, the human emotion. Minor characters are given detail and nuance, sometimes lending the scenes humour, sometimes profundity, and sometimes to slam you in the gut when such a character is cruelly killed.

The whole epic saga probably only encompasses two or three days from the character's perspective. Which is why I say you read the scenes and the chapters for themselves, as "moments,".more than as stepping stones to a climax (I wonder if McGregor found the short-chapter format so to his likening it inspired him to write the mini-series Panther's Prey broken up into short chapters).

McGregor's approach to the Panther was, in a sense, somewhat different than later writers, with McGregor emphasizing the character's humanity, his vulnerability. The Panther's heroism and nobility demonstrated precisely because he is, in a sense, just a man in tights. Later writers tended to play up The Panther as more of a bad-ass, always one step ahead of everyone else, and with more gadgets and gimmicks than Iron Man (wielding laser knives and his costume sometimes seeming bullet proof). Although I can see the appeal of the latter approach, McGregor's version is, in a way, the more profound, the more noble -- the hero who struggles for victory, making the action scenes at times genuinely tense and nail-biting.

It also relates here to a deliberate attempt to present a "realist" story, with McGregor discarding the comic book-y pulp-trappings he had used in Panther's Rage and would use again in Panther's Prey: sci-fi gadgets and dinosaurs and super-powered villains. Panther's Quest is as close to a super-hero in the real world as you're liable to get. And though I thoroughly enjoy the mixing of fantasy and reality normally, I do think in this case the saga is the better, the more powerful, for that restraint.

Now as I say: McGregor has recurring themes, tropes, and, well, even fetishes. He seems to have a weird, um, obsession with detailing violence that has marked his work throughout his career, slowing down a moment to spend pages detailing every wound, every tear his heroes endure. It can seem a bit weird once you realize how often he return to the theme -- although I think he means it as a critiicism of violence, trying not to glibly trivialize brutality. I think.

But honestly? As someone who can bounce up and down on a bungy cord in my assessment of McGregor -- alternating between digging him and finding him tedious -- I genuinely feel that McGregor & Colan (it's impossible to isolate the effectiveness of the saga from Colan's visuals) has produced a possibly unsung masterpiece in Panther's Quest. I mean, I recognize that even I started it once and got bogged down. But once you approach it as its own animal, where the moments and the scenes are the story, not simply ways to convey the story, imbibing it as a rumination on life and love and morality and race and freedom and tyranny and so many other things...

Panther's Quest may well be as close to "literature" as a super hero comic gets.

Cover price: $__ 


Black Panther: Panther's Rage (Epic Collection) 2016 (SC TPB)

Review posted: March 2018

Long before these issues were collected I had posted a review of the "Panther's Rage" epic in my They Ain't TPBs section. So I will move it here, for a proper review, but for now, I'm leaving it where it is and simply posting a review of the second part of this collected edition here:

The next story arc is a complete change of pace -- and change of milieu -- as abruptly the reader (and the characters) are in America. Specifically the Southern U.S. state of Georgia where, we soon learn, the Panther's American girlfriend, Monica, has returned home for her sister's funeral -- accompanied by the Panther. But the sister's death was under mysterious circumstances and may have been a murder. And while the catalyst for the tale is a murder mystery, it also more explicitly tackles issues of race and racism than had the previous, African-set epic -- and in a way more frank than a lot of AAmerican comics at the time (or even since) with battles with the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, the story's overall title is "The Black Panther vs. The Klan" (often identified as The Clan on the cover).

But once again McGregor's storytelling tendencies prove both his strength -- and his weakness. Initially the story seems as though it's going to be more focused and complex than Panther's Rage (which, as I suggest, can really seem like a series of loose incidents). The Panther is plunged into a mystery like some detective novel-in-comics, with clues laid before us (a stopped clock, etc.) And with the story instantly becoming complicated by a second group of robed secret cultists that seem to be unconnected to, and even at odds with, the local Klan. But the mystery quickly stalls as, once again, McGregor starts using issues for isolated conflicts (the Panther once again being put through physical ordeals) which allow McGregor to wax philosophic. As with Panther's Rage, reading the scenes for themselves, in the moment, you can immerse yourself in McGregor's dense introspection -- once again interrupted by moments of levity and comic relief. But as storytelling, unfolding a plot -- you can find yourself wondering if even McGregor wasn't entirely sure where he was taking it.

And the reason this is problematic is because ultimately the Jungle Action series was cancelled -- the mystery left unresolved. The claim (in the letter's page) was it was because of poor sales. And that's the problem with artists insisting they have a vision -- because it doesn't help their vision to be realized if the comic gets cancelled out from under them, does it? And maybe if McGregor could have better blended his philosophical digressions with a tighter narrative drive, he would've been able to complete it.

(Of course the "poor sales" thing can seem a bit curious -- since even as they were announcing the series' cancelation, they announced the Panther would be jumping to his own self-titled comic. I mean, if sales were flagging -- wouldn't that normally mean the character himself would be benched for the time being? Since the new Panther comic was one of those being tackled by Jack Kirby (as part of his late '70s return to Marvel) I suppose it's equally possible they were just pushing out McGregor and company to prepare for Kirby (who ignored McGregor's run). There is a history in comics (or at least fan rumours) of creative teams being unceremoniously ousted, not because of poor sales, but simply to make room for a bigger creator to take over.

McGregor's storyline, and the mystery of Monica's sister's death, would eventually get resolved, in a three part Black Panther run in Marvel Premiere -- by a different creative team. But a creative team (writer Ed Hannigan and artist Jerry Bingham) that was clearly trying to pay respect to the McGregor/Graham/Buckler stories, with Bingham stylistically a similar artist, and Hannigan deliberately adopting an introspective, philosophical tone -- even as his plotting was a bit tighter, more focused, re-capping and finally resolving the mystery in three issues (however imperfectly).

Whatever McGregor (and his fans) may -- or may not -- have thought about the Hannigan stories, it allows the saga to come to a conclusion (just as an aside: it was the first Panther solo stories I ever read, and I quite liked 'em). And instead of simply reprinting the entirety of the Jungle Action issues in a collection, and therefore ending unresolved, Marvel might have been better to maybe release Panther's Rage as a TPB, and then the murder mystery story as a separate TPB with the Marvel Premiere issues included so that it, too, can form a finished work.

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