Killmonger can return in Black Panther 2 without ruining the end of the original Black Panther. With T'Challa and the rest of Wakanda back from the dead after Avengers: Endgame, all eyes are on where the Black Panther sequel will take the franchise.
Black Panther was as much a cultural event as a superhero blockbuster, and it's going to be a real challenge to repeat that. At the moment, it looks as though Marvel's strategy is to ensure all the key players from the first film are involved in the sequel. Ryan Coogler is reportedly on board to both write and direct Black Panther 2, with production expected to begin in late 2019 or early 2020, most likely ahead of a February 2021 release. Obviously, Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett will be back as the Wakandan royal family, T'Challa, Shuri and Ramonda respectively, as will Danai Gurira as Okoye and Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia.
So far, little is known of the plot, although a Namor tease in Avengers: Endgame hinted at Atlantis joining the fray. However, he's not the antagonist that's got everybody talking. That's the rumors that Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger will be among those returning in Black Panther 2. And that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
Killmonger Died In Black Panther (& That Was Very Important)
If there was one consistent criticism of the MCU's first decade, it was the disposable villains who were little more than mirrors to the heroes and typically dead by the time the credits rolled. Recently, there's been moves to change that, with more time invested in antagonists and many - including Zemo, Ghost, and Yon-Rogg - kept alive. But none have been as resounding a rebuke as Killmonger.
On paper, of course, it was the same old story. Erik Stevens was created in the classic Marvel villain pattern, a twisted mirror-image of the hero, and at the end of Black Panther he was stabbed in the gut with his own weapon. However, along the way he was gifted a warped hero's journey; Killmonger may have been the villain of Black Panther, but his origin and core drive were tragic. The only difference between him and T'Challa was how they approached the world.
Killmonger's death was thus a beautiful, powerful scene, as he finally got to see the sun set over Wakanda. T'Challa offered mercy, suggesting that Wakandan science could still save him, but Killmonger rejected that offer. "Just bury in the ocean," he told the King, "with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, 'cause they knew death was better than bondage."
Killmonger's death was an important part of Black Panther's story. Over the course of the film, T'Challa had been grappling with how Wakanda's isolationist policies meant the country had failed in its responsibility to engage with the rest of the world, and while Killmonger presented a brash alternative, he taught a new, outward thinking way. The King dropped millennia of Wakandan tradition, opening the country's borders to the world to launch social and scientific missions to the West. Killmonger's brief reign, and his death at the hands of Black Panther, are therefore one of the defining moments in the history of Wakanda.
Michael B. Jordan Is Rumored To Be Returning For Black Panther 2
In spite of Killmonger's death, there have long been rumors that writer-director Ryan Coogler has approached Jordan to return for Black Panther 2. They started as early as May last year, and although they were never officially confirmed, gave nevertheless caught public interest. Interviewers swiftly asked Jordan if he was willing to return, and he was very much in favor.
"I mean, I'm a fan, as you said, of Marvel, of comic books, everybody knows that. So I mean if there was ever an opportunity for me to come back and like join this universe and work with like Joe Russo, Kevin Feige, Victoria [Alonso], and everyone over there at Marvel, re-team with Ryan [Coogler] you know, of course I would."
More recently, the rumors were reencouraged by Angela Bassett and her husband, Courtney B. Vance, on the red carpet of the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January. The couple were asked if the cast (who had just won the big ensemble prize) would all return for the sequel, and although the two initially hedged their bets, they finally confirmed it. "Yes," Vance responded in the end. "Just go ahead and say it, yes. Everyone will be there... Even Michael B." Chadwick Boseman was a little more circumspect in April, though, during an interview with MTVNews. "I can’t speak on [Jordan's return]," he insisted, "I can’t tell you what I think about it. If I tell you what I think about it, it would be revealing something."
While none of this is decisive proof, it looks as though something is going on. But how could Marvel bring back Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger in Black Panther 2 without negating the powerful scene in which the character died?
Could Killmonger Be On The Ancestral Plane?
"In my culture, death is not the end," T'Challa told Black Widow in Captain America: Civil War. "It's more of a stepping-off point. You reach out with both hands, and Bast and Sekhmet, they lead you into the green veldt where you can run forever." Black Panther revealed that Wakandan religion has a basis in T'Challa's own experiences; when he consumes the Heart-Shaped Herb, he is able to enter the Ancestral Plane, and commune with the spirits of his ancestors. In a Black Panther film, death is no barrier to a character's return.
It's true that this does potentially raise the possibility of resurrection. Indeed, in the comics, Wakanda has a mystic Resurrection Altar, a site where the spilling of blood can raise the dead. In fact, Killmonger himself has been resurrected at that altar. But while this approach works in the comics, which famously have something of a revolving-door approach to death, it would seriously detract from the themes and ideas presented in the first Black Panther film. It's better for Killmonger to remain dead.
But the Ancestral Plane does raise the possibility of a very different return. Killmonger was a Wakandan, and he even imbibed the Heart-Shaped Herb. It's reasonable to assume that his spirit has passed on to the Ancestral Plane, and that he now "lives" with his true ancestors. That's actually quite a beautiful thought, suggesting that Wakanda's lost son was embraced by Wakanda after his death, and that he has potentially even found a measure of peace. If this is the case, then should T'Challa revisit the Ancestral Plane, he could meet Killmonger rather than his father and get advice in fighting a new threat from an old foe.
If Black Panther 2 is going to match Black Panther's immense thematic grounding, it's going to have to go deeper into its titular hero's psyche. And who better did that in the original than Killmonger?
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