A comic event can make drastic changes to the status-quo very quickly. We've seen this happen countless times. It's no question that writers often use events to propel their own agendas and get things to change fast, rather than having to develop a huge story to evoke those changes.
In a single issue characters can die, they can become possessed, they can switch alliances, their marriages can fall apart -- all in the blink of an eye; or in the case of Marvel's AVENGERS VS. X-MEN event, all in one issue. It's hard to believe that a marriage and relationship that took writer Reginald Hudlin years to build could all be torn down in literally one panel like the marriage of Storm and T'Challa was in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #9. If you haven't read the issue yet then, spoiler alert, the two are no longer married thanks to the High Priest of Wakanda's (T'Challa) annulment of their marriage. In fact, we mentioned the dissolution of their marriage in a recent article, but we didn't get into a whole lot of depth, which is why we're talking about it now.== TEASER ==
Regardless of how you felt about these two characters while they were married, you might agree that the way their marriage ended was rather bizarre. Aside from the fact that the whole scene was really disheartening and humiliating for Storm's character, it also made T'Challa look like a complete jerk; particularly since he blamed his now ex-wife for something he knew was coming (the destruction of Wakanda). But aside from the fact that both these characters looked bad, the way the creative team approached the dissolution of their marriage is a good example of the poor treatment of marriages in comic books.
Before we get into all of that, let's take a step back to analyze what really happened. Before the release of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #9, Black Panther appeared in Jonathan Hickman's FANTASTIC Four #608. In this issue, T'Challa travels to Necropolis with Reed Richards and is met by a spirit of the Panther God, the same entity that bestowed the duties and responsibilities of the Black Panther onto T'Challa and then later, to his sister Shuri. There is a scene about halfway through the issue where we see the Panther God touch T'Challa's head; as though he is enlightening him and showing him a vision. In this vision, (which is illustrated on the following page in the issue) T'Challa sees a "great fire in the sky," (the Phoenix Force) and is told that "that fire will bring a great flood [to Wakanda]." T'Challa witnessed the coming destruction of Wakanda brought on by the Phoenix Force -- so when it actually happens in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, why did it come as such a surprise to him? And why didn't T'Challa tell Storm about the vision? I feel like a flood is something that the Goddess of Weather could do something to help control -- even stop. Rather than approaching his wife, T'Challa dissolves their marriage acting as if it never happened: embarrassing her and treating it as though she is to blame for Wakanda's destruction. Now, that's not exactly the way two married people act, even in a crisis; and it's a poor reflection of married couples in comic books. When two married people disagree, they normally have enough respect for one another to talk things through. You can't just up and divorce someone because you feel like it. The scene in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #9 was a great disservice to both characters. It made T'Challa appear too arrogant for his own good, and it made Storm look weak and unimportant. T'Challa essentially placed the blame on Ororo for the destruction of Wakanda when he knew it was coming all along (refer to the vision in FANTASTIC FOUR #608). This entire scene didn't really make sense considering T'Challa knew the destruction was coming, and Storm did not. Also, he really took the time to dissolve their marriage after Wakanda had been completely leveled? Why was that even a priority under those circumstances?
Yet, some would say the annullment of Storm and T'Challa's marriage is something they saw coming. Prior to the AVENGERS VS X-MEN event, Storm and T'Challa have been living relatively separate lives. While he took over as the "Black Panther: Man Without Fear" in Hells Kitchen (while Daredevil trekked 'cross country to try to figure things out), Storm was playing on Utopia with the X-Men, solving mutant and X-Men problems. The two would occasionally "Skype" as we witnessed on panel, but for the most part, T'Challa would ask that Ororo stay away. He often acted like he did not want her around, at least that's the way it's been in the last year or so of his appearances. Yet, it wasn't always this way. There was a time where these two would work together; when they had a respectful relationship.
Prior to their marriage issue, you might recall seeing a six-issue miniseries titled STORM that focused on the first meeting and the relationship between Black Panther and Storm. It was the story of how these two met and fell in love as children, and it outlined a very young, timid Ororo who was unsure of herself, and a somewhat overconfident T'Challa who had embarked on his "walkabout," and was traveling throughout Africa. It was as much a story about T'Challa's journey to become a warrior and Ororo's understanding of her own power as it was about the two of these characters falling in love. There were some great moments in this limited series, as well as some scenes that foretold of the way T'Challa would speak to Ororo in AVX #9 (his constantly putting her in her place). And while this series may have been well intentioned, it wasn't the best example of a solid foundation for their relationship.
A better example of their interactions and the way they could work well together was seen when the two appeared in FANTASTIC FOUR alongside the Thing and Johnny Storm. The run where these two characters take over for Sue and Reed while they go on their "second honeymoon" is a fantastic example of how it is possible to write these two characters well and depict them working together. Late writer Dwayne McDuffie stressed mutual respect between these two characters in his series; and it was obvious. He proved that while these two are very different, they can still be written in a way that demonstrates that they have respect for one another.
What is frustrating isn't just the way their marriage ended (which was pretty cold, mind you), but also the events that led up to the end of the only black marriage in Marvel comics. These two could have had a great marriage. They could have worked together (as we saw in FANTASTIC FOUR) and this event could have been used as a hurtle they would overcome together in order to build a stronger relationship as well as a stronger Wakanda. It's enough that there aren't a whole lot of black heroes in comics -- there aren't very many marriages in comics period. This marriage had the potential to succeed and to be strong. It had the potential to flourish and be interesting. It could have been a great example, but in the end it all fell flat. The real slap in the face is in the way it ended. As though the last six years never even happened. Now, it's not that I was a huge fan of these two together, I'm just saying I could have been if their marriage and their characters were treated differently. Instead, it feels like Marvel just didn't know what to do with Black Panther and Storm. What do you think?