By TJ Dietsch
The day Black Panther left Wakanda to find himself in New York City's Hell's Kitchen, fate's wheels started pushing him towards an inevitable confrontation with that area's heaviest of heavies, The Kingpin. Both have gone through changes recently and now stand in complete opposition to one another. Their long-awaited clash will kick off in November's BLACK PANTHER: THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN ALIVE #525 with writer David Liss and artist Shawn Martinbrough at the helm.
“It wasn't part of a master plan, but it's only a few steps from Black Panther in Hell's Kitchen to Black Panther coming up against the Kingpin,” Liss says. “He's one of the great villains of all time, and right from the beginning I knew I'd love to see the two of them have a deep and serious conflict.”
The feud runs deeper than your average good guy versus bad guy set-up, stemming from their idealistic differences as well as something huge and nefarious Kingpin has planned.
“This isn't just Kingpin being bad and Black Panther happens to be the designated hero,” Liss explains. “These two characters are seriously at odds and each has a whole lot to lose. One of these two characters is going to have to lose and lose big. This is for keeps. I don't want to give away any details here, but I will say that given what Wilson Fisk is planning, there was no way he wasn't going to run into T'Challa. He thinks he's ready. We'll see.”
While the Panther left Wakanda as well as his powers and tech behind to see how he handles himself on his own in the big, bad city, Kingpin played a major role in stopping a possessed Matt Murdock during Shadowland, then swooped in to take over The Hand.
“His scope and interests have changed,” Liss says of Fisk. “He's more than just an organized crime lord. He's after big things and real international and political power. This is villainy on a global scale.”
Kingpin will employ the army of Hand assassins he now leads in addition to deadly players like Lady Bullseye and Typhoid Mary against T’Challa.
“It won't be easy, but it doesn't hurt to be the most dangerous man alive,” Liss says of Black Panther's chances against these overwhelming odds. “T'Challa needed to prove some things to himself, and he needed to find out how far he could go without his traditional powers and Wakandan tech. He's not prideful to the point of self-destruction, however, and he'll be getting some help on this one. You'll have to wait to find out who [he turns to], but he's got some friends to call on and more than a few tricks up his sleeve. Typhoid Mary is so deliciously insane, and I've thought Lady Bullseye was a fantastic character from the moment [writer] Ed Brubaker introduced her.”
While Black Panther and Kingpin's worlds tend not to intersect, Liss enjoyed mashing them up and watching the resulting fireworks.
“What I love about this arc is that it all makes sense and their conflict builds on other realities of the Marvel Universe,” says the writer. “Besides, as we mentioned before, it makes a great deal of sense that anyone making trouble in Hell's Kitchen is going to run into the Panther sooner or later—probably sooner.”
Used to dealing with heroes like Spider-Man and Daredevil who refrain from killing their enemies, Kingpin better watch his back as T'Challa does not always subscribe to that kind of behavior.
“In previous stories, especially during [writer] Christopher Priest's run, it's been made clear that T'Challa will not kill for the sake of simplicity,” Liss notes. “Given that Wilson Fisk is the head of the world's deadliest organization of assassins, killing The Kingpin outright is not so simple. On the other hand, maybe T'Challa has something in mind that's even better than killing him.”
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