Written by Reginald Hudlin and Peter Milligan
Drawn by Salvador Larroca and David Yardin
Inked by Danny Miki, Allen Martinez, and Jay Leisten
Published by Marvel Comics

PREVIOUSLY: BLACK PANTHER #7 by Reginald Hudlin & Trevor Hairsine

“Wild Kingdom” is a 4-part crossover between X-Men and Black Panther. I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum here, although some are inevitable. Beginning in X-Men #175, it starts in the African nation of Niganda, which has descended into Civil War ever since Black Panther overthrew their corrupt leader, M’Butu in the end of his first arc. A more recent development is the appearance of giant man-eating alligators threatening the populace, good guys and bad guys alike. Back at the X-Mansion Emma Frost announces that Cerebra is detecting a strange spike in mutations in Niganda, so an X-Men squad consisting of Storm, Wolverine, Gambit, Ice Man, Rogue, Polaris, and Havok fly to Niganda to investigate. There they encounter some of the corrupt militia who are terrorizing the citizens and they also encounter the giant alligators, and find evidence of other animal mutations. Trying to find the source of these mutated animals, the locals tell the X-Men of an abandoned factory, which they go to to investigate. But when they get there what they find is THE BLACK PANTHER!

Picking up in Black Panther #8 we get the traditional superhero misunderstanding which leads to a fight before everyone realizes that they’re on the same side. Black Panther reveals a former Genoshian scientist (Genosha is a nation in the Marvel Universe that used to enslave its mutant population until the X-Men liberated them) who had set-up shop in Niganda (after bribing the government) and had been doing his genetic experiments in that factory. He’s responsible for the mutated animals who had escaped when the power at the factory went out as the Civil War progressed. He’s also mutated himself, giving himself the ability to temporarily absorb the powers of any mutant he touches. We get some interaction between Black Panther and Storm, revealing a past relationship and some current romantic tension. Then Storm goes out to use her powers to end the rioting outside while BP faces a giant 4-armed talking gorilla and the rest of the X-Men goes after the scientist who uses his power to defeat and capture them.

In X-Men #176 a new player arrives on the scene. The communist supervillain The Red Ghost and his three Super Apes, he’s the one the scientist had been planning to sell his services to. But when he learns that Red Ghost plans to take over Niganda and turn it into a communist nation, which means there will be no money, the scientist attempts to turn against him using the X-Men to help him. There’s also more romantic tension between Black Panther and Storm as they fight a giant lizard monster together.

And it all wraps up in Black Panther #9. I’ve probably said too much already, so I won’t give any more details (other than we get to see Black Panther and Wolverine team up to fight a fire-breathing gargoyle). But there’s a lot of action and drama in this finale, which ends with Black Panther and X-Men back on mostly good terms and a reconciliation between BP and Storm, planting the seeds for the bigger storyline between those two which came later.

Outside of Grant Morrison’s run on the title, I was never a really big X-Men comic-book fan. I remember at the time that this story was published I was a bit disappointed at having to buy another series just to get a full-story here. Also, this new Black Panther series had just started and it felt like it was too soon to be jumping into a crossover, especially right after the House of M tie-in. I wanted more time establishing Black Panther and his new status quo. Re-reading this arc all these years later now I can appreciate it better. It’s a good story. And Milligan (who writes the X-Men issues) and Hudlin (who writes the Black Panther issues) compliment each other well with their writing styles, if I hadn’t looked at the credits I wouldn’t have suspected that there were two different writers on this arc. This was also my first exposure to David Yardin’s art (he draws the Black Panther issues) and I was instantly impressed. X-Men artist Salvador Larroca also does a good job here. So all and all, Wild Kingdom is a solid effort.

This storyline was collected in trade but appears to be out of print, but you can find used copies on AMAZON.COM. Or get the various single issues on Comixology.com:
X-MEN #175
X-MEN #176

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