Black Panther Volume 1 by Jack Kirby 1977
In the late seventies Jack Kirby returned to Marvel after a short time with DC comics. With Kirby's return to Marvel started working on some titles like The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, Captain America, and 2001 A Space Odyssey. One book that seems to be forgotten when Kirby's returned to Marvel was Black Panther. And there is probably a good reason why it isn't so fondly remembered. It is forgettable. That isn't to say that it is a bad comic, or boring. It just means that unlike a lot of other Kirby work it doesn't have that memorable hook to it. This book feels like Kirby's attempt to tell a pulp adventure story that just so happens to be staring the Black Panther.
The story starts out in the middle of an adventure with the Panther and a diminutive man named Mr. Little. Mr. Little is a collector, a treasure hunter, and some how he convinces T'challa to help him in his trek to locate artifacts and avoid being killed. I found myself constantly wondering why would Black Panther continue to help a man who is clearly less than altruistic. It's a question that really has no answer. Most of the book is Little, and Panther narrowly avoiding death from tombs, samurai, future mutates beings and other collectors. T'challa is constantly mentioning Wakanda, yet not until the last issue of this trade does he even decide that he should leave these crazy dangerous collectors to check back on his home. One would think that with constant death threats, greedy partners, and constant complaining on the Panther's behalf, he would have left after the first adventure with Mr. Little was over.
It may sound like I am being some what hard on the book, and that I didn't enjoy it. That isn't the case, I was entertained most of the way through. My entertainment stemmed mostly from Kirby's fantastic art and design work. The tombs and cities he creates, while not exactly ancient looking, are still a sight to behold. And when T'challa leaps into action against the hordes of enemies in the book, it looks dynamic. Each punch feels like there is weight behind it. While Kirby's art is great in the book, I do think it suffers from Kirby's writing. I understand that this is a book from the seventies, so I am not looking for some great piece of literature. But the dialogue is over written(no real surprise) and T'challa doesn't sound like the character that Stan and Jack introduced way back in Fantastic Four 52.
The book is worth a peak for the Kirby art alone. But if Kirby isn't your cup of tea, and a strange adventure that feels out of place in Black Panther's world, maybe give this one a pass. I do intend on finishing the story with the second trade. It looks more like the book I was hoping for, with T'challa returning to Wakanda and dealing with menaces that crop up there. Maybe I'll talk about that on a future Throw Back Thursday.