Is Lupita Nyong'o The Secret Villain Of Black Panther?

Lupita Nyong'o as Naika in Black Panther

Note: This article is entirely speculative and not based upon any knowledge of the film's content.

With Black Panther looking to break from the typical superhero movie formula, could we see Dora Milaje member Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) emerge as another foe for the king? From T'Challa's appearance in Captain America: Civil War alone it was clear that the Black Panther was no ordinary hero. Both the protector and now the king of a reclusive yet powerful nation, T'Challa has an entirely different prerogative from other costume-wearing saviors. He's not a vigilante or secret agent, but rather the anointed guardian of an entire country. Add in Black Panther's African setting and mostly black cast, and it's clear the film will be quite unique in the comic book adaptation landscape.

This originality and focus on traditionally underrepresented people and places has been a big part of why so much buzz is surrounding Black Panther ahead of its release. Despite the draw of many recent comic book films, Black Panther is outpacing every superhero film for ticket pre-sales. It's clear that the movie will make a big splash on opening weekend and should continue to break records for a solo film. And early social media reactions from those who have seen Black Panther confirm that it takes risks and carves its own path in a crowded blockbuster landscape.

Read More: Black Panther Social Media Reactions Praise MCU’s Best Villain Yet

Part of the acclaim for Black Panther certainly stems from its refreshing setting and perspective, but the film has also been singled out for its top-tier villain in Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). We had claims early on that Klaue is Black Panther's real villain, but rather than that being a ruse it seems he'll fill the traditional roguish role while Killmonger will be more of a sympathetic antagonist. He won't be alone, either, as many factions will be vying for Wakanda's throne. But amidst all the chaos, could one of T'Challa's fiercest allies turn against him and follow her arc from the comics?

This Page: Will Nakia Become The Villain Malice?

Will Nakia Become The Villain Malice in Black Panther?

Okoye, Nakia, and Ayo in Black Panther

Though Black Panther may be impressing audiences so far by bucking certain superhero and MCU trends, it's still a Marvel film at the end of the day. That means a big twist is likely to occur in the narrative that will take moviegoers by surprise. A notable recent example was the reveal that the Vulture was Liz's father in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was a genuine shock and only added to the humanization of the film's antagonist. It's clear that Killmonger follows a similar path in Black Panther, but it seems unlikely the big twist will tie into him given how open he seems about his motivations. He could be connected to the upset, however, thanks to some comic book precedent.

During our set visit interview with Lupita Nyong'o, the actor discussed how much her character Nakia will be drawn from the comics. In the film, the Dora Milaje warrior is also a War Dog, a member of the elite bodyguard force that works outside of Wakanda on various missions. We've heard Black Panther is the James Bond of the MCU, and Nakia's adventures abroad are certainly a key part of this. But like Killmonger, Nakia's distance from her home country could see new ideas blossom in her mind. And when the villain emerges to turn Wakanda on its head, there's reason to believe Nakia could join him.

Nakia debuted in 1998's Black Panther #1 by Christopher Priest. Viewed by many as one of the most definitive Black Panther arcs in the comics, Priest's run established Nakia as a loyal member of the Dora Milaje before an accident left her abandoned and on the verge of death. In stepped Killmonger, who used arcane magic to not only revive Nakia, but give her new strength and abilities. Taking the name Malice, Nakia became an ally of Killmonger's and a formidable foe for T'Challa. With Nakia specifically selected as the key Dora Milaje member who works outside of Wakanda in Black Panther, and given Killmonger's revolutionary motivations, a similar turn could be in store for Nyong'o's character.

RELATED: A Deeper Explanation of Nakia’s Intriguing Role in Black Panther

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Key Release Dates
  • Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
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