Monday, August 29, 2011
Southern Inhospitality: Jungle Action #19
Jungle Action #19 (January 1976)
"Blood and Sacrifices!"
Don McGregor-Billy Graham/Bob McLeod
Doug: Your favorite Bronze Age commentators, volunteers as we are, are from time-to-time willing to lay out some hard-earned cash just to keep you, are loyal readers, fully apprised of all things beautiful from the 1970's. Today's, and for the next three weeks, fare is one such example of this -- and here's a recommendation for all of you: If you don't own the original comics already, then go find yourself a decently-priced copy of Marvel Masterworks #141. Said volume reprints the entire Black Panther run from Jungle Action #'s 6-24 (excluding #23, which was a reprint of Daredevil #69). In that volume you'll find Don McGregor's magnum opus, "Panther's Rage", and also his excellent four-parter featuring the Ku Klux Klan. It's the latter story we embark on now.
Doug: We pick this one up in a somber setting: T'Challa's girlfriend, Monica Lynne, has come home to the American South to mourn her recently-deceased sister. It's at her gravesite that we join the story. But as Monica is silent in from of the monument, she is approached by a silent mob -- a mob wearing purple cloaks and pointed hoods over their heads. The Klan has come! In the trees, however, watches the Black Panther and he doesn't like what he's seeing. T'Challa springs from the tree the moment he sees a knife's blade glint in the light. Monica, no slouch herself, reacts with equal force. The wild card in the fracas is an arriving vehicle; T'Challa puts one of the goons right through its windshield. What seems at first to be an accomplice or getaway car turns out to be an ally -- a reporter from the local paper. As the dust settles, Monica checks on the reporter, Kevin Trublood, who has broken his hand assisting against the Klan. As they talk, T'Challa leaps to a tree where he'd deposited one of the thugs. Despite this talk of the Klan, and Trublood told Monica that the Klan may have had a hand in her sister's death, T'Challa tells that there is more to the story -- one of their would-be hooded assailants... is black!
Karen: I have to say, this opening sequence was pretty confusing. Obviously these weren't your typical Klan members -but who were they? Still, the graveyard sequence was effectively moody. The insight into Monica's childhood via her memory of fighting with her sister, was well done. The Panther's athleticism is also nicely on display here.
Doug: I was stunned that one of the "Klansmen" was an African-American. Even when I was a kid -- and I'm sure I was pretty ignorant of the Klan for the most part -- this didn't make sense to me.
Doug: After gathering up the mess, Trublood provides his car as transport to take the bad guys down to the local precinct. Along the way, scribe Don McGregor provides the reader with a quick synopsis of what the Klan was all about. I also learned something -- tell me if you knew this: the T in T'Challa is silent. I always pronounced it as Trublood is admonished for pronouncing it -- Ta-Challa. Nope. Once at the station, the sheriff tells our heroes that the four attackers are locals and not Klan members. And in spite of that fact, they'll get no special treatment. They are given the chance to tell their story, but all decline. We are told that they gather strength from their numbers, and from the indoctrination they've received.
Karen: Yes, the plot thickens as we see more of this cult. I have to say, I was expecting the sheriff to be a stereotypical prejudiced redneck but McGregor surprises by having him be a decent man. And no, I didn't know the T was silent!
Doug: Years later, when "In the Heat of the Night" was on television, I could have seen this sheriff as akin to Carroll O'Connor's character. Although the tv version was softened quite a bit compared to the original character in the film of the same name.
Doug: We then head to the countryside, to the family home of Monica. We meet her parents and the Panther attempts to learn a bit more about her sister. But Mr. and Mrs. Lynne aren't really willing to discuss it. T'Challa goes over the previous attack, and the mystery surrounding the men with Klan symbols and even a Klan newspaper -- but certainly due to their racial integration, they aren't Klan! While the family talks, we see now white-robed men approach, with guns drawn. One of them lights a Molotov cocktail and hurls it toward the home. T'Challa catches the light and leaps through the picture window. In a single motion he grabs it and hurls it back from whenst it came. Exploding at the feet of two men on horseback and another on a motorcycle, the Panther engages! Then it gets a bit weird -- help me out here: there are suddenly two of our purple-cloaked guys looking at the white-robed "real" Klan. Then we're back to T'Challa kicking butts but taking prisoners. He manages to round up two white-hoods while a much larger number flee into the night. As the Panther drags them back to the house, Mr. Lynne informs him that he's not one to shy away from trouble... and that's good, because the Panther's brought down a whole heap of trouble!
Karen: I have to admit that while exciting, I felt this whole attack on the Lynne household was very confusing. Besides the two groups, I also felt that the art didn't do a good enough job of explaining what was going on. Don't get me wrong, the art itself is gorgeous, but this sequence just didn't quite work for me. However, once we learn more about what's going on, that may be less of an issue. One last thing: didn't it seem odd how T'Challa is lounging around the place in his costume? He's unmasked as he eats dinner but then puts his mask back on as he hangs out with his girlfriend and her parents!
Doug: It did seem somewhat out-of-the-blue, but I suppose these guys have it in not only for Monica's sister, but by extension Monica herself. And yes, T'Challa in full costume was a bit odd. Sometimes I think that's really overkill on the part of the creators -- even as a kid, I could grasp that these men and women were not always superheroes.
Doug: When you break the story down to the three synopsizing paragraphs above, it seems like not much happened in this issue. However, McGregor's script is so wordy that it took me longer than my standard 20 minutes to read! There is just detail and character development on every page, and he's woven this mystery of Monica's sister's death throughout every page. I don't know about you, but I'm hooked for the second part. And hey -- how about a tip-of-the-hat for Billy Graham and Bob McLeod? What a nice-looking book. I remember reading this arc off the spinner racks when I was 9; my current re-read holds up just fine!
Karen: Seeing as how every page is smothered in words, I actually timed myself on this to see how long it took me to read it: 25 minutes! At times it seems a bit much, but I enjoy how McGregor is building the story, and the tension. The art is really exceptional; I particularly like the faces -very distinctive, individual -no cookie cutter features. I'm looking forward to part two.