Once he was a king, a scientist and a legendary super hero. His name is T'Challa, and as the Black Panther he was the ruler and premier costumed champion of one of the Marvel Universe's most technologically advanced nations, the fictional African country of Wakanda. In his guise as the Panther, T'Challa took on and defeated his country's many enemies. His superhuman powers, cunning intellect, advanced fighting skills and countless wealth made him an almost unbeatable opponent.
Recently though, the villainous Doctor Doom dealt T'Challa his most crushing defeat ever. First Doom tricked the hero into a trap where he physically beat T'Challa so severely that he was forced to give up his crown and his spiritual identity as the Black Panther. As if that wasn't enough, Doom organized a coup in Wakanda, threatened the life of T'Challa's wife, X-Men member Storm, and absconded with a huge supply of the country's most precious natural resource -- the mysterious sound absorbing mineral known as Vibranium. Despite these set-backs, after recovering from his injuries, T'Challa defeated Doom with the help of friends and family.
The emotional scars of Doom's attack ran deep, and T'Challa sought to prove that he could still be a hero without the powers or enormous wealth he could draw on as ruler of Wakanda. The chance to do just that arrived in December when writer David Liss and artist Francisco Francavilla launched the new ongoing series "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" in which T'Challa took over the vigilante Daredevil's role as protector of New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. Announced today at C2E2, Liss and guest artist Jefte Paolo kick off the series' second arc, "Storm Hunter," this June. CBR News spoke with Liss about the story, which finds both the Black Panther's wife and the villainous Kraven the Hunter prowling the streets of Hell's Kitchen in search of its newest protector.
In May's "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" #518 (the ongoing "Daredevil" title morphed into "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" but kept the series' numbering with #513) Liss and Francavilla finish the first arc of the series, which details T'Challa's quest to establish himself in Hell's Kitchen and defeat its newest super powered crime lord, Vlad the Impaler. "The introductory arc comes to a conclusion one way or another with #518," Liss told CBR News. "And since we're having this interview it's safe to assume that T'Challa survives. Beyond that I don't want to say much about his what kind of shape T'Challa is in when it's all over or how our inaugural arc is resolved."
"Storm Hunter" was born when Liss and editor Bill Rosemann discussed that while T'Challa had battled Kraven's son, he and the original Hunter had never before come face-to-face. The writer is enjoying the chance to chronicle the two characters' initial confrontation. "Kraven is such a great character to write. He's obviously one of the more iconic villains. And like all normal people, I'm a big Spider-Man fan, so getting a chance to play with one of the big Spider-Man villains has been a real fan-boy thrill," Liss remarked. "I guess it's fair to say that he's been through some tough times having been dead for a long time. I was very happy to get the chance to write a story with him and to be allowed to deal with some of the bigger characters in the Marvel U."
T'Challa and Kraven's conflict in "Storm Hunter" comes about because each character has a debt of honor to pay. Their confrontation becomes even more complicated by the arrival of Storm, last seen in "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear" #513, where she told her husband she accepted his need to prove himself in Hell's Kitchen. "Storm gets involved in the story because events force her hand," Liss explained. "I have to say that she's very intimidating to write because she's a storied and beloved character with a legion of avid fans who will not hesitate to pipe up if I get anything wrong," Liss joked. "I also see her as one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe, so whenever you bring in a character like Storm it becomes a challenge. How do you keep things interesting and how do you keep a real sense of threat to these characters when you have somebody this dominating in play?
"Plus there's the extra challenge in the fact that T'Challa and Storm are a married couple," Liss continued. "They'll want to spend time together and how do I make sure the action doesn't completely disappear when Storm is around? And at the same time how do I make sure that Black Panther isn't completely sidelined by having his wife, who is far more powerful than he is, involved in the picture?"
In the initial arc of "Black Panther: The Man Without Fear," Liss established a number of new supporting characters, but for "Storm Hunter" he'll primarily focus the action on T'Challa, Storm and Kraven. "The events of the arc unfold over the course of a couple hours, and it's really an action story starring these three characters," Liss said. "There will be one other major figure who is part of the Panther supporting cast but in a much more minor role."
"Our first arc was a more deliberate noirish crime story, so we wanted to follow it up with something different and tell a great, action-packed, fist-swinging story in which all three characters really get to show what they're capable of," Liss continued. "We want 'Storm Hunter' to be a story that leaves you breathless. I'm hoping that the end of our first chapter will have readers eagerly anticipating what happens next."
Both chapters of the "Storm Hunter" story go on sale in June with a double-ship of issues #519 and #520 and Liss is finalizing his plans for the late summer and fall issues of the series. "Right now we have through November plotted out. Since our initial storyline is a six-part arc we thought we'd shake things up by telling a series of shorter stories. Then, after November, we'll launch another large arc. We're still discussing the exact nature of that story, but our plan is set T'Challa against some very bad people."