Marvel's Black Panther family of titles is growing from two to three with the announcement of the ongoing series Black Panther & The Crew, according to Time. Set in Harlem, the series will feature Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Manifold. Black Panther writer Ta-Nehisi Coates will be writing with his World of Wakanda collaborators Yona Harvey; it's unclear who the series artist will be, although John Cassaday illustrated a cover and Butch Guice contributed some character designs.
"Christopher Priest wrote what turned out to be a mini-series that I just adored called The Crew. Black Panther wasn’t in the original Crew, but he was weirdly sort of related because an ancillary character of his series was in the Crew. It was a unique book because the majority of the characters were black. So when I came back to write Black Panther, I read a bunch of Christopher Priest’s stuff, and I wanted to bring it back," Coates told Time. "I was going to try to do it with the same members that he had. But it became clear that certain characters would not be available for various reasons. So I decided to think about it in a different way and think about something new."
"The old version was a great crime story. And you’ll see elements of that in this, but there’s a Cold War aspect too," Coates added. "I’m new to this so I’m trying to not blow the story, but at the same time try to let people know what it is. You see the events of today. There are also flashbacks to events of the Cold War. It all connects. The basic idea is each of these people for various reasons has a conflicted relationship with the neighborhood, Harlem."
While the original The Crew title took place in the fictional Little Mogadishu area of Brooklyn, Black Panther & The Crew is set in Harlem because Coates and several members of the cast had ties to that area.
"There’s this concept in comic books of street characters - characters who mostly deal with street-level stories - those are your Daredevils, your Luke Cages, things that are considered lower-tier. And then you have your more cosmic level heroes, like The X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Avengers, that sort of thing. What we have in this book is a group of characters that operate on both levels," Coates said. "What does it mean to protect the street and protect the world? How are those things connected? What happens when T’Challa is walking down the street without his [Black Panther] uniform and people don’t recognize him, he’s just a black person? Same with Storm."
According to Time, Black Panther & the Crew kicks off with the death of a political activist while in the custody of the New York Police Department, leading to an investigation which gets the attention of these heroes. Coates said story was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
"This is in the air. It’s not like I looked at a Black Lives Matter protest and was like, 'Hey, I want to write a comic about that.' But you’re confronted with it every day," said Coates. "So when I sat down to think about what is this story with four black protagonists about, and you start scribbling, that rises up. The events of the day are with me. It seemed like an opportunity to do something. It becomes clear in the first issue that the activist is not just an activist. There’s something more going on there."
Coates goes on to say that the political issues in early issues of Uncanny X-Men influenced this series heavily.
"These issues are all over comic books and particularly throughout the history of Marvel. What weighs on me is reading X-Men as a child. Those books influenced me so much. They were charged, they dealt with discrimination, they dealt with being an outsider. They dealt with the things that I was feeling," said Coates. "The comics I’ve always read, have always had a philosophical thread. So when it came time for me to write comics, I just felt like that had to be. It’s definitely in the Black Panther books now. It’s not just a story about a king that’s trying to rule. I’m trying to answer other questions, philosophical questions, social questions."
No timetable of when Black Panther & the Crew will debut was given.