In Black Panther: Man Without Fear #513 — the first issue written by historical fiction novelist David Liss and starring T'Challa, taking over the old Daredevil numbering — the title character distanced himself from his wife, X-Men standby Storm, in order to properly focus on his new mission in Hell's Kitchen.That all changes in the upcoming story "Storm Hunter," announced Sunday afternoon during Marvel's "Next Big Thing" panel at C2E2, which features not only the return of Storm to Black Panther's life, but also the first fight between T'Challa and Kraven the Hunter — on the streets of New York City, no less. Jefte Palo (recently seen on the Point One issue of Wolverine) illustrates the story, with regular series artist Francesco Francavilla is taking a bit of a breather from art duties on the title (returning with issue #521). Newsarama has the first interview with Liss about the two-issue "Storm Hunter" arc (both parts — Black Panther: Man Without Fear #519 and #520 ship in June), learning about why Storm doesn't fit in with the book as a regular main character, writing the first Black Panther vs. Kraven fight, and some reflection on his experience thus far writing an ongoing comic book series for the first time. Newsarama: David, the last time we talked to you about Black Panther: The Man Without Fear was when you were announced as writer on the title last fall. Now that you've got a few issues down — by the time “Storm Hunter” starts, you'll have six out — what are your thoughts thus far on your first experience writing an ongoing, monthly comic book?
David Liss: I have a special love for serialized narrative, so I've had an incredible time telling a story over six issues, working things out over time, changing and rethinking the original plans, and doing all the kinds of maneuvers that come your way when crafting a monthly book. I've learned an amazing amount, and I've had a blast doing it. And honestly, I still feel like I'm just lucky to be here.Nrama: Storm looks to be one of the main components of the story (her name is in the title, after all). I think some readers might have been disappointed by the fact that she hasn't really been in the series thus far — has her appearance here always been part of your plan?
Liss: Having Storm around significantly alters the flavor the stories we tell, since she is such an incredibly powerful character, so we always felt it was best to limit her appearances in the book. It's hard to tell a gritty, street-level story when one of your main characters can literally take the air out her enemies' lungs. On the other hand, she is married to our protagonist, and while it's been established in Black Panther and in the X-books that they are both pursuing their own goals, they are still in love and want to be around each other. So that's a long-winded way of saying that we always intended to bring her in now and again, and we think its important to acknowledge their marriage, but we did not want to make her a major part of all of our stories.
Nrama: This is the first meeting of husband and wife since the scene where the two of them parted ways in #513 — what's the dynamic like between the two of them upon their reunion?
Liss: Their dynamic is dynamic! There's a lot going on when they meet, and almost all of their interaction is mid-crisis, so while they talk about their relationship, they're also focused on staying alive. It keeps the marriage spicy.
Nrama: And since Storm did agree to leave Black Panther alone, does her appearance here come as somewhat of a surprise to him?
Liss: Without giving too much away, I'll say that he is not expecting her to be there when she shows up. But it is a good thing she does!
Nrama: Moving to the other half of the story, Kraven the Hunter, a classic villain who only recently came back to life in Amazing Spider-Man and now appears to be making the rounds in other titles. What do you like about the character?
Liss: To begin with, it's just a lot of fun to get to write an iconic villain like Kraven, but I also think he's a great match for T'Challa. In many ways, the characters are mirror images of each other — serious, determined, and driven by their own sense of honor. Kraven now is also tormented, which also makes him interesting to write about. They are both characters with a lot of baggage, and they are both determined to do what they have to do at almost any cost, which was what I found so intriguing about putting them at cross purposes. Neither one of these guys is going to blink.
Nrama: And is it fair to say that part of the appeal of having Black Panther face off against Kraven in this context is that it's different from what you might stereotypically expect since it's happening on the streets of New York City — and not in an exotic jungle setting?
Liss: Absolutely! From the beginning we wanted to use New York's unique environments as a background against, and a foil to, Kraven's style. Both of these men are trained to fight in a jungle setting, and so New York offers lots of danger and opportunities, and lots of interesting visual which we can work with.
Nrama: Also, it looks like this is actually the first fight between the two characters, who seem like a rather natural pairing. So is there perhaps somewhat of a special feeling of responsibility in writing their first interactions?
Liss: I agree that there is something natural, almost inevitable, about bringing these characters together, and I was a bit surprised to learn that they'd never fought before. Both of these characters have been through some hard times in recent times, so it seems like the right time. Like with any other story, we want to get things right, but certainly we wanted to give this arc the feeling of something spectacular that takes real advantage of Jefte's awesome style.Nrama: This is a two-part story — in comics these days, there are a lot of longer arcs that are four or more issues, and then some done-in-one stories, but a two-parter seems less common. For a writer, what's attractive about that length?
Liss: I'm actually surprised there aren't more 2-parters because in many ways it feels like a natural length, especially for an action-oriented story like we're doing here. The one-shot is very hard to nail without some elements feeling rushed, especially if you are trying to introduce or play around with more than one thread, but longer arcs demand a kind of narrative complexity that you don't always want in every kind of story. With an arc of this length, you have enough room for the set-up and depth, but you can also focus on crafting a cool, pulse-pounding adventure.