How Killmonger stacks up against elite MCU bad guys
There's always quite a bit of debate whenever an attempt is made to rank the best villains of the MCU. Some fans loved the Mandarin twist in Iron Man 3, while others were infuriated by it. Many moviegoers loved how much personality the titular villain was given in Age of Ultron, others were annoyed by the bot's flippant attitude. So while there's no real consensus regarding middle of the road baddies like Aldrich Killian, Ego, and Obadiah Stane, there is some common ground to be found at the very ends of the best/worst spectrum.
Most would agree that Malekith, Whiplash, and Diamondback more than earned their places as the lamest bad guys the MCU has to offer. Similarly, few would argue that Loki, Wilson Fisk, and the Vulture don't rank among the shared universe's very best villains. (The Winter Soldier, Red Skull, Hela, and Kilgrave are also worthy of consideration for the latter category.) If Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger is on any end of the spectrum, it's certainly up there towards the top, but is he really better than the MCU's elite?
In a word...almost. He's definitely among the best, but it's hard to say he's more charismatic that Loki in The Avengers, more menacing than Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, or more flat-out terrifying than the Winter Soldier when he debuted in the second Captain America movie. Jessica Jones' Kilgrave is infinitely creepier, and Killmonger's character twist wasn't quite as unexpected as the Vulture's in Spider-Man Homecoming. Focusing in on singular traits doesn't tell the whole story, however, so overall (and this is strictly our opinion, and is therefore entirely subjective), we'd say that Killmonger is safely in the MCU's top five. In our book, he's not quite on par with Loki or Fisk, but he may well be the third best baddie in Marvel's shared universe. We'd be way more upset that we've likely seen the last of him if his death scene hadn't been so phenomenally well done.
Side note: with Vulture, Hela, and now Killmonger, the MCU has now hit with three inarguably great villains in a row. With Thanos finally coming to town, Marvel may finally be breaking past their villain problem. Hurray!
Heath Ledger Joker comparisons
We'll just state the obvious here and get it out of the way: no, Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger is not a better comic book villain than Heath Ledger's Joker. With a bit more screentime, it's conceivable that he may have approached Ledger-level awesomeness. But as it stands, Ledger's fearless, groundbreaking performance remains head and shoulders above all other comic book movie villains (arguably even movie villains as a whole). There's a reason he's the gold standard, folks.
It's an unfair comparison to say the least, so we should also clarify why we made it to begin with. A few weeks back, Jordan revealed in an interview that he considered Ledger's work in The Dark Knight to be a major influence on his own performance. He wasn't comparing himself to Ledger at all; he merely stated that he sought to achieve a similar level of greatness in Black Panther. That hasn't stopped countless fans and several publications (most notably Variety) from drawing parallels between the two, of course.
But no, MBJ's Killmonger doesn't quite stack up to the cinematic perfection that is Heath Ledger's Clown Prince of Crime. He's pretty damn fantastic, though.