“There’s always something new out of Africa.”
-Pliny the Elder
We open on a scene of horror. Dark caverns are lit with flickering red and yellow flames. The heat is overpowering and oppressive. The heat of the air causes light itself to shimmer and distort images. Through this gloom we see a vast army of beings, working at vast machinery. They appear to be composed entirely of living fire, flames dancing off of every part of their bodies. These fire beings stir massive lava pits, create deadly poisonous gasses, and create armaments on forges almost larger than the human mind can conceive. We zoom out from this scene to an outcrop above it all. A figure sits with his back to us, his fingers toying with what looks like a toy hammer. A fire being approaches this figure, kneeling in supplication.
“It is finished, your highness. The machinery is completed.”
The seated figure rises, and we see that he dwarfs the fire being. He strides the cavern, untouched by the flames. He looks upon the works his subjects have completed .
“And the other armies? What of them?”
“They have completed their part of the plan, your highness.”
The figure smiles. “Then my destiny is at last at hand.” With a simple motion he activates the machine. A cacophonous din soon fills the subterranean gloom. Doom, DOOM, DOOM, DOOM!
We cut to Birnin Zana, the Golden City. Capital of Wakanda, and one of the most technologically advanced cities on earth. Skyscrapers dot the landscape. We zoom into a window and see a hospital ward full of children of various ages. A man wearing a lab coat walks up to a girl with a worried expression on her face. He gently attaches a prosthetic limb to her leg, which we see has been amputated just below the knee. The girl tentatively stands up and attempts to walk. Unsteady at first, she takes a step and then, excitement growing, another. Soon she is skipping and running around the room while the other children and nurses cheer her on. She runs to the man in the coat, tears in her eyes, and embraces him. The man smiles. As he leaves, a hand rests on his shoulder.
“You should be proud of yourself, Mr. Carr. Your advancements in prosthetics are nothing short of miraculous.”
“Nonsense. Wakanda has the world’s best cyberneticists in the world. Your scientists were building fully functional mechanical arms when American hospitals were still giving people hooks. I’ve just made the arms lighter and more durable.”
“And infinitely less expensive. Children and veterans around the world can have their limbs back.”
“Yes, but only through the generous contributions of The Tomorrow Fund.”
“You are a hard man to compliment, Mr. Carr.”
“It is not often that an ex-con is lavished with praise, T’Challa,” Carr smiles wryly. “Especially from a king.”
“You have improved yourself and taken control of your life. You have made breakthroughs that have changed the lives of others. You have repaid whatever debt you owed to society a hundred fold. Accept the thanks of a fellow human being if you cannot take it from a king.”
Curtis Carr smiles and takes T’Challa’s hand.
“I appreciate that, your highness. More than you can ever know.”
At that moment, all hell breaks loose. Tremors rock the city, and the buildings are shaken roughly. Wakandan engineering prevents any major catastrophe, but the citizens are shaken and afraid. T’Challa exits the hospital and runs to a waiting sky sled parked outside. He flies to the palace to coordinate recovery efforts and find out what has happened.
We next see the king in the full regalia of the Black Panther, sans his cowl. He is facing a bank of seven holographic monitor screens, with live feeds from around the world. The earthquake was not limited to Wakanda.
On one screen is industrialist Tony Stark, reporting from the United States. He is wearing his Iron Man suit, but with the helmet open. “It’s the damndest thing, T’Challa. Cities around the world are reporting quakes. That’s not unusual here in LA, but for quakes to strike Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Mexico City at the same time can’t be a coincidence.”
“I concur with our indefatigable iron plated inventor,” chimes in Henry McCoy from another monitor. “We have experienced tremors from New York City to Buffalo, and there’s nary a fault line to be seen in the Empire State.”
“Understood, my friends,” says the Panther. “It stands to reason that these quakes are not natural phenomena. Who or what, then, is causing them?”
“It isn’t me!” comes a squeaky voice from a third screen. The face of the Mole Man glares in anger at the Black Panther. “You do-gooding surface dwellers are always seeking to blame me for everything. But it won’t work this time. I and my subjects are not behind this. Blame that strutting fool Tyrannus.”
“We have considered that possibility, Mr. Elder,” says T’Challa. “However, Tyrannus is currently in custody of the Italian authorities. Queen Kala has been heard from, but her Netherworld kingdom has suffered massive damage from these quakes, more than any surface city. The ruler of Lemuria has assured me that the Deviants have nothing to do with this. My agents in Lemuria have confirmed this to my satisfaction.”
“So none of the usual suspects,” says Tony. “Any leads in your neck of the world, Panther?”
“I fear there are many. I’ve received word that Nyamuragira is erupting and endangers the citizens of Goma. I’ve already dispatched some of my best people to aid in evacuating the city. What have you to report?”
Another monitor shows the face of Aida of the Dora Milaje. “The situation is grave, my king. But the situation is at hand and the evacuation is going smoothly. We—“ The transmission abruptly cuts out and the screen goes dark.
“Aida!” T’Challa pushes several buttons to try and restore the feed.
After a moment, the screen flashes back on. The camera is clearly on the ground, and the screen shows the scene from an odd angle. People can be seen fleeing in the background, but the foreground is dominated by what appears to be a large, scaly, green foot. Jerkily, the camera is righted, and we see a reptilian face staring blankly into it. Aida’s motionless body is seen in the creatures other arm.
“I know not who you are, creature, but if you harm a single subject of Wakanda…”
The creature screeches and drops the camera on the ground. Before the screen goes black we the reptile lunge at Aida’s neck.
T’Challa is horrified but keeps his composure. “I am sorry, my friends. Pressing matters of state have arisen.” He walks from the room, a single tear falling from his eye.
We open on a well appointed study. A white man is sitting in on overstuffed chair in a wood paneled room. A vast library lines the shelves. The man looks to be in his early 60s, with a full head of hair that still has a hint of brown in places. The walls are hung with framed photos of the man in his younger days, posing with such luminaries as Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, and W.E.B. Du Bois. In some photos the man wears a suit, but in the earliest ones he sports a spotted loincloth. The man’s ears prick up, and he jumps to his feet just as the door to his study opens.
“King T’Challa! This is an unexpected honor,” he exclaims, bowing sincerely before his guest.
“Mr. Rand, I presume. Known in former circumstances as the original Ka-Zar.”
“At your service, your highness. How may I help you?”
“Grave matters have arisen that may mean death and destruction for many innocent people. Tell me, Mr. Rand. Do you know what this is?”
T’Challa touches a bead on the bracelet on his wrist. A hologram, showing the reptilian being from Goma, appears.
“My God,” Ka-Zar gasps. “After all these years, the bastards have returned. The Limbos are back.”
“Limbos, Mr. Rand? What are the Limbos?”
“I fear, your highness, that they might well be our doom.”
Next: At the Earth’s Core
I’m going to be diving pretty deep into obscure Marvel lore, so I’ll provide some annotations as needed. The Limbos, and David Rand’s first encounter with them, can be found in Marvel Mystery Comics #19. They’re nasty looking buggers.