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SYFY WIRE Black Panther

There is hope for Storm and Black Panther as a couple

By Stephanie Williams

Black Panther and Storm seem like they'd be the perfect couple. However, across various arcs and universes, their relationship has been rocky at best and an emotional disaster that should never have happened at worst. It is very possible that the pair could have a healthy, loving, and mutually beneficial romance, but given their comic book history, their chances seem depressingly rare.

Part of that is because of how Storm herself has often been written in her interactions with T'Challa. Storm is sometimes depicted in a way that feels minimized as if she is quashing down her authentic self. This could be due to her having to take on the weight of queenly duties but even with that, she could still be the Storm we all know and love. On the flipside, another reason why their relationship falls flat is because of how T’Challa is written, sometimes like a king who just so happens to have a wife that he never pays any attention to. However, Dwayne McDuffie’s run on Fantastic Four during The Initiative event showed us just how good T’Challa and Ororo can be together when they are both allowed to be themselves.

The series starts out with one of Marvel’s most iconic couples, Sue and Reed Richards, taking some much needed time away from the team to work on their marriage after the events of the Civil War storyline. The Wakandan Embassy has been destroyed, which results in T’Challa and Storm taking the couple up on their offer to use the Baxter building as a temporary embassy. Over the course of seven issues, McDuffie does an excellent job of depicting the relationship between the always prepared Black Panther and almighty Storm. Both husband and wife are allowed to shine in this series, as a unit and individually.

It’s really fun to see Storm throwing herself into the thick of the action alongside T’Challa. It's not that she hasn’t been involved when other writers have incorporated her in previous Black Panther issues, but in this series, Storm is a little more reminiscent of the Storm we're so familiar with during her time with the X-Men. She isn’t sidelined while T’Challa gets to go out and have all the fun out in space. In fact, this time around, she is the one to suggest the team make a trip into space to get info from the Watcher about the disappearance of a body. Storm is calling some of the shots and taking the lead here just as she often did with the X-Men. McDuffie doesn't fall for the trap of writing T'Challa as the only one capable of mind, with Ororo even reminding T’Challa during one of his infamous “so this is what we need to do” talks that she’s met The Watcher before and knows how he operates.

This series also shows how the couple can be good for one another. When the team encounters the Silver Surfer, the two have a short but meaningful exchange after T’Challa tells the team to put on their life support bracelets just in case they lose atmosphere. Ororo tells him that she’s kind of warming up to his “stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready” mentality after years of improvising while with the X-Men. It's a moment of genuine emotion between two people who deeply respect one another and the love between the two of them really jumps off the page. Storm continues to have the last say in this same issue. When T’Challa wants to forego helping the planet Epoch from being consumed by Galactus, Storm tells him that not helping is non-negotiable and to not make her embarrass him in front of his friends by continuing to disagree.

It doesn’t at all read like Storm is trying to ignore her husband’s stance. Instead, she remains firm in her own stance but is equally respectful of T'Challa as she implores him to go above and beyond the initial mission goal, even if they aren’t a part of his original plans. They are both strong-minded but not stubborn about it, showing just how good they can be for one another. This kind of give and take happens throughout the series and makes the relationship feels healthy and balanced.

The rest of the series is full of loving and warm moments between the couple, both in intimate off-duty moments and in scenes where they're in action as heroes. McDuffie even manages to create a T’Challa who admits his vulnerability when it comes to his wife. He leans into showing how caring T'Challa can be emotionally, through both his words and actions. He admits to Reed Richards he wouldn’t have the ability to maintain his commitment to approaching everything with an airtight plan if Storm were in trouble, much in the same way Sue Storm was in trouble when she was held captive. Storm calls him out on his lie because she knows him too well, but it’s still a nice moment because it’s clear that his wife is his weakness, a detail which hasn’t always been so obvious.

It's something we haven't always seen with T'Challa and Ororo because he has often abandoned her for the greater good and the safety of Wakanda in other story arcs. It's not hard to wonder if he could ever put Ororo before his duty to his country, but given that Storm has been written as a woman who wouldn't even bat an eyelash at sacrificing herself to save him, it's extremely important to show that he could do the same. Black women deserve the reciprocation when it comes to knowing whether those they are willing to put it all on the line for are ready to do the same in return.

McDuffie’s respect of Storm and understanding of her character are evident in his arc, and this creative empathy adds new layers to her and T’Challa’s relationship. He allows the reader to see what it looks like when she isn’t minimized when she's with T’Challa or reduced to being his silent wife. Crucially, his writing of T’Challa as a loving husband who is able to relinquish power to his very capable partner is what really makes us want more of the couple together. Storm and Black Panther can be that power couple we deserve when they are written to compliment one another, and McDuffie showed not only that it's possible, but that it's refreshing when it happens.

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