Black Panther (4th series) #33

Issue Date: 
February 2008
Story Title: 
Ready To Die – part 3

Reginald Hudlin (writer), Andrea DiVito (penciler & Inker), Val Staples (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Billy Tan & Laura Martin (cover), Daniel Ketchum (assistant editor), Axel Alonso (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

As the heroes are forced to fight in the arena, a mysterious man named Bumpie Johnson offers the Thing a deal, but he refuses. Biggie wants to see the Black Panther dead but, instead, he keeps on succeeding, even getting sympathy from the crowd. Eventually, Biggie has the Panther and Thing fight each other, with the threat hanging over their head that, if they refuse, the Skrulls will destroy Earth with their energy cannon. Storm, in the meantime, has escaped and ended up in this world’s Harlem, center of the Black Power movement. She meets Skrull versions of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and learns that after the defeat at the hands of the FF some Skrulls wanted to make amends and lead better lives and were inspired by the Civil Rights Movements. With the help of Malcolm X’s Black Panther, Storm intends to free her teammates. Their inside man is one Bumpy Johnson, who intends to lead them into a trap.

Full Summary: 

Storm flies for her life, chased by gangsters in flying cars who try to “blow her out of the sky.” However, her wind currents are giving them trouble and they realize she is an elemental.
As she flies past 125th street, the men begin to hesitate, realizing they are entering hostile territory. Recognizing the area, Storm wonders if this world even has a replica of her father’s home.

One gangster tells his comrade that, if they cross the block, they are violating the treaty. Screw that, his partner replies. Biggie says they do something, they do it – no excuses.

Seeing Storm fly, an African-American man shouts at her: Right on Soulsister! They got her back. She sees several other African-Americans gathering behind him with baseball bats and sticks. She warns them not to. Her foes are too heavily armed. They aren’t the only ones, the first man replies with a grin.

Suddenly, the first car seems to smash into an invisible wall. Welcome to Harlem, the man shouts. The gangsters realize that it’s a forcefield and return. “Go home,” Storm’s new friend shouts. “These are our streets. Welcome home, sista,” he welcomes her as she lands. But she isn’t from here, she replies. This is uptown, baby, he informs her. It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.

Meanwhile, back at the gangsters’ place, Boss Smalls aka Biggie peers into T’Challa’s cell, informing him he could have him killed. But he is a business man. If he dies in the arena, he’ll make money on it. Plus it will send a message to his buddies uptown. Nice of them to dress him up as some kinda symbol of their movement. That way, they’ll get the message loud and clear when he is torn into bite-sized chunks on the arena floor.

As the Panther keeps silent, he asks how did they pick him. Is he the toughest guy in the neighborhood? Or did he just pull the shortest stick? They could cut a deal. Put some other dumb sucker in the suit and he gets torn apart in the arena and the Panther could live a nice quiet life. But he’s gotta tell him something: who is the leader of the Black Panthers? Where is he? Who is the inside man in his organization? How’s his throat? T’Challa asks. He can’t wait to see him die! Smalls shouts.

Storm’s new friend leads her to a church and asks where she is from. Kenya, Storm replies, but her father is from Harlem. Well, welcome home, sista – for real, the man replies. Does she still have people here? She doesn’t know, Ororo admits.

The man tells her she needs to talk with this man, and leads her inside the church. This man is one of the most important leader they’ve got up here. He addresses him as “rev” and asks him to meet Ororo Munroe. The reverend greets her. Ororo stands astonished: she is looking into the eyes of reverend Martin Luther King. Yeah, the rev has that effect on people, her new friend remarks.

Elsewhere in the arena, the flying competition is announced. Johnny is rudely shaken awake and tossed into the arena – into an invisible globe, to be exact. His foe, a spiky being with wings, attacks him. Unimpressed, Johnny flames on and evades the other’s attack. Unfortunately, the other’s spikes don’t cut through the bubble as Johnny had hoped.

Avoiding anything hand-to-hand with his foe Johnny, flames up so bright his foe can’t see and burns up oxygen at an accelerated rate until the other falls unconscious before him. Johnny sinks down exhausted after him and is announced winner.

Having watched from his cell, Ben praises his friend. From the door, an African-American man asks what Ben’s gonna do when it’s his turn. Ben asks for the man’s name. Bumpy Johnson, comes the rely. Who does he work for? Ben asks. He’s his own man. A lot of employees say that, Ben observes. Bumpy asks again what Ben is gonna do. Last time he was here, he started a revolution. A lotta good that did, Ben replies. Here they are back again.

Bumpy lights a smoke as he remarks that things done changed. Lotta moving parts. Been waiting on an X element like him to shake things up, make some opportunities. And then what happens? Ben asks. Bumpy clean that place up? Or it starts all over again with him as boss?

Does it matter? Bumpy asks. Ben’s gonna do what he’s gonna do and then Bumpy’s gonna do what he’s gonna do. So his job isn’t done until he takes Bumpy down with the rest of them, Ben states. Bumpy assures him he is his friend as he will find out soon enough.

Back in the Church Uptown, “Reverend King” explains matters to Ororo. She is on the Skrull planet Kral. Many years ago, Kral patterned itself after a man named “Machine Gun” Martin – a gangster and murderer. It was Martin who first gave them the idea to settle their disputes by pitting gladiators against one another in the arena.

Eventually, the gladiator revolted inspired by the Thing. They barely survived as a people. Some of the liberated gladiators wanted to wipe them out altogether for their crimes.

narration, accompanied by pictures:

The survivors were left in ruins with a profound identity crisis. Some like Biggie immediately wanted to rebuild the world that was lost and start all over again, only bigger and stronger. But others felt guilty about what they had done and wanted to change. But to what? Their Skrull identities seemed boring and foreign to them. So they looked to Earth again for inspiration.

They saw a very different world than the one taught to them decades ago. They witnessed the Civil Right Movement, a movement emphasizing morality and self-worth. They were inspired to model their lives after this. And so, a group of Skrulls turned into African-Americans.


So they became two rival cultures? Storm realizes. Uptown and Downtown. They have tried to open their minds in a non-violent fashion, King explains. But the others continue to see their existence as a threat.

“Because of me,” the voice of a newcomer announces, as “Malcolm X” steps in. Calmly, he explains that if it weren’t for his Back Panthers protecting Harlem, those thugs would have overrun Harlem ages ago. Black Panther? Ororo asks.

X explains that he has assembled an army of young brothers and sisters who are prepared to defend their homeland by any means necessary. He takes Ororo’s hand. Her powers are the talk of the entire planet. With her help they can end the slavery, the degradation and humiliation of beings from across the galaxy that happens every day downtown.

his turn. If they don’t act now, they will execute the symbol of their movement in the arena to demoralize their people. Her husband? Ororo asks agitated.

In the arena, the Black Panther is introduced as a champion of “the pathetic band of trouble makers from Uptown” and pitted against the werewolf of Sirius.

From his cell, Ben observes that apparently they cut all the tech outta “T’charlie’s” long johns. Probably their idea of fairness.

The werewolf leaps, but so does the Panther, amazingly high up. He stomps onto the werewolf’s head and punches him both to the spine and the kidneys.

As the commentator describes Panther’s actions in glowing colors, one of Biggie’s men forcefully suggests he tone it down.

Panther evades the Werewolf. Furious, Biggie pouts that he was supposed to be nothing but catgut now. Barnesworth promises he won’t leave the arena alive.

Back in Harlem, at a meeting of the Back Panthers, Malcolm X announces that now is them time for revolution and an African goddess has arrived to lead them into battle. Does she have any words to say? he asks Storm.

First, she hesitates, then admits that she feels uncomfortable going into battle with people, however well-intentioned – that she doesn’t know and hasn’t trained with. Her powers could very well injure them unintentionally, so she asks them to stand clear of her. Oh, she adds as an afterthought, and if there are any traitors in this room, she will kill them personally.

Nice, Malcolm mutters. Never hurts to set a tone, she replies with a smile. He leads her into an office to meet the double agent that will smuggle them into the heart of Downtown to launch their attack. One Bumpy Johnson…

In the Arena, the Werewolf attacks and T’Challa just stands there as though frozen in fear. At the last possible moment, he strikes, hitting the wolf on the snout. Hit at such a vulnerable point, the wolf stumbles away and the Panther finishes him off, finally breaking his neck.
Many members of the audience that were against him originally cheer.

Elsewhere, Ororo and the Panthers disguise themselves as simple workers, or in Ororo’s case, a maid. Listening to the radio, they learnt that T’Challa won his battle. Of course he did, Ororo remarks, but now they really have to kill him. They must hurry!

Reverend King tells her he knows she has to stand by her man, but doesn’t she see that violence only begets more violence? Storm assures him that when this is over, he will rule this land with wisdom and love. But right now… it’s clobbering time!

The Arena:

Two men, rivals of Biggie, watch the cheering audience. They observe that the Panther now has the crowd on his side. And they can imagine how they are celebrating him in Harlem. This isn’t looking good for Biggie. Once their boy, Bumpy, leads the spooks to an uprising, nobody will think twice when he pushes Biggie off his pedestal and takes the throne, the one man decides. Especially after he saves the city from the moolie invasion, the other man agrees.

Biggie angrily draws a gun. The Panther is making him look like a fool. He’ll kill him himself! Barnesworth tries to hold him back. The Panther is too popular right now. It’s gotta be done in the ring the right way. Biggie warns him: he has one more round to make it right or he’ll kill him before he kills the Panther. Barnesworth calls for the next opponent to be brought – the Thing.

Bad day at the office? Ben asks T’Challa. He’ still stands, comes the reply. Heard that. They turn upwards. They know they ain’t fighting each other, right? Ben asks. In fact they should surrender now, T’Challa warns Biggie and his people. Have they forgotten the Planet-Smasher? Biggie asks angrily. They will use that weapon to destroy their world if they don’t fight.

Ben points out that they destroyed that thing last time they were her. How do they know this isn’t a fake? And how do hey know it’s even pointed at Earth? the Panther asks.

Biggie shows them where the weapon is aimed at on a screen. It seems indeed to be Earth. Smooth, Ben whispers to T’Challa. Now they at least know they are in the right reality.

And as for the effectiveness, Biggie continues… they can choose any of the landmasses to prove their power. Would it be wrong to suggest Stark Industries? Ben asks T’Challa in a whisper. He loves his humor in the bleakest moments, the other man replies. Any orbiting satellite will do, he tells Biggie and moments later one is destroyed. Hopefully their friends on Earth will trace the energy signature of the attack back to here, T’Challa whispers to Ben.
All they gotta do… is survive, Ben replies.

In the meantime, Bumpy Johnson leads the Black Panthers through the sewers nearing their goal. The heroes are unaware that, above them, armed gangsters are already waiting for them…

Characters Involved: 

Black Panther, the Human Torch, Storm, the Thing (all Fantastic Four)

“Reverend Martin Luther King”

“Malcolm X”

Black Panthers


gangsters working for Biggie


Biggie’s rival




Bumpy Johnson

Story Notes: 

The Gangster boss called “Smalls” last issue is called Biggie in this and the next issue.

Biggie’s rival is probably meant to be Poog from last issue but he is drawn differently here.

Moolie: derogative slang word for a black person.

Issue Information: 
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