Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema
Inker: Joe Sinnott
Curiously, the Black Panther appears on the cover, but is referred to by his civilian name T’Challa. I wonder if there’s a reason behind that. Let’s see, shall we....
The story opens with a typical bickering scenario between the Human Torch and the Thing. Johnny Storm is still on a downer about Crystal, his one true love, having to remain in the Great Refuge (home to The Inhumans) because of her allergy to air-pollutants, and it doesn’t take much to rile up blue-eyed Ben Grimm. Their irresponsible fighting is broken up by Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Girl, and then we’re introduced to the issue’s plot.
It appears T’Challa, the Fantastic Four’s old friend and ally the Black Panther, has gone after some crooks and entered into the only remaining white supremacist nation left on the African continent – Rudyarda.
Yes, it’s the Seventies, and comics are relevant.
Reed Richards asks the Thing and the Human Torch to go on a rescue mission while he and Sue stay behind (Reed’s working on a doohickey to help Crystal), and after preventing a plane hijacking Ben and Johnny arrive in Rudyarda where the people are separated into Europeans and Coloreds. They track down one of the crooks, and discover that T’Challa has been imprisoned.
We now learn why the Black Panther was referred to as T’Challa on the cover; he’s taken on a new name - The Black Leopard – to dispel any connection to the Black Panther Party in the USA
Eventually Klaw shows up for a fight, our heroes win, and everyone goes home after making a symbolic gesture towards bringing down the walls of apartheid.
This was an enjoyable example of an early Seventies Marvel comic, with all the elements you might expect from a Fantastic Four story from this period. Guest writer Roy Thomas captures the voices of the Fantastic Four well, and John Buscema and Joe Sinnott’s art is solid craftsmanship.
Buy Fantastic Four #119 at My Comic Shop