Stan Lee: "The hero himself the Black Panther has all the abilities of a giant jungle cat he moves with the same stealth and power and can climb trees and so forth and he wears a black outfit that conceals his identity and every panel that Jack drew of the Black Panther where he's crouched a little bit you get the feeling of a human who's imbued with the senses of a jungle beast… Anyway I was crazy about that character and he was very popular and he's one of the characters I'm most proud of because he was the first important black super hero."
For Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack "King" Kirby!
Prologue: My Soul To Keep!
No not New York but more like a place where souls are cooked and served by a master chef who's own recipe for disaster is a menu of despair. Some might call this Hell but that would be insulting to the devil himself.
Mephisto sits upon a throne amidst the smell of repugnant sulphur mixed with brimstone. The ashy skulls of warriors past decorate the Arena of Tainted Souls. Gladiators doomed to fight the good fight of utter futility compete on in hopes of gaining something lost from their fleshly past.
Except one lone warrior.
Undefeated since being condemned to this realm this mad vengeance filled combatant takes these games to an extreme not seen before in these murky halls. His latest foe is given a treatment that would make a medieval torture specialist blush. Twin machetes split wind and victims with equal ease.
Eric Killmonger stands triumphantly over a dismembered foe… Or at least the parts still close to his rugged boots.
Mephisto: "Bravo Mister Killmonger your acts of mercy lack something to be desired… Very good."
Eric Killmonger: "I am here but to kill, steal and destroy my lord."
Mephisto: "I see your sense of humor remains as condescending as usual."
Eric Killmonger: "If it pleases you send more victims for me to dispatch before I get bored of your presence and challenge you myself."
Mephisto 'devilishly grinning' reclines himself in his throne placing his hands behind his head as if relaxed and yet this foolish mortal somehow frightens him. There is something different about this individual that separates him from the usual condemned souls that grovel at Mephisto's feet for but a mere cup of ice water. This crazy man actually relishes his imprisonment as some deserved masochistic destiny.
Still, Mephisto was not one to let an open opportunity slip away without stoking the fires of discontent just a wee bit.
Mephisto: "How do you believe T'challa would fare in this arena?"
Mephisto: "FRAK HIM! Frak Wakanda and every thing associated with him!"
Mephisto lets off a chilly cackle that echoes throughout the arena awakening even the dead in attendance from the nosebleed seating section. Yes, that name was one that stirred Killmonger's soul as it did his own.
Hate was a powerful motivator indeed.
Mephisto: "He defeated you did he not?"
Eric Killmonger: "Never!"
Mephisto: "You are here and he is elsewhere… Probably enjoying his beautiful wife as we speak."
Taunting. Mephisto was an expert at this lost art and used it to the fullest. Eric was fuming inside of what was once the shell of a proud man. The thought of him being dead and gone and T'challa still enjoying the carnal knowledges of the living caused him agony.
Eric Killmonger: "I swear if I ever face him again…"
Mephisto: "You would do what… Lose again?"
Eric Killmonger: "I beat him every time!"
Mephisto: "When was this? I know of no record of you tainting him with defeat. Some say he is perfect and unbeatable."
Lying. Mephisto had that art covered too.
Mephisto: "The internet perhaps… W-W-W dot ibeattheblackpanther dot com?"
Eric Killmonger: "FRAK you demon spawn. You bring him here and I'll show you!"
Mephisto: "Bring him here? Interesting. Perhaps an arrangement could be made between you and I to make that reality a possibility."
Eric Killmonger: "How?"
Now the plot was going to thicken tremendously. Wheels were being set in motion for a revenge move that would trump any Mephisto had ever ordained before.
Mephisto: "As ruler of this realm it is I who has the authority to return a soul if I see fit to do so."
Eric Killmonger: "Go on."
Mephisto: "I would return yours to you for but a small price."
Eric Killmonger: "I'm dead anyway so I have nothing to barter with."
Mephisto: "This is not about money or material things this is about so much more."
Eric Killmonger: "What is T'challa to you that you seek his downfall?"
Mephisto: "Let us just say that a long time ago… He broke my heart!"
Well actually his heart was ripped from his upper torso and later partially consumed but that is nothing but details.
Mephisto: "In exchange for your impending task I would grant you additional powers and abilities."
Eric Killmonger: "Such as…"
Mephisto: "You will also be given an army of the undead to wage war on Wakanda like no eyes have ever seen."
Eric Killmonger: "Wakanda has never lost a war."
Mephisto: "That is because every army that attacks Wakanda has lives to lose. Your army will not."
Eric laughs with a chuckling bellow.
Eric Killmonger: "I have heard this talk before. It always ends with armies burying their dead shortly after arriving in Wakanda. An already dead army would only hasten the inevitable. What else you got demon?"
Mephisto: "You miss my point Eric Killmonger. The war is not about a body count it is about the very soul of Wakanda itself."
Eric Killmonger: "This is creepy even for you."
Mephisto: "How long have you been here Eric? Do you know what has become of your friend T'challa? He is no longer king and is scurrying about New York fighting street crime."
Eric Kilmonger: "Liar!"
Mephisto: "Oh no Mister Killmonger you will see for yourself. In fact it is his sister that wears the Black Panther title right now."
Eric Killmonger: "His sister? I need to go back now what is the plan?"
Mephisto: "I have a man strategically placed inside the walls of Wakanda who will assist you. I had him erased from history and memory. Totally forgotten but he is due to resurface any moment now. His name is Reverend Achebe and he has silently made a name for himself amongst the elders of the panther cult."
Eric Killmonger: "Hmm… Now about my powers.."
Mephisto: "Ah yes you will not quite be a man nor a zombie but somewhere in between. Your strength level will be greatly increased from what you were as a mortal."
Eric Killmonger: "And my soul?"
Mephisto: " It stays here with me. This will make it impossible to kill you. But your body will need to feed… On living souls of course. But with a name like Killmonger it will suit you just fine"
Eric Killmonger: "I am ready… My lord!"
Mephisto waves his hand flippantly as Eric Killmonger's body begins to transform, reshape and develop into a titan abomination. A handsome monster would be the description when eyes were gazed upon this dreadlocked fiend. Demons of varied grotesque shapes materialize gathered in mass around their new fierce leader. Dozens turn into hundreds and then thousands filing the arena with howls, squeals and frightening shrills of nightmare inducing proportions.
Mephisto: "I will arrange a meeting between you and Reverend Achebe. Heed his wise counsel and be ever patient in your attacks. Although T'challa is not the acting Black Panther he is still not one to be underestimated."
Eric Killmonger: "I will kill the Black Panther!"
Mephisto: "Yes… Focus on his sister first. She will be the weakness that exposes his soul. Then move against the Adored Ones. Leave their ranks in shambles. T'challa has been acting as The Man Without Fear but the key to Wakanda's downfall will be the icy grip of fear that embraces it's citizens once they lose confidence in him as a leader."
Eric Killmonger: "And Storm?"
Suddenly a hush falls over the demonic horde as respect for the mutant queen travels far and wide. In fact some of the demons had bad encounters with that particular X man and did not seek to revisit further thrashings from Storm Goddess.
Mephisto: "Queen Ororo? I have special plans for the the royal marriage that do not concern you at this time."
A wine glass materializes in Mephisto's right hand filled with blood.
Mephisto: "A toast to the death of T'challa. May the armies of the undead bathe in Wakandan blood."
End of prologue.
Next Issue #1: Return of The King!