Black Panther: Panther's Prey #1-4
Issue(s): Black Panther: Panther's Prey #1, Black Panther: Panther's Prey #2, Black Panther: Panther's Prey #3, Black Panther: Panther's Prey #4
I mean, who hears that and doesn't say, "Sold!"? But if i were to sell it that way, i had better have a no returns policy, because this is a Don McGregor book, and with McGregor nothing is ever so simple. Sure, there's an invisible pteranodon-man, but he's mixed in with themes about alienation, duty, jealousy, disillusionment, drugs, loyalty, and a million other things. McGregor has always had a dense style. It's rewarding if you are willing to put the work in, but it can be exhausting when it shows up in your stack of comics for the night right after NFL Superpro. You need to put yourself in a different frame of mind than most Marvel superhero comics.
A quick look at the overwhelming number of chapter titles plus the fact that Terry Kavanagh is the editor might lead you to believe that this is yet another story that has been rescued/promoted from Marvel Comics Presents. And that may be the case. It is, partially, a sequel to Don McGregor's Black Panther story from Marvel Comics Presents #13-37. But while there are a lot of chapters, they are of uneven length (anywhere from 2 to 14 pages), and the book does not read like a series of Marvel Comics Presents segments that have been glued together like other stories that were originally meant for Marvel Comics Presents. That may mean that the decision to publish this as a four issue prestige format $4.95 mini-series happened earlier enough in the process, or it may mean that it was always meant as a standalone series.
But if nothing else, you can tell from the number of chapters that there is a lot of jumping around, which is a sign that the plot is very involved. Actually it's not correct to say that the plot is involved, exactly. The plot is simple. The pteranodon-man, whose name is Solomon Prey (an Americanized name that he chose for himself after moving from Wakanda to the US to study at Harvard), is lover to Tanzika, the culprit behind the murder mystery in Jungle Action #11. And Tanzika has a very basic motivation of jealous revenge against the Panther for daring to have loved an outsider (Monica Lynn) instead of herself. So Prey engages in various schemes to attack the Panther, from importing drugs into Wakanda to attacking him directly to trying to blow up the vibranium mound. Prey eventually dies fighting the Panther (impaled on a pteranodon's claw!)...
...and Tanzika is re-imprisoned.
There's also a subplot about the T'Challa deciding to propose to Monica Lynn, but that ends up not coming fully to fruition in these issues. McGregor writes in text pieces that accompany the issues that it was originally decided to have them marry, but he changed his mind in the end. McGregor also says that his next Panther story will be called Panther's Vows and will feature the marriage, but even though McGregor talks about it like it's something that has already been greenlit, Panther's Vows is never published, and this Panther's Prey storyline is McGregor's last Panther series.
But even adding in the marriage subplot, you'd think that this story could be told in a regular sized issue or two. What extends it is less complications in plot and more the time that McGregor takes to develop characters and have them discuss themes. So instead of Solomon Prey just being a pteranodon-man (which, i mean, we're comic fans; we can accept that!), there's a chapter devoted to how his wings were implanted, and a fair amount of effort is devoted to fleshing out the doctor behind the procedure, making him a real character with a real personality, despite him having little relevance to the story.
And instead of just giving us pteranodon riders (the Lightning Lancers), which, again, we'd probably accept without explanation, McGregor shows us how they control the beasts they ride, and parallels it to the guilt that the Black Panther's mother feels for feeling physical pleasure while she was a sex slave in South Africa.
It's a dark and uncomfortable parallel, but that's deliberate. A good portion of this story is devoted to Ramonda dealing with her time as a prisoner.
The drug portion of the story focuses on Kantu, the little boy that helped the Black Panther defeat Killmonger in McGregor's original Panther's Rage story. It shows how a little boy that was lauded as a hero can grow up to be disillusioned, not sure what it means to have been a hero and basically suffering from the kind of problems that child celebrities deal with, to the point where he's smoking crack.
Kantu eventually dies from heart failure while in prison.
And there is a lot of time devoted to the mixed feelings about Wakanda's technological improvements.
T'Challa's decision to propose to Monica also has multiple angles to it. For one thing, W'Kabi notes how often the Panther comes back from fights with terrible injuries, and says it's time for T'Challa to produce an heir. But of course he never considers the possibility that the Panther would marry an American woman, and that's a decision that causes much controversy throughout the country. But another angle is how the Panther sees his role as king to be as much of a prison as Kantu's cage or what his mother experienced, and so his decision to seek out and propose to Monica over the objections of his people symbolizes him breaking out from that prison. McGregor also explores things from Monica's perspective. Monica and T'Challa remain deeply in love with each other, but Monica is struggling to develop her singing career, and she doesn't want to give that up. T'Challa offers her the ability to perform in Wakanda, which he frames not as a gift but a challenge: a country that won't accept pizza will be as difficult an audience to win over as the ones she is currently performing for. And of course Monica also has to deal with Wakanda's anti-outsider attitude, and also has to come to grips with the violence in the Black Panther's life.
Even Solomon Prey struggles with not wanting to come across like a generic villain...
...and we also see him having doubts about how long his lust for Tanzika will keep him loyal to her.
There's also some interesting focus on Venomm, the reformed villain that is described as Taku's "companion". He's a source of humor...
...with even Black Panther fearing his snake...
...but also legitimate distrust when it's thought that he might be a mole working for Prey (it turns out that someone implanted a microphone chip in his snake). And it's never seemed clearer that Taku and Venomm are more than friends, with the Panther expressing worry about Taku's choice in "companion" and W'Kabi saying that he wished someone worried as much when he chose his wife.
Tayete and Kazibe also reprise their role as comic relief from the original Jungle Action story.
So there's a ton of stuff going on, with lots of depth. But like all of McGregor's works, it's also extremely wordy, and can definitely feel like a chore. It can be rewarding, with lots of insight and humor buried in those words, but it definitely takes an effort. Here's a fun scene where McGregor more or less restrains himself and lets some quick dialogue do the work, but it's not the norm.
Honestly, i wish McGregor did more like that.
Another aspect of a McGregor Black Panther story is that the Panther repeatedly gets beat to shit, and this story certainly has that.
Dwayne Turner's art isn't bad. At times it recalls the complex layouts from the original Jungle Action series, and he can also do interesting abstract stuff when the plot calls for it...
... but at times it seems like it's trying to go for photorealistic and winds up looking too plastic-y.
One thing that is for sure is that it frequently gets porn-tastic.
McGregor writes in the liner notes that Turner's girlfriend kept coming across the pages of Turner's art that were "sensual" as if it was just a funny coincidence, but the truth is that there are a lot of scenes like that so it's no surprise that she should find some.
One other downside of McGregor's Black Panther stories, and i blame his editors at least as much for this, is that they feel largely isolated from the rest of the Marvel universe, and even the Black Panther's other appearances. For example, there's a plot point in this issue where someone is hacking into Wakanda's computer systems, and the Panther rules out the possibility that they are doing so to try to steal Wakanda's technological designs, since they require more vibranium than would be available anywhere else in the world. That turns out to be accurate in the context of this story, but i mean we just had the Vibranium Vendetta storyline where Roxxon was trying to create synthetic vibranium. They may have failed in that story, but clearly it is something they were pursuing. So you'd think the Panther's first thought here would be "uh oh, maybe they figured it out". There have also been discrepancies regarding Wakanda's level of isolation and things like that. And it's been reciprocal; we have to date never seen McGregor's interesting and robust supporting cast show up in other stories featuring the Panther (although that will change with an upcoming Deathlok storyline). It's like McGregor is writing these stories in isolation, for a narrow fanbase that only reads his stuff and can instantly recognize a flashback to the Panther and Monica Lynne swimming with sea turtles as a reference to Jungle Action #16 but never wonder how the Panther juggles the stuff going on in his country with his appearances in the Avengers and the like.
For what it's worth, the hackers seem to actually be part of an effort by the CIA to get information on the Black Panther's sonic plane, because they don't like that he can move from country to country under the radar. They take advantage of the Solomon Prey situation to get the info they want.
Probably the most controversial part of the story is the drug aspect. Even though McGregor explicitly says in the liner notes that he didn't want it to come off this way, it feels very much like taking something that was very topical in America in 1991 and transplanting it to a country where it doesn't feel like it belongs. Granted, it's all part of Prey's scheme, and i can accept it in that regard. And i also accept the idea that Wakanda is in a state of upheaval due to the technological process upending their traditions, which means that some citizens might turn to drugs. But it still feels wrong to leave things this way, with an epilogue showing that drugs are still in Wakanda even after the threat of Prey is ended.
I guess the question is "Can Wakanda be a regular country like any other, with these kinds of problems, or is it meant to be a utopian society?". Maybe something that could have been investigated in Pather's Vows or somewhere else.
Overall, there are definitely some flaws, but it's a nice addition to McGregor's Panther legacy.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: At least a week passes during the course of this story, probably more.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBlack Panther, Jessica Lynne, Kantu, Kazibe, Lloyd Lynne, Monica Lynne, Ramonda, Taku, Tanzika, Tayete, Venomm, W'Kabi
Monica should get a doctor to look at the swelling in that right thigh....
Posted by: Andrew F | November 3, 2015 1:06 PM
Part of the problem with the drugs storyline is that McGregor chooses crack, which reads really differently than most other drugs would int he context of the Black Panther's book. Wakanda is supposed to be an atypical African country in many ways, so choosing a drug that American readers -- the audience of this book -- would code as "lower-class African-American" seems questionable. Granted that this is part of *why* Prey has chosen it, and that it perhaps ties in obliquely with the CIA element of the comic, it's still an odd choice and perhaps inadvertently implies some unfortunate things about people of African descent.
One of McGrgeor's other pet themes works better here: the idea that "civilized" and "violent" are not opposites and that social order is extremely fragile, requiring ongoing work to and tremendous endurance to maintain. Prey is a very unsubtle variation on the idea, with his erudition being flagged up, but there's nice bit where he explains that he learned to appreciate violence by watching the Three Stooges: a product of "the West" and his time at Harvard. But even more so than in the older storyline, Venomm's reform is the other side of the equation. There, we got the idea that empathy and love might matter more than political divisions; here, Venomm works as a refutation of Prey's ideas about the world more than anything the Panther does in the story.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 3, 2015 3:02 PM
Priest said that a line in this story indicated that Ramonda was T'Challa's stepmother. That's an odd thing for McGregor to do, since there was no indication in Panther's Quest that Ramonda was his stepmother.
Posted by: Michael | November 3, 2015 8:09 PM
At least T'Challa got to beat Baron Macabre a couple times back in the 70s.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 3, 2015 9:00 PM
Maybe i´m wrong here but, wasn´t these issues supposed to be just pencilled but not inked? I'd have to look for my copies to be certain. Or maybe this is a reprint with inks added?
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | November 5, 2015 4:15 AM
Jay, you may be right. The credits just list Turner as "Artist" which might mean he did pencils and inks or it might mean that the books were shot straight from pencils. There is a separate colorist (Brad Vancata). The UHBMCC lists Turner as the penciler and inker, but i've updated the credits here to just say "artist".
Posted by: fnord12 | November 5, 2015 8:44 AM
I always liked the Black Panther. He has a simple look, but it works. And the general character concept is strong. However, the Black Panther was never extensively used when I began buying Marvel comics. All I had was a few torn Avengers comics from childhood '70s so I missed out on Don McGregor's work as well as the rest of the solo title.
So I was stoked when this limited was released. However, when I started reading I could not understand it and became completely uninterested. This is not how you get new readers interested in the character or set up a potential new solo series.
Posted by: Chris | January 15, 2016 11:56 PM
Doesn't this story contradict a number of things we saw in the Black Panther issues of Marvel Premiere such as Lloyd's membership in the Clan and Kevin Trublood being Monica's "future husband"?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 21, 2016 8:49 PM
I've just taken another look through these issues, and i don't see a contradiction of anything in the Premiere issues (with one possible exception). I don't see any references to them at all. Granted McGregor is very wordy, so i may have missed something. But i think it's more accurate to say the issues were ignored, rather than contradicted.
The one sort-of exception is when it's said that Monica had only one "affair" with anyone since breaking up with the Panther, and that it was someone named Dan Hopkins (i.e. not Kevin Trublood). But maybe Monica and Kevin broke it off soon after the Premiere issues, and she's only dated one other person since then. And anyway, even with this, it looks more like McGregor just wasn't aware of the contents of the Premiere issues rather than trying to actively contradict anything.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 24, 2016 1:16 PM
I don't know If You use real life info as a base for placement, but in case You do I just wanted to point out that based on Monica's assessment of South African policy (Book 3) this should take place prior to february 1990 (Nelson Mandela released from prison)
Posted by: fragsel | February 3, 2017 12:15 PM
That's good info, but Marvel's come to use a perspective we call a sliding timescale. Consequently, topical references to events that were contemporary at the time an issue was written usually can't be used as basis for placement. You can read more about this in the Q&A section linked to on the sidebar.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 3, 2017 1:18 PM
I'm aware of sliding timescale
Posted by: fragsel | February 3, 2017 3:11 PM
Except... both this site nor MCP place that Cap story alongside other 1990 stories.
I don't say this to argue. The info you shared is useful to have here whether or not it's used for placement because I'm sure many people are interested in the "topical references" and how "topical" they actually are - or were at the time of publication.
But its not just the sliding time scale but also the compressed time scale (history comes quite often in the Marvel Universe) that make topical references a poor guide to placement. For both reasons most references to world events have to be transformed and will have to be again in the future.
Posted by: Ubersicht | February 3, 2017 7:52 PM
"Nor" should be "and".
And again, I still found your coment helpful and I'm sure others do too.
Posted by: Ubersicht | February 3, 2017 7:54 PM
I need to edit better. I'm not sure what "history comes quite often" would even mean but I was thinking, "Christmas comes quite often".
Posted by: Ubersicht | February 3, 2017 8:03 PM
He may be referring to the fact that both sites have MCP #60 before Streets of Poison, which ended the same cover month that story was published, and at least in fnord's case also before a story in MCP #47. Of course it's hard to read much into fnord's placement of MCP stories since his main priority is just to get through them as fast as possible if they don't affect placement of other stories in too major a way, as evidenced by his tendency to lump unrelated MCP stories together.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | February 3, 2017 10:20 PM
Comments are now closed.
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