ASTONISHING TALES #6-7 (1971)

Let’s get this out of the way: The Ka-Zar stories are just awful, and the fact that this will, very soon, become an all-Ka-Zar comic is beyond understanding.  It’s cool to see early Barry Windsor-Smith artwork in #6, but then he’s off the book again in #7 and replaced by Herb Trimpe.  And that’s part of the problem.  Their styles are almost completely opposite.  Without a consistent look, it’s hard to follow this book.

Fortunately, the Dr. Doom stories have been really good.  Really good.

In this one, it’s a two-parter in which Doom learns about Vibranium and figures he can just go take it out of Wakanda because they’re just a bunch of backwards Africans anyway.

Why is it so good?  Well, it starts on the splash page to #6, with Dr. Doom torturing someone.  And it’s pretty hardcore.  My copy of this book has the comic code authority stamp on it, which is bizarre to me because if anything should have turned them off it’s electroshock torture.  It shows how evil Doom is–how sadistic.  It’s shocking (no pun intended) to see the main character (even if he is a villain) behaving like this.

It’s also great because when Doom meets Panther in Wakanda, he easily takes him down.  Black Panther is a cool hero and all, but he is clearly no match for a guy who can take on The Fantastic Four single-handed.  But the book also shows a lot about Panther’s character…

What’s notable here is that he fights Dr. Doom and uses a gun for the first time (and one of the only times).  It also marked the first appearance of Mockbird (known then only as Bobbie Morse), and the first time we got to see Gene Colan draw Black Panther, which was great to behold. 

In the end, T’Challa is willing to destroy his entire country to protect it from being exploited–and its people being made the slaves of Doom.

Also: A letter from the boy who will grow up to create one of the most slept-on comics DC ever produced, ‘Mazing Man…Bob Rozakias!

Creators: Roy Thomas and Barry Smith/Herb Trimpe (Ka-Zar); Larry Lieber and George Tuska (Dr. Doom #6); Gerry Conway and Gene Colan (Dr. Doom #7).

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