MARKLEY’S FEVERED BRAIN: SPACE, JUNGLES, GHOSTS and guns
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by Wayne Markley
Welcome back. Within this blog I am going to review four very different books, all for different audiences (even though I read them all) and all are very good on different levels for different reasons. There is the first legendary collection of the Black Panther, which collects Don McGregor’s critically acclaimed run on the character. A great little science fiction tale by Ethan Young. A collection of adaptation of the ghost stories by M.L. James and finally the newest volume of Marvels collections of Garth Ennis Max Punisher series. four very different books, four outstanding reads.
Black Panther legendary Collection: Panther’s Rage
Black Panther legendary Collection: Panther’s Rage collects the Black Panthers earliest appearances from fantastic four #52 and 53 which introduce the character of the T’Challa, the Black Panther and Wakanda. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as one of a number of new characters they were introducing at the time in the FF. during this run of roughly two years they created and introduced the Inhumans, Galactus, Silver Surfer, the Black Panther and others. really an amazing run. The Panther would then turn up in other books, such as Daredevil and Spider-Man and he became a mainstay in the pages of the Avengers. In 1973, marvel switched Jungle Action, which was reprinting old Atlas jungle stories such as Jann of the Jungle etc., with a brand new Black Panther series, although the first issue to feature the Black Panther, #5, was a reprint of Avengers #62. He starred in Jungle action from issue #5 through issue #24 when the title was cancelled because Jack Kirby had come back to marvel and wanted to do his own version of the Black Panther, which would only last 15 issues; 12 with Jack, and another three issues with other creators. It is worth noting that in the Black Panther run in the pages of Jungle Action, there were only two stories; Panther’s Rage and Panther vs. the Klan, and two reprint issues (#5, #23) thrown in. Alas, the Panther vs. the Klan story was never finished.
The creative team behind the Jungle action Black Panther stories were writer Don McGregor with art by rich Buckler, Gil Kane (one issue), Billy Graham and inkers Klaus Janson and Bob McLeod. The Panther’s Rage storyline featured Erik Killmonger and is a12 part story set in Wakanda.
The basic story is Killmonger was wronged by T’Challa and has undergone a change and now wishes to dethrone T’Challa. It is a politically heavy story with lots of villains making appearances, numerous for the first time, including Baron Macarbe, Venomm, and the White Gorilla cult. The second arc is a 5 part story set in Georgia and involvers the Ku Klux Klan. This story is about the American girlfriend of T’Challa named Monica Lynne, whose sister dies mysteriously in Georgia and the Black Panther chooses to look into the sister’s expected suicide and runs best into the klan. sadly this story is never resolved even though it is safe to assume the Panther defeats them.
I first read these stories in the early 1970s and as a young teen did not care for them as they were heavy on narration and were wordy enough to be a prose novel. but numerous years later I should say I really delighted in this run much much more than I did the first time out. It is still is excessively written, and it seems to me to be a bit padded in places, but the overall structure of the politics and the conflicts in Wakanda that McGregor introduced in this series would have ramifications on the later Black Panther stories by Christopher priest and the current run by Ta-Nehisi Coates. So while I think these original stories have a number of flaws, there are very prominent in defining the character for the next 40 years. A couple of my other complaints about these originally stories tend to be a bit preachy and each issue opens with the Panther in peril which is not a follow up from the previous issue so you do not know what is going on at first, although it is explained later in each story. In the second arc, the Panther vs. the Klan, the stories seem much more streamlined and slightly less cluttered than some of the stories in the first arc. Overall, this book is a great read from a historical perspective. I also liked all of the extras in the back that include Don McGregor’s notes on the stories as well as lots of unpublished art and original art. personally I am not a fan of McGregor’ style of writing, but that can just be me. I would encourage you to check out this legendary collection and I hope there is a second volume collecting the rest of the Black Panther stories from a number of different creators that lead up to the great run on the character by Christopher Priest. (Editor’s Note: Erik Killmonger will also be appearing in the upcoming Black Panther movie.)The battles of Bridget Lee: invasion of Farfall
Next is something completely different. Dark horse recently released the first volume of The battles of Bridget Lee: invasion of Farfall which is a one man production by Ethan Young, who composed and drew this book. It is a full color, 80 page graphic novel set in a post-apocalyptic world with a strong female lead named Bridget Lee, who saves a group of children in the middle of a war.
Bridget Lee is a medic who was formerly a soldier living on an earth outpost called Farfall, which is one of the last defenses for earth against the alien invaders that devastated earth once before being defeated. The art and story are both beautiful here. They flow like water and you are kept in suspense as the story unfolds. It is a fast paced story with a mix of action and science fiction that I thought was one of the best books I have read in quite some time. This is not a book that will keep you busy for days like the Black Panther legendary Collection, but it will leave you with a deep sense of complete satisfaction of an pleasurable read and the desire to read much more about Bridget Lee and this world where life is a minute to minute struggle. A great read.
Ghost stories of an Antiquary Vol. 1
Ghost stories of an Antiquary Vol. 1 is a full color graphic novel adapting four short stories by M.R. James by Leah Moore and John Reppion with art by different artists for every story. M.R. James is considered the dad of the modern ghost story and composed a number of stories in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In this book they adapt four of James’ short stories; Canon Alberic’s Scrap-book illustrated by Anake, lost Hearts drawn by set Buss, The Mezzotint, with Fouad Mezher doing the art, and The Ash Tree with Alisdair wood dealing with the art. I really like this collection as Moore and Reppion are able to catch the mystery and creepiness that James infused his stories without going overboard and becoming too graphic and over the top. The art is not always best suited for these stories but it does work. It seems to me this is much more a work of passion than financial gain, but I am glad I discovered it. even though I have read all of the stories as prose, these graphic adaptations add enough to every story to make it fresh and entertaining. This book may be a bit of a challenge to find as the publisher is a very small company out of England called Self Made Hero. This volume is marked volume One so I do hope they are able to do much more volumes in the future. Well worth inspecting out, especially given the time of the year. (Halloween, not the elections).
Punisher Max complete Collection Vol. 3
Punisher Max complete Collection Vol. 3 continues collecting Garth Ennis amazing run on the Punisher under Marvel’s Max imprint. These stories are under the Max imprint because there is so much graphic violence, sex and nudity it would be NC17 if it was a movie. As I have raved and swooned over the first two collections I am not going to say a lot much more about this newest volume. If you liked the first two (and how could you not?) you will love this volume. It is packed with action and much more gun play than a Sam Peckinpah movie. It is noteworthy that it introduces the Barracuda and the Widowmaker, two of Ennis’ classic villains. The art in these stories is by Goran Parlov, Leandro Fernandez and Lan Medina. It collects Punisher Max issues #31-49. This is both Garth Ennis and the Punisher at their finest and I would highly recommend it, but only for mature readers for reasons discussed earlier.
That does it for this week’s blog. It is quite a mix of material, and time frames. From the ‘70s Black Panther, which is a good reflection of the times, to a great little science fiction tale, to a small press collection of classic ghost stories and unbridled mayhem from Garth Ennis. all of these books are for very different audiences but all of them are excellent. have you read any of these books? What did you think? Did you delight in them as much as me? I would like to know. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. everything I have written here is my opinion and in no way shows the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. I always delight in your feedback, both positive and negative so please comment or leave feedback. As always…