Monday, December 19, 2016

Panthers Powers Part 2: The Role of Bast, the Panther God

[This is Part 2 of a multiple post series going over the details and intricacies of the multiple sources of superpowers in Wakanda and how they have changed over the years. 

In Part 2, we turn to the Panther Goddess Bast and her role in granting her champions superpowers.]

Bast, the Panther God, has had an interesting connection to Wakanda and the Black Panther's in particular. She is a God that rarely intervenes in day-to-day activities, but at the same time controls marriages, guards the Vibranium mound, and, in the end, decides who is worthy of holding the title of Black Panther.

For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on her ability to empower those chosen to defend Wakanda.

The first mention of the Panther God I could find was in T'challa's first origin story in Avengers, vol 1 #87, where he had to have a night of vigil in the temple of the Panther God during his Rite of Ascension.

This first time we actually saw the Panther God was also the first time we saw her role in giving the Black Panther his super powers: Gillis's four issue mini series in 1988. In this mini, the spirit of the Panther God actually left T'challa and inhabited a man from Azania. T'challa was left depowered while the Panther God went on a rampage, killing those who held down the black Azania citizens.

Gillis #4 of 4
Despite the HSH previously being shown as the power source for T'challa's powers, Gillis outright showed that without the Panther God and her blessing, there were no powers. After T'challa and the Panther God's fight and have a heated discussion, they came to a mutual understanding, they reformed, and T'challa's powers returned.

Gillis #1 of 4
Gillis #1 of 4
Gillis #2 of 4
After that, Bast wasn't outright mentioned for a very, very long time, until Priest's run during The Client arc in 1999. In McGregor's Panther's Prey however, T'challa stated that his enhanced physical strength actually come from his enhanced spiritual strength. Considering Bast is his God, you could reasonably assume this to be a subtle way of saying Bast was directly responsible for the strength the HSH gave him.

Panther's Prey #3
In Priest #5, T'challa narrated his origin story to Mephisto, mentioning that the HSH connected his spirit to the Panther God and, just as important, mentioned how all the Black Panther's before him did the same thing.

Priest #5
Hudlin took this concept of the Panther spirit powering the Black Panthers and upped the ante a bit. In Deadliest of the Species arc, he showed us explicitly that Bast WAS the source of the Black Panther powers, not the HSH. The HSH acted only as a gateway to come before Bast to be judged.

Deadliest of the Species #4
In this same story, we heard that if Bast judges you as unworthy, your soul is consumed.

Deadliest of the Species #4

Deadliest of the Species #6
Shuri came directly in front of Bast, to declare her worthiness and ask for her blessing to take up the mantle of Black Panther. Bast remarked that all of her ancestors have done the same for 10,000 years, once again confirming that Bast has been there from the beginning of Wakanda's history.

Deadliest of the Species #4
What is very important about this interaction is that, despite Bast declaring Shuri unworthy... her soul was not consumed. She lived and was in fact worthy after she decided to combat Morlun anyway in a suicide mission in order to save Wakanda. This shows us that Bast is not black and white. Her decisions are not one way or another. She is a mysterious God that nudges and hints more than outright tells you what you need to do.

Deadliest of the Species #6
Once Shuri had the Black Panther powers, T'challa lost his. He first turned to Alchemy to regain some powers but later went to Hell's Kitchen to combat criminals without the powers of the Black Panther. There seemingly could only be one true Black Panther at one time.

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #519
Hickman continued showing Bast's explicit role in powering her champions during his Wakandan Fantastic Four arc. After seeing T'challa desired to be the Panther once again, Bast offered to restore him his powers and give him back his throne, as he was the "most favored son." This would have resulted in Bast taking the powers and throne from Shuri.

Fantastic 4 #608
However, she had another need at that time (which we learned to be the incursions), and T'challa accepted becoming King of the Dead, Lord of Necropolis and was re-powered to his previous state by Bast.

Fantastic 4 #608

So, in conclusion, while the concept of Bast being the source of the Black Panther powers was introduced way back in 1988, it has been re-introduced and reinforced in the last decade by Hudlin and Hickman that Bast is the true source of the Black Panther powers, and not the HSH. The HSH simply acts as a gateway of sorts to Bast and the Black Panther powers.

In the next installment of this series, we are going to learn what potential Black Panthers must go through in order to get access to the HSH and Bast: Tournaments, Tribal Challenges, and the Rite of Ascension.

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