Tales Of Suspense #98: "The Claws Of The Panther!"

Tales Of Suspense #98

 "The Claws Of The Panther!"
 February, 1968

 Stan Lee: Writer
 Jack Kirby: Artist
 Joe Sinnott: Embellisher
 Artie Simek: Letterer

 Captain America is traveling within an automatic magna-ship in the heart of darkest Africa, in answer to an urgent message from the Black Panther -- when a ray from somewhere in outer space just misses striking the craft -- by mere inches!

 The ray blast melts a nearby mountain -- burning a trail across the ground below! If it had struck the magna-ship -- both it and Cap would have been utterly disintegrated! Since the magna-ship is under the control of the Black Panther -- Cap is a virtual prisoner within the cabin! From all he has heard and read about the Black Panther -- Cap decided to trust him! But if this is a trap -- he senses the magna-ship's descent!! It's about to crash! At the last moment -- the ground opens below--! The landing field is hidden -- submerged in the middle of the dense jungle!! Cap has landed -- and there in the shadows are the silent rushing figures of the Black Panther and his followers! Since Cap cannot be certain of their intentions, he is not in the mood to become their fall guy! ZOK!

 The first wave has been taken care of -- but now the Black Panther is attacking! The lithe figure is able to dodge Cap's blow with ease! As the others insist upon subduing their monarch's opponent, the Black Panther insists on fighting like a man! Captain America has past their test -- and the Black Panther is certain he has not been deceived by an imposter! The ray fired at the magna-ship is a common danger and the time has come for explanations--!

 At that moment, in a secret fortified jungle base, two technicians are about to be punished for their failure to slay Captain America with the solar ray! The penalty for failure -- is death! The two technicians are both aware how utterly merciless their leader is! They point out that it would take a long time for him to train others to operate the solar-ray beam! They request to use plan red --! If both Captain America and the Black Panther are not slain with a single blow, their very lives will be forfeit! Task Force B is contacted for the activation of plan red! Within the jungle, Task Force B acknowledges the order -- and will execute it at once! With all units at battle ready and all weapons operational, Captain America and the Black Panther will both be gone before day's end!

 Back at the Black Panther's headquarters -- a tracking scope has spotted the source of the solar bolt which almost struck the magna-ship! When asked by Cap for the identity of their common foe, the Black Panther assures him that he would not believe his identity! Before long, they will both come face-to-face with him! The deadly object in space is a solar heat projector -- with electronic jaws and a mirror to catch the sun's rays -- making it a thousand times deadlier than an H-Bomb! It hovers silently above the planet -- protected by a vibratory shield -- and quite capable of annihilating any point on Earth with a single solar blast!

 No one is safe as long as the solar heat projector remains in orbit! Until now, their unknown foes have been testing their deadly toy, and now, they are ready to strike! S.H.I.E.L.D. has not been alerted to the threat because there is no way to destroy the solar heat projector by a direct attack! Its protective vibratory field is proof against the rockets sent against it by the Black Panther! They must use stealth--speed-- and cunning by striking at the control complex and render it inoperative! The Panther's men have already located a small group of agents! If they can manage to capture them--! The Black Panther take the lead -- for he knows the terrain as Captain America would know his own home! It has been many years since Steve Rogers had a home! And he wonders how many more years will it be before he will be able to call any place a home -- before he also finds a life -- and someone to love? Even now -- Agent Thirteen is half a world away on a secret mission--! He must not think about that -- not when the solar ray threatens all mankind!

 They soon reach their objective! The air is filled with unnatural silence and the Black Panther senses the presence of the world's most dangerous predator -- MAN! FZAT! Both manage to take cover against the uniformed troops -- who are armed with rocket rifles! Their first shot missed and thanks to Cap's shield, there won't be a second one! ZIK! These are foreign mercenaries -- and there are others attacking from behind!

 As Cap thanks his newfound ally for the warning, the Black Panther is busy trying to secure a prisoner for interrogation! The two combatants are far too powerful and are soon put out of action with low voltage stun-bolt shots! CLICK! SHOOP!

 Even Captain America is overcome by the blast and cannot remain conscious for long! On the outskirts of Wakanda, Agent Thirteen senses that she is being observed, and the beeps of her courier case confirms her suspicions! Everything depends upon the success of her masquerade as Irma Kruhl! Using the case's interior mirror, she sees that her visitors have the look of hardened assassins! She must not take chances and act -- now!

 The disguised Agent Thirteen strikes out at her three assailants with the skill and speed of a top S.H.I.E.L.D. agent! THAK! TZIP! Two of the attackers fall from applied judo-thrusts... and the third falls victim to a repello-gas capsule fired from the courier case! WHOOSH! Once the trio have recovered -- they are to lead Irma Kruhl to their leader -- The Black Panther sees that Captain America has recovered! Cap wonders why they haven't been finished off yet --? The Panther assumes this is because their attackers assumed they were playing possum!

 Being familiar with their methods, the Panther suggests they hurry, and Cap suspects their unseen foes may be laying in wait with a trap! It is a chance they must take and it is an opportunity their unseen foes exploit to their full advantage! KLIK Since they fought like beasts, they will be caught like beasts! Cap and the Panther fall into a waiting lion trap! Luckily, they both know how to deal with the sudden fall! It won't take them long to climb out...! The Black Panther senses the presence of several armed men--above them! If these men are being led by the one the Panther suspects -- Captain America must brace himself for a shock--! Now Cap knows why it was he who was sent for by the Black Panther! For, in all the known world, Captain America has had no greater foe than the one he thought long-dead... The man who killed Bucky Barnes twenty years ago -- just as Baron Zemo plans to kill HIM!

 The Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 (July, 1966) and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

 The Fantastic Four must have been the ones to fill Cap in about the Black Panther.

 Jack Kirby wrote, illustrated, and edited the Black Panther's solo title in 1977.

 Jack Kirby introduced readers to Brother Eye and Buddy Blank in the pages of OMAC (One Man Army Corps).

 S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division.

 Baron Zemo died in Avengers #15 (April, 1965).

 Steve Chung
 "The Review Of The Panther!"