Fair warning: I’m going to be discussing events in this week’s issue of Avengers vs. X-Men, so watch out for spoilers. Also, I haven’t read Avengers vs. X-Men, or the vast majority of the storylines I’m about to discuss, so feel free to decide I’m full of crap.
I was surprised to learn that the marriage between Storm and Black Panther was dissolved in Avengers vs. X-Men #9. Although given that T’Challa is an Avenger and Ororo is an X-Men, I guess I should have seen that coming. What doesn’t surprise me is that this development hasn’t ended the debate about whether the Panther/Storm marriage was a good idea to begin with.
If you need more context, I think this article provides plenty, although I think the writer jumps to a few conclusions.1 In a nutshell, Marvel wanted to marry Panther and Storm as a big event, and fandom was deeply split on the issue. I didn’t follow the debate too closely but the main points of contention seemed to be as follows:
PROS: Storm and the Black Panther are two of the most iconic black superheroes, so this is a big deal and a great idea. They have a history as shown in Marvel Team-Up #100, so they’re a perfect match.
CONS: Marvel Team-Up #100 was, like, the only time these characters had anything to do with one another. Pulling Storm out of the X-Men comics to be a supporting character in Black Panther is a disservice to the character. This is an ill-considered marketing ploy that’s all about manufacturing an event instead of telling a story.
It seemed to me at the time that Marvel could have avoided the controversy with a little more planning. Regardless of whether you liked the wedding event, you can’t deny that it was pretty sudden. A year or two of romance leading up to the wedding would have quelled at least some of the criticism that the coupling was arbitrary. I certainly don’t think those in favor of the marriage would have complained about a longer courtship.
But as it happened, the marriage didn’t work out creatively, as Tom Brevoort admitted to Newsarama. And this is what bothers me, because the reasons he gives in his postmortem are all factors that anyone could/did identify when the wedding was first announced. Instead of anticipating those challenges and developing solutions for them ahead of time, Marvel just fumbled around without a plan for six years before finally giving up. “Gosh, it turns out Storm fans prefer for her to be in the X-Men’s storylines! We had no idea!”
This is all a symptom of a bigger problem in both Marvel and DC–they get so caught up in figuring out how to sell a comic right now that they fail to plan how to sell that same comic later. It’s all well and good to spike Black Panther sales with a wedding stunt, but unless there’s a long-term plan attached to the stunt then you’ll just have to keep trotting out stunts, and eventually you run out.2 It’s all well and good to have a “Black Panther marries Storm” collected edition in your back catalog, but unless there’s a strong story behind it nobody is going to go back and buy an event that’s been rendered moot. To be fair, I have read very little of the Panther/Storm stories, so it’s hard for me to judge if they had an underlying plan or a strong story. That said, Brevoort’s admission of failure does not inspire confidence.
What makes this personally frustrating for me is that I am fascinated by the circumstances of T’Challa’s separation from Ororo. From what I understand, the X-Men launched a devastating attack on Wakanda, and thus Panther cannot remain married to a woman associated with war criminals. Without knowing more of the context, I’m intrigued by this development because it’s textbook T’Challa–no matter what he may want as a man, his obligations as a king and high priest take priority, and he doesn’t mince words about it. This raises all kinds of questions I’d like to see examined, whether it’s the final word on their marriage or not.
So right now I would totally pay for comics dealing with the aftermath of the annulment. But I don’t have any faith that Marvel will really tell that story, because experience suggests they have no plan for what happens next between Panther and Storm. It’s more likely the two characters will have nothing to do with one another until their paths cross in some future companywide event. At that point, in some brief nod to their history, they’ll either exchange icy glares or unexpectedly reconcile and leap into each other’s arms. It’ll be enough to get people talking for a week…but only for a week.
- He lost me when he suggested the marriage was an obstacle to a Black Panther movie, which is absurd since Storm probably wouldn’t be in said movie either way. [↩]
- Black Panther joins the Fantastic Four! Black Panther’s a woman! Black Panther goes to war with Doctor Doom! Black Panther replaces Daredevil! Black Panther gets cancelled! [↩]