Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for Avengers: Infinity War
In the wake of Avengers: Infinity War, it's time for Shuri to embrace the mantle of the Black Panther. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler actually considered setting up Letitia Wright's character for that role in the solo film. It sadly didn't happen, but official concept art has given an idea of what Shuri could look like as her brother's successor.
The close of Infinity War saw Thanos achieve his insane goal of "rebalancing the universe." He erased half the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers, and almost all the heroes from Phases 2 and 3 were turned into ash. Black Panther was one of the heroes to disappear, to the horror of Okoye, who could only watch as her friend and king vanished before her eyes.
It seems likely that there'll be a time-jump between Infinity War and Avengers 4. The Russo brothers seem more aware of continuity than many of Marvel's directors, and are keen to stick to a timeline. So far, their MCU movies have been explicitly set in the year of their release, and dialogue has carefully established the passage of time. If the Russos hold true to that pattern, then Wakanda will be without King T'Challa for a full year. Only Shuri, King T'Chaka's other child, could step into the gap T'Challa has left.
Wakanda Is In Crisis
The fictional African nation of Wakanda is possibly facing its greatest crisis since it was first established 10,000 years ago. The disappearance of T'Challa has left Wakanda bereft of both King and Black Panther. It's important to understand that the Black Panther is the crux of Wakandan culture, which is dedicated to the worship of the Panther God. The Black Panther is Wakanda's champion, its defender, the symbol around which the entire nation rallies. And now the Black Panther has crumbled to dust before the eyes of Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje.
Worse still, this comes in the aftermath of Killmonger's short-lived coup. As part of his attempt to secure his power-base, Killmonger had the Wakandan priests destroy all of the Heart-Shaped Herb. 10,000 years ago, Bashenga, the first Black Panther, had learned that ingesting this herb would grant superhuman powers. He used these powers to unify the tribes and found the Wakandan nation, with the Herbs cultivated in a ceremonial environment for his successors. It's actually possible that no stocks of the Heart-Shaped Herb exist in the wild. If that's the case, the line of the Black Panthers would seem to be at an end.
Making matters worse, the effect of Thanos's finger-snap will no doubt be global chaos. Wakanda traditionally depends upon both the Black Panther and the Border Tribe as its defenders. Not only is the Black Panther gone, the Border Tribe's numbers were depleted during Killmonger's coup as well. Now, in the aftermath of Thanos's attack, both the Dora Milaje and the Jabari Tribe's warriors have also been cut down. Adding to the chaos, the end of Infinity War will have seen mass disappearances across the nation - including among its surviving defenders. Wakanda is more vulnerable than it has ever been before. The country needs a Black Panther.
The Comic Book Precedent
This raises two questions. Firstly, is it possible for a Black Panther to not have powers? And secondly, could Shuri be the right person for the role? Both questions are answered by Reginald Hudlin's 2009 Black Panther series. This saw T'Challa critically wounded after a clash with Doctor Doom. With the Black Panther left in a coma, it fell to his sister Shuri to take up the mantle of Black Panther. Initially rejected by the Panther God due to her overconfidence, Shuri still chose to fight in defense of her people, thus proving herself worthy of the Panther God's blessing. When T'Challa finally recovered, Wakanda was left with not one but two Black Panthers, for the first time in the country's history.
It's true that the MCU version of Shuri is very different to the comic book version. The Shuri of the MCU is younger and less physically capable, but also smarter. She's the head of the Wakandan Design Group, responsible for many of Wakanda's innovations in recent years. Her technological prowess gave T'Challa his unique costume, and created innovative "Kitten's Claws" that she can use to deadly effect. There's no reason Shuri couldn't use her genius to arm herself, becoming a whole new type of Black Panther - a hero whose remarkable science gives her an edge. The symbolic value of this act alone would be massive, giving Wakanda a champion to rally around. Given Shuri will also likely inherit the throne due to her brother's absence, donning the ceremonial role of the Black Panther could be a wise move.
Meanwhile, it's worth noting that we don't actually know that the Heart-Shaped Herb has been rendered extinct. It is possible that some of the plants still exist in the wild, somewhere in the Wakandan mountains. If that's the case, Wakanda has actually had a couple of years to explore and find these wild stocks, so there may actually be samples of the Heart-Shaped Herb available for Shuri to ingest. Certainly T'Challa's mysterious death would give Shuri a new reason to find such stocks; could she meet him on the Ancestral Plane, or has he been completely eradicated from existence?
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019