So for the last few months I’ve been following the Black Panther storyline which led to Doomwar: an all out war between the Black Panthers, and some of Marvel’s other superheroes against Dr. Doom.
I have to say I was disappointed. Not so much because the plot was bad but because as a writer and as a fan, there were so many opportunities to make Doomwar one of the most memorable company-wide storylines ever. The fact the ball got dropped on a an event that featured characters of color as the lead protagonists doesn’t make me comfortable either.
So indulge me as I share my views on what was done wrong, what was done right, and in my opinion what should’ve happened to make Doomwar epic.
Synopsis: Wakanda has been conquered, its Vibranium reserves plundered. Storm faces execution in the next 48 hours. And Dr. Doom stands triumphant. It will take the combined forces of the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the two Black Panthers to stand against him. A war has begun that will pit the world’s most relentless super-villain against a collection of the world’s most powerful super heroes — one that will span the globe, offering twists and turns and surprise players that neither side will see coming.
As most of you know, the Black Panther is one of my favorite titles.It’s one of the few titles which celebrates African culture/three-dimensional compelling black characters with respectability. The art is enjoyable and the stories are a perfect blend of action, adventure, fantasy and conscious social political commentary. For 15 minutes I’m taken to a world where being black isn’t a scarlet letter but a badge of honor, one of Vibranium even.
Despite all of the criticism he’s received, I especially enjoyed Reginald Hudlin’s run on the series before Jon Maberry took over. Don’t get it twisted, my feelings for Hudlin are ambivalent at best. On one hand, he was the former president of entertainment for BET: Black Exploitation Television and therefore my arch nemesis. On the other hand, this is the man who co-wrote the brilliant and critically acclaimed Birth of a Nation with Aaron McGruder before they parted ways.
For a list of reasons too long to mention in this post, Storm is my comic book character (along with Cyclops). I think the fact that one of the most iconic superheroes in all of comics is a black woman, is a testament to the phenom that is the Mistress of the Elements. I would also argue that she’s the first lady of Marvel Comics. Some would contend that Ororo’s BFF Sue Storm has rights to that title and I’ll be the first to concede that a very strong argument can be made for her as well. Regal, intelligent, beautiful, and powerful, Storm debunks many of the deplorable stereotypes that inundate those of us of Nubian descent. And to have said character actually lead the premiere superhero team in comics and not be the comic relief or the sidekick, that’s virtually unheard of. Many white fans might take such things for granted but for minorities who are still treated as second class citizens, that’s a major turning point for us.
T’Challa, in my opinion, is Marvel’s answer to Bruce Wayne. The pinnacle of human perfection and a prodigy in pique physical condition. A man of science and a man of mysticism (though the latter hadn’t been explored as often because T’Challa prefers technology), T’Challa is arguably the closest heroic counterpart to Dr. Doom so I was more than happy to see what would transpire when those two mixed it up. Suffice to say seeing a a powerful and well-developed black king is something of a win for this fan of color. While T’Challa is one of the premiere heroes of Marvel, he rarely, if ever, gets the proper exposure and treatment as his caucasian counterparts.
As much as I adore both T’Challa and Storm, I have not been a fan of their marriage which came across as an over-hyped publicity stunt and Marvel’s rendition of Pair-Up The Negro. While the two had a brief past, the way it was reintroduced just came out of nowhere. And the fact that interference (and cockblocking) was run on Storm almost becoming romantically linked with Wolverine, Marvel’s golden white mary sue, doesn’t sit well with me either. While Storm and Wolverine have been romantically linked in the Ultimate universe and other alternate realities, I have no doubt that despite the few interracial relationships in comics, this high profile pairing would’ve resulted in some serious Racefail in fandom. Marvel’s top hero is in love with a black girl OH NOES!!!!!!!!!!!! If T’Challa was going to hook up with a super heroine, he should’ve married Monica Rambeaux. They actually have history that doesn’t come off as contrived or forced. If the powers that be were hellbent on going through the pairing of T’Challa and Ororo, what should’ve happened was that they should’ve allowed the romance to build up for at least a year, if not longer before even delving into the marriage.
But I won’t lie, Storm’s wedding gown was off the chain. Interesting fact, it was designed by the costume designers of former soap opera Guiding Light. Much like Storm, the dress can be summed up in one word: FIERCE!!!
Okay fine, if Storm and T’Challa were to be married then Doomwar should’ve paid off the elements that Hudlin implemented earlier in his run after they were wedded. You see some of the top brass in the White House and the military actually feared T’Challa and Storm pairing up as Marvel’s latest super couple. Makes sense. After all, T’Challa was the ruler of one of the most powerful nations on the planet. Storm is one of the most respected leaders of the X-Men and is connected with the mutant population. On top of that the two are former Fantastic Four members and between the two of them they’ve got ties to the Avengers, X-Men and every major player in the 616 Marvel universe. In short, they could serve as the bridge in consolidating all of Marvel’s super powers.
Which is exactly what should’ve happened when Doom struck.
My biggest issue with Doom as a character is that he’s too much of a caricature and is essentially portrayed as a parody of himself. Yes writers, there is such a thing as making a Mary Sue out of your villains. Really Panther God? All futures converge on Doom being victorious? Really? He’s just that magically speshul? Really? And it isn’t even the fact that he’s one of Marvel’s most brilliant yet diabolical minds: a tyrannical fascist power-addicted megalomaniac dictator who is an expert authority on science, sorcery and outright douchebaggery. No, all of that I can roll with. But more often than not, he’s portrayed as a one-dimensional narcissist. He reminds me of the type of roleplaying character a Jeff Albertson type of fanboy would play.
Fanboy: I’m Dr. Doom and you can’t hurt me. I’ve got +300 on defense, attack x1000, 1 million hp, 2 trillion xp, and I’m immune to all physical, mystical and mental attacks. Also I have +bazillion on charm and beauty.
GM: But your face is charred and you wear a mask.
Fanboy: It doesn’t matter. I’m Doom and I’m holy and pure and innocent and good.
GM: You can’t be good, your alignment is pure evil.
Fanboy: But I’m so evil that I’m good. Because I’m Doom.
GM: Dude, let me see your character stats sheet.
Fanboy: [balls up sheet and swallows it]…….Um no.
Sadly I’ve GM’ed a few guys like said fanboy. Say what you will about Darkseid, at least he has subtlety and nuance. He doesn’t have to profess every five seonds how much of a badass he is, because his rep speaks for him. One of his coolest traits is that he doesn’t lie, because deceit would mean he has something to fear. Lex Luthor might be a pompous ruthless bastard but he has layers and dimensions. If he’s outmatched, he won’t engage in a pissing contest like Doom would. What he will do is bide his time, maneuver to a better position and then strike. That’s why even though there are legions of other beings who have vast more powers and abilities, he’s still arguably the most dangerous man in the DC universe. Interesting how Superman’s best friend (Batman) and worst enemy are two sides of the same coin because T’Challa, Doom, Bruce Wayne, Luthor and for that matter Shuri are all self-made prodigies. But only Doom comes across as a parody in his portrayals. Julian McMahon probably gave the best portrayal of Doom in the Fantastic Four films. Yes, I went there. And yes I despised the films.
Doom had achieved the unthinkable in conquering Wakanda. This should’ve been the big payoff where not only does the power of T’Challa and Storm’s marriage and connections bear fruit, but this should’ve been the downfall of Doom; similar to when Kingpin was brought down and lost everything at the hands of Daredevil.
Hear me out. Doom has been public enemy number one for virtually every superhero out there: The Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Captain America, Doctor Strange, the X-Men, X-Factor, Thor, Black Panther, hell even the Power Pack have had to travel to Latveria to go fuck him up.
Between the siege on Asgard and now Wakanda, T’Challa and Storm should’ve united the other heroes together and stated that Doom has become a global threat and he needs to be put down once and for all. This could’ve been Doom with the Vibranium vs. the Marvelverse with T’Challa, Storm and Shuri leading the charge. For once we would have a company-wide event with POCs as the actual focus. This would’ve led to other stories about T’Challa and Storm being a threat for having too much power as a married couple (and those stories would parallel on the debates going on about black people now that we have a black president in office). Because trust, two Negroes having that kind of power WILL NOT sit well with white folks. Don’t believe me? Ask the Blue Marvel or the original Captain America. After defeating Doom, he would’ve lost everything (at least for awhile) and would’ve been forced to rebuild (years down the road). This would’ve led to new stories and new developments and would’ve changed the landscape of the 616.
But alas a world of no. Instead what we get is the cliched plot of misunderstandings and hoodwinkings as Doom plays our heroes like a bunch of gullible pre-schoolers. What we see are excuses get made as to why the other heroes don’t rally and why Doom will get away with yet another scheme. You can’t invade Latveria? Really? After all the shit he’s pulled? And after Civil War? What’s the point of Shield again? And when Storm needs backup from the X-men, all she gets are like 6 X-Men for a black ops mission. Seriously? 400 frakking mutants on that damn island and you can only send 6 to aid one of the most decorated and respected X-Men leaders? Really Scott? You know what Summers, I’m not even mad at you. I know who was behind that play.
That’s right Emma, I’m looking at your spiteful scandalous ass. I know you used your psionics on him. It’s no secret you and Storm have had a fierce rivalry for years, going back to your days in the Hellfire Club. Especially in your neverending quest to prove that you’re some kind of Ice Queen Bee. This is also why Emma has clashed with every major X-Woman in her quest for dominance: Rachel, Kitty Pride, Dani, Rogue, Wolfsbane, Storm, X-23, the list goes on and on.
It’s interesting because I’ve stated before that Jean is the quintessential ingeniue: the girl next door who is coming to terms with her vast power while Emma is the anti-Jean; the accomplished femme fatale, the bad girl, regal, refined powerful. Storm is a hybrid of the two which is why she and Jean were close and yet she has a bitter rivalry with Emma. And she ain’t fooling anybody. Emma is still in cahoots with Doom, Loki and the rest of the Cabal.
Of course I’m almost convinced that the current Emma isn’t the real Emma Frost but a Skrull spy left over from the Skrull invasion. Because villainous Hellfire Club Emma Frost, badass. You couldn’t fuck with her. Generation-X Emma Frost, the shit!!! This train wreck right here, a hot mess. And by the by Emma, any time you live on an island with hundreds of people and your man STILL has to go to the mainland and bribe relative strangers to be your friend and hang out with you for your birthday because every one else fucking hates you (see Heralds), that’s kind of a neon sign that you’re what we would call A LOSER!!!!!
And…..the one cool surprise element that did show up got spoiled. Bringing in Deadpool as a wildcard was a nice play which would’ve been nicer had it not been spoiled by the cover.
It also doesn’t sit well with me that the Vibranium got destroyed at the end because this will in fact depower Wakanda and I fear they will never return to the status they once had. I’m uncomfortable with this because typically when POCs get depowered or demoted, they usually stay that way, unlike their caucasian counterparts. I wasn’t worried about the Asgardians when they had to rebuild because I knew the writers would take care of them with the care and respectability that they deserved. A powerful and proud and advanced African civilization……well we’ve seen the well-documented racefail in comics before.
And speaking of Wakanda, the country is often criticized they are so advanced and yet they don’t share their technology or resources with the rest of the world. While I’ll be the first to concede that their policy is dubious at best, they do have a valid point. One of the points made by the Wakandan leaders is that the rest of the world has the technology and means to be equally as advanced as Wakanda but fail because the rest of the world is committed to greed and institutional oppression. Furthermore the Wakandans stated that they would share their resources as soon as other nations cease their never-ending quest to conquer and plunder. Sadly they’re not wrong on this. After all, handing over their science to our world leaders wouldn’t be unlike handing over matches to children. Furthermore, Wakandans being distrustful of the rest of the world (specifically western civilization and Europeans), is no different from the way that most underwater kingdoms (see Fathom, Aquaman, Namor) keep themselves isolated in order to protect themselves from oppressive land dwelling humans who poison the seas (and I know the merfolks must be loving BP at this point), it’s the same with them staying closed off and keeping their technologies in order to make certain said technology isn’t used against them, or being conquered by Europeans.
Wakanda is not unlike the United States and other countries who maintain a strict isolationist policy unless our interests are directly affected or we have something to gain by getting involved. Hell, how much pushback was do we see every time we give aid to underdeveloped countries? Which begs the question if the US or any other country was completely self sufficient and didn’t need to trade with other countries, wouldn’t they do the exact same thing if not worse?
I am a bit worried about where things will go and what this means for one of the premiere black comic book stories. One of the appeals about the Black Panther/Wakanda is that they were one of the most formidable and accomplished people in the 616. It’s not as if there’s an abundance of POCs in comics and it’s even more rare to see us in roles other than the sidekicks supporting the caucasian protagonists.
So much I could’ve done with this story. Damn. Doomwar would’ve put every previous company-wide event in recent memory to shame. Granted that’s not saying much but still.
Despite my disappointment, the storyline did offer a few gems. I was glad to see T’Challa’s character evolving beyond the Black Panther mantle, very much akin to Steve Rogers being more than Captain America. Shuri has progressed from T’Challa’s brash and hot-headed baby sister to a powerful and mature warrior queen. Speaking of which, when she clashed against Namor, Marvel’s other hot-headed loose cannon, I was sitting here thinking that those two would make such an excellent pair. And there is that whole Cat/Fish dynamic. But Alas, Namor is gonna be chasing after the Frost skrull. It’s also amazing to see both Shuri and Storm in action. Two different yet phenomenal and powerful black women together. In comics, that never happens. Furthermore, why Storm hasn’t been utilized by Marvel baffles me to no end. She’s long past due for her own series.
Based on what I’ve read here, it appears that big plans are on the horizon for both Panthers. Mainly they’re looking to reinsert them with the rest of the 616 heavy-hitters. That gives me some optimism. Hopefully this will lead to T’Challa, Shuri, and Storm being showcased as the premiere heroes in the 616, which let’s face it, is long past due.
Suffice to say, I’ll be watching. Closely. Very closely.