Marvel's Black Panther is not just a warrior appointed to protect his high-tech home African nation of Wakanda, he's a prince under his father, King T'Chaka. T'Challa's (Chadwick Boseman) who serves as Black Panther finds his entry point into the Marvel Cinematic Universe during the political events of Captain America: Civil War.
This is why when it comes to choosing sides in the Civil War conflict, Black Panther is neither team Iron Man or team Cap. He's on his own side above the politics. He's on his own mission seeking out The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) for whatever he did or is being setup for.
It's a neat way to introduce the Black Panther character and establish more connections to Wakanda before exploring the character and nation in full in 2018 when the Black Panther solo film finally debuts. Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige tells Empire of the importance of this Phase 3 film, the last one to hit theaters before Avengers: Infinity War - Part 1.
“The one is important. Not only do you get an unbelievable lead character, but you also get all of Wakanda which is a whole new setting and culture to explore.”
Feige continues, confirming that Black Panther will star a "primarily African-American cast" and we suspect one of the non-African actors may be Martin Freeman's character who, like T'Challa, is introduced in Captain America: Civil War to return later. All the evidence seems to suggest Freeman could be playing Everett Ross from Marvel Comics, who appears in Black Panther stories as an expert on Wakanda.
As for the schedule for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has shifted multiple times as Spider-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp were added throughout the year, there's a reason Black Panther's release date was moved to early 2018.
“It's a big geo-political action adventure that focuses on the family and royal struggle of T'Challa in Wakanda, and what is means to be a king. T'Challa's story is very important to us as it links to the next Avengers films, which is why we brought it forward.”
The first film set in Wakanda will have a lot to do with Infinity War which means one of three things. One of the two remaining Infinity Stones (Soul and Time) has something to do with Wakanda, or taking a page from Jonathan Hickman's modern Avengers and New Avengers comics, Thanos' invasion of Earth includes an attack on Wakanda. Perhaps the former could be used to help explain why Wakanda is the only location on Earth where the rare powerful metal known as Vibranium (used to make Cap's shield) is found. The third option is that Black Panther has something to do with rallying the New Avengers in time for the beginning of Infinity War.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange - November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - May 5, 2017; Spider-Man - July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok - November 3, 2017; Black Panther - February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 - May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp - July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel - March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.
Sources: Empire (via CBM)