Recently, we presented you with a little bit of knowledge about where T'Challa aka Black Panther came from and who he is. We also let you know why a solo film starring this character is an awesome idea. Now that you know more about this character, what stories or books should you check out? There is a lot of different stories he was involved in over the years, but here's the must read stories for Black Panther, all in chronological order.
"Introducing the Sensational Black Panther"
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Jack Kirby
From the minds of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comes T'Challa, the Black Panther. Little did they know that creating this hero would spawn a stand-alone movie, half a century later. FANTASTIC FOUR #52 marks the first appearance of the leader of T'Challa. If any story about a character is important, it has to be their first appearance, right?
The Fantastic Four were summoned to Wakanda and end up being wowed by the accomplishments of the nation. The nation's leader, T'Challa, puts on his Black Panther garb and proceeds to hunt them down, one by one, using the skills he's acquired through years of training and a little bit of help from Wakandan technology, including some gas that puts Sue Storm to sleep.
These two issues are the moments that start the journey of a legendary hero. On top of that, you get to see the art of Jack Kirby, which is a huge treat to any comic book fan. Sure, the character has changed a ton since then, but he makes one heck of an impact in his first two appearances.
"Death Calls for the Arch-Heroes"
AVENGERS #52 (1968)
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema
Back in 1968, T'Challa joined got to join Earth's Mightiest Heroes. In a story by Roy Thomas, with the art of John Buscema, Black Panther had to face one of the Avengers' greatest enemies and come out on top, or everyone would die.
Shortly after Black Panther and Captain America had their own adventure against a fake Baron Zemo, the Black Panther finds himself surrounded by the Avengers, except they're all laying on the ground and dead! T'Challa finds the Grim Reaper was behind it all, so he and a few other living Avengers take down the Grim Reaper and Black Panther gets an invite to join the Avengers.
Obviously, this is a big issue because it solidifies T'Challa as a mainstream hero and also because he joins the Avengers. The issues following this really put Black Panther in the mix as he takes on the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and then the new Masters of Evil. This run of AVENGERS is a great read to see T'Challa working with the rest of the Marvel Universe.
BLACK PANTHER #1-5 (1998)
Written by Christopher Priest
This volume of BLACK PANTHER is widely considered to be the most important run. Christopher Priest took the original ideas from Lee & Kirby and some of the stories and ideas from Panther's appearance in the JUNGLE ACTION series and expanded upon it. He retconned a few things here and there, but what Priest did well was build up the mythos of this character. Priest spent time building up the religion of Wakandans, which in turn was the inspiration for the Black Panther mantle.
The first story in the volume is a good place to jump on if you're looking to know more about the contemporary version of Black Panther. It takes a hard-edge look at the character with a very distinctive art style fro Mark Texeira, which was vastly different from the other art in books at the time. Issue #5 is the key here as it introduces the reader to some of the deeper elements that make T'Challa the character he is now and it's a great introduction into Wakandan culture.
Obviously, the whole volume is a must read if you want to know more about the contemporary version of this character. More importantly, it's done really well. Anytime this character is brought up on the Comic Vine podcast, this run is brought up. This was the run that really defined the character. Out of everything else on here, this is the most important of all the stories
"Who is the Black Panther?"
BLACK PANTHER #1-6 (2005)
Written by Reginald Hudlin
Art by John Romita Jr
In 2005, writer Reginald Hudlin joined up with John Romita Jr to tell a new tale about the Black Panther and Wakanda. This is a book which is great for new readers to jump on. The previous volume by Priest was so deep in its own mythos that a new volume needed to ease back into the Wakandan water.
In "Who is the Black Panther," Hudlin spends a bit of time defining Wakanda and previous Black Panthers, really nailing home the fact that the Black Panther is less of a character and more of a mantle passed on. The story weaves back and forth between past and present. We see T'Challa take the mantle from his uncle, but we also see present day where Klaw, with the help of Radioactive Man, Rhino, and others, plans an offensive against Black Panther.
Hudlin's first story is just a great place for new readers to jump on. It isn't as vital to Black Panther's history and mythos as Priest's run was, but it is a fantastic contemporary look at the character, even though the story is 9 years old now. Most modern fans of the character have delved into this run, but it's still worth checking out, especially if you're really new to the character.
"See Wakanda and Die"
BLACK PANTHER #39-41 (2008)
Written by Jason Aaron
Believe it or not, we have a second recommendation from the same volume of BLACK PANTHER. During the summer event "Secret Invasion," this story line took place. In Secret Invasion, the Skrulls, a shape-shifting group of aliens, had been planting themselves on Earth and hiding. During the invasion, they decided to take down Wakanda. Big mistake.
Jason Aaron's story pits Black Panther, his wife Ororo, and the forces of Wakanda against the Skrulls in one epic battle. It's really the first time the Skrulls underestimate their opponents and there are times where the Skulls think they have the upper-hand, but T'Challa, Storm, and the Wakandans prove they are not a force to be taken lightly.
Sadly, this story is the final story of this volume but it goes out with a bang. Jason Aaron's take on the character is great and one thing that really stands out about this story is that it is a tie-in that doesn't need to exist, but it adds a lot to the character and those closest to him. "See Wakanda and Die" gives a look at what T'Challa is capable of when he's backed into a corner. On top of everything else, it's just an awesome story.
There are a few other fantastic Black Panther stories to check out, including his involvement in the current NEW AVENGERS book where he plays a role in the Marvel group "The Illuminati" as well. What are some of your favorite Black Panther stories?