The newest Infinity Warp introduces us to a very different Black Panther. What if T’Challa was introduced to the Spirit of Vengeance and never became Black Panther? From Jed MacKay, Jefte Palo, and Jim Campbell comes the final solo spinoff in this series, Infinity Wars: Ghost Panther #1!
The Black Panther That Never Was
In this version, T’Challa leaves Wakanda after a fight with his father and moves to America. Under the tutelage of his new friend, Brother Crash, he becomes a stunt performer and changes his name to “Johnny Blaze.”
In the middle of a particularly dangerous stunt, T’Challa sees a vision of his father, making him lose control. He dies but Brother Crash uses his mystic powers to resurrect him. Before returning to life, however, T’Challa meets the Panther-Queen of Vengeance, Zarathos. She offers him great power if he will hunt souls for her, but T’Challa turns her down.
Knowing his father has died, he returns to Wakanda to pay his respects. Unfortunately, his father’s murderers have also destroyed the garden of the heart-shaped herb, leaving Wakanda with no Black Panther. Once again, Zarathos appears and offers T’Challa the power to hunt down his father’s killers. This time, he accepts.
Quickly, he finds the killers, a pair of brothers named M’Bakshulla and Erik Killraven. With Zarathos’s help, T’Challa transforms into the Ghost Panther and eats M’Bakshulla’s soul. Horrified by these actions, he rejects Zarathos. As they argue, Killraven stabs T’Challa and leaves him to die. He vows that all of Wakanda will be next.
The Final Warp
As with other Infinity Warps, Infinity Wars: Ghost Panther #1 combines Ghost Rider’s backstory with Black Panther’s setting and characters. Fortunately, MacKay has managed to blend just the right elements of each character so that the story feels balanced. This is best exemplified in our protagonist, who exhibits T’Challa’s sense of duty as well as Johnny’s fearlessness.
Moreover, he uses both names instead of choosing between them. While he may be the prince of Wakanda, he shows no signs of giving up his life as Johnny Blaze. They are both important parts of his identity. As for the other hybrid characters, M’Bakshulla and Erik Killraven appear to combine characters that only connect to Black Panther. Consequently, they firmly ground the story in Black Panther’s world even though the backstory is clearly Ghost Rider’s. Luckily, Wakanda provides a vibrant backdrop for this revenge story so it never feels out of place.
Shadows and Silhouettes in Infinity Wars: Ghost Panther #1
As much as I enjoyed the story, the art alone makes Infinity Wars: Ghost Panther #1 worth the read. Palo and Campbell’s work is absolutely breathtaking and uniquely stylized. They often draw characters in silhouette or in heavy shadow, perfectly complimenting the dark tone of the story. In using this effect, they also tend to obscure a character’s eyes.
As a result, the times when they do show a character’s eyes become much more striking and impactful. While we have yet to see him riding the flaming panther as depicted on the cover, Ghost Panther’s reveal is wonderfully terrifying. I especially like the flaming design around the neck which calls back to Black Panther’s costume. Of all the characters, Zarathos stands out with her flaming panther skull and long, flowing skirt. These elements give her an unearthly quality befitting of a vengeful goddess.
The holographic projections of M’Bakshulla and Killraven’s attack take the silhouettes to the next level. Both the figures and the buildings are dark blue with light blue flecks, like a sky full of stars. Light blue surrounds each character so they appear to be glowing. In subsequent panels, certain features like M’Bakshulla’s cybernetic arms, Killraven’s mask, and Black Panther’s eyes are filled in. Blood splatters add a contrasting red as the fight continues. Overall, the minimalist, monochrome style makes this one of the most beautiful sequences in the comic.
A Wakandan Revenge Plot
Infinity Wars: Ghost Panther #1 presents a fresh take on both Ghost Rider and Black Panther. In a surprising twist, Wakanda becomes the perfect backdrop for Ghost Rider’s story. The lore of the two characters blends seamlessly together, making the story very comprehensive even without prior knowledge. T’Challa’s conflicting feelings over his new deal with Zarathos make him compelling and relatable. The artwork is stunning and I can’t wait to see the Ghost Panther riding on a flaming panther!