Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Wakanda TV series proves the Black Panther franchise is bigger than T’Challa

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Black Panther fans around the world still get along with it the tragic and unexpected death of Chadwick Boseman, the actor who transformed this Marvel hero into a cinematic icon. But even though Marvel made it clear they won’t recast the role of T’Challa in the MCU, the Black Panther franchise will continue. In fact, it’s only growing in the years to come, as we recently learned that Black Panther 2 director Ryan Coogler will, too. overseeing a Wakanda-focused TV series on Disney +This news highlights an important truth about Black Panther: The franchise has grown much bigger than T’Challa. Let’s take a closer look at why there is so much way to go, even though T’Challa’s story has ended prematurely.

Shuri as Black Panther: There’s Another

Even though it seemed like Boseman would remain an active part of the MCU after Avengers: Endgame, many fans assumed it would only be a matter of time until T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri, take over from Black Panther. This is what happened in the comics, especially in the Black Panther 2009 series. When his brother is seriously injured in an attack orchestrated by Doctor Doom, Shuri stands up to fill the void and lead. Wakanda in place of his brother.

Although Shuri’s tenure as Black Panther only lasted a few years, she still grew to be as much the face of the franchise as her brother. These days, Shuri has taken on a new, more spiritual role as the leader of the Dora Milaje and living link between the kingdom of Wakanda and the Djalia – the afterlife where the dead kings of the old gather to frame the current Black Panther. Whether or not Letitia Wright’s Shuri follows the same arc as the comic book version, it’s clear her story is only just beginning in the MCU. There’s no reason Marvel Studios can’t continue to develop the franchise with Shuri as the new center.

Is this a glimpse into the future of the MCU?

Really, the only thing stopping Shuri from getting into T’Challa’s ugly sandals is Wright’s recent story on social media scandals. We’ll see if that turns out to be a deciding factor for Disney. But luckily, even Shuri is just the tip of the Wakandan iceberg.

The Dora Milaje as heroes and villains

Captain America: Civil War in 2016 and Black Panther in 2018 introduced MCU fans to the Dora Milaje, the Grace Jones-like bodyguards who protect the king and the earth at all costs. Which begs a compelling question – if T’Challa is gone, where does that leave the women who have dedicated themselves to his care?

We already got a taste of this conflict in Avengers: Endgame, where we learned that Danai Gurira’s Okoye indeed became Wakanda’s steward after T’Challa and Shuri were dazzled by Thanos. Wakanda has been around for five years without a real monarch. Who can say everyone wants things to get back to normal after Endgame? With T’Challa (presumably) killed for good this time, or otherwise removed from the table, will the throne automatically be transferred to Shuri, or will a power struggle develop between Shuri and Okoye? And what about T’Challa’s * other * bodyguard force, Hatut Zeraze? We haven’t even met them in the MCU yet.

The Black Panther and Dora Milaje have a complex relationship that the MCU has barely begun to explore. As we saw in Lupita Nyong’o’s romance between T’Challa and Nakia, not all Dora Milaje are willing or able to put their personal desires above their duties. In fact, the comics established the Dora Milaje as ceremonial brides in T’Challa, essentially a way of keeping the peace between the various Wakandan tribes. Nakia herself undergoes a very dark turn and becomes a villain known as Malice, all after T’Challa was tricked into kissing her and “consuming” what was meant to be an entirely symbolic relationship. The MCU might not exactly follow that path, but it’s easy to see the Dora Milaje as a whole and Nakia in particular facing a very difficult road once they lose their King and Husband.

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Every Coming Movie and TV Show

The tribes of Wakanda

The opening of the first Black Panther movie shows us the origins of the Wakandan Kingdom, as we learn that the nation is made up of five tribes. Four of these tribes have united around the Black Panther and enjoy the prosperity that only a mountain full of vibranium could offer. Only the fifth, the Jabari tribe, chose to live apart from others and worship the white gorilla rather than the black panther.

Although these tribes have been mostly divided before, it’s easy to imagine the loss of T’Challa causing a new wave of civil unrest. How does a kingdom choose a new monarch when the old one is not there to participate in the usual rites? The question may become whether the Wakandans still want to exist as a monarchy or evolve into a democracy instead. This question has been at the heart of writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther comics for the past few years.

The good thing about losing T’Challa in the MCU is that it opens the door for other leaders from other tribes to take on bigger roles, whether in the sequel or the TV series. As it stands, Winston Duke’s M’Baku was one of the featured characters in the first Black Panther movie. Who would complain about seeing him more, or the other ambitious figureheads who see T’Challa’s downfall as an opportunity? Will M’Baku renew his quest for the throne or support someone like Shuri or Okoye?

Buyout for Killmonger?

Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is widely regarded as one of the best villains in the MCU. His bloodthirsty actions are contrasted by his tragic past and his clear motivations. While it certainly looks like his story will end in the first Black Panther movie, that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating on Killmonger’s return in the sequel. Even Jordan himself seems ready for the idea.

“To be in this world in a character that I loved to play and work with [writer/director Ryan Coogler] and all of that good stuff is family. We created a family there, ” he told People Magazine in January 2021. “So being in this world again is something that I think will always be on the table to some extent.”

It remains to be seen whether Coogler will choose to bring Killmonger back for the sequel. There are certainly many ways to explain this return, with Wakanda’s advanced technology and its close connection to the spiritual plane. The comics even offer an innovative solution, with the current volume of Black Panther featuring a new Killmonger who rules the intergalactic empire of Wakanda 2,000 years into the future.

Whether or not Killmonger will return has less to do with the how than if there’s another good story to be told with the character. The first film established him as a man who dreamed his whole life of living in Wakanda, only to become a hardened killer who almost destroyed the thing he coveted most. What happens if he gives him a second life and a chance to prove himself worthy of his ancestral home? If he’s still alive, does that technically give him a better claim to the throne than Shuri? Will we see Killmonger recast into a reluctant hero this time around? Anything is possible, which may be the best argument to make the character one of the driving forces of the franchise.

Every plot thread of the abandoned MCU

Kings of the Marvel Universe

Wakanda is an Afrofuturist utopia – a kingdom where advanced science and widespread prosperity make it the world’s largest and most mysterious superpower. But in the comics, Wakanda is one of many kingdoms ruled by superhuman monarchs. T’Challa is a man whose only true peers are other kings like Doctor Doom, Namor and Black Bolt. We’ve met the latter character before thanks to the critically-criticized Marvel TV show Inhumans, but the hope for many fans is that Doom and Namor will start playing major roles in the MCU over the next several years. And if that’s the case, there’s plenty of room for them to appear in Black Panther 2 and / or the Wakanda series.

Avengers: Endgame may have already set the stage for a conflict between Black Panther and Namor. Okoye refers to strange seismic activity off the coast of Africa, a seemingly random non-sequitur that may well herald the return of Atlantis. And given both its enduring popularity and the fact that a new Fantastic Four project is in the works, it goes without saying that Doom will be making his MCU debut at some point.

It’s a shame we’ll never get to see these characters interact with Boseman’s T’Challa. But even so, there’s no shortage of gold to mine from characters like Shuri and Okoye against arrogant kings like Namor and Doom. The MCU just might be on the way to a superhero-flavored Game of Thrones storyline. Who wouldn’t listen to this series?

Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by follow @jschedeen on Twitter.


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