(Warning: The following contains potential — albeit theoretical and comic book based — SPOILERS for future Marvel movies, as well as definite ones for the recent ‘Captain America: Civil War.’ Proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise.)
Now, T’Challa of Wakanda a.k.a. The Black Panther may not be the most powerful Marvel superhero out there, nor historically has he been the most important in terms of plot or prominence. An icon of superheroic Civil Rights, yes (and typically downright awesome), but not one who has tended to be in the thick of things within the Marvel comic book universe. The Black Panther, as a rule, hunts alone.
All of that, however, could soon be about to change. Y’see…
(Note: This is where those aforementioned SPOILERS really start to kick in.)
The MCU’s Black Panther Might Secretly Be Far More Important Than He’s Currently Letting On
Now, on the surface, Black Panther’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War seemed to reinforce most of the expectations comic book readers had for the hero. Acting alone for much of the movie, with his own true motivations often kept hidden from the heroes around him, Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa transferred a whole lot of what makes the comic book Black Panther so beloved onto the screen — in particular his inherent bad-assery.
The movie also hinted at something a little more out of the ordinary for the Wakandan king: An active role in the affairs of the world. By taking in Bucky in the film’s closing moments, it seems T’Challa may just have set himself — and the MCU as a whole — on a subtly different course to the Marvel comic book universe.
What Makes This Black Panther So Different, Though?
Well, for one thing, the idea of the Black Panther actively interfering in global geo-politics and superhuman affairs is (while not unknown in the comic books) very much not the norm. While the past decade has seen an unusually large amount of involvement from T’Challa in the comic books’ major events, the Wakandan king has traditionally kept himself (and his country) out of other’s affairs, while expecting those same others to do the same with his. His active interference with outside events has largely come through his membership of the Avengers, or through his brief stints spent living among the people of New York under an assumed identity.
The MCU’s Black Panther, on the other hand, just sheltered an international fugitive (Bucky Barnes) and actively aided and abetted another (Captain America). Add in his movie-long, law-defying manhunt, and his general air of outward-looking confidence, and it seems that the cinematic T’Challa is setting out on a very different path to his comic-book counterpart.
Which, as it turns out, is why…
Black Panther Could Grow More And More Important As The MCU Evolves
Y’see, the comic book Black Panther isn’t just the physically tough king of a super-advanced nation, he’s also one of the smartest men alive. Which, with the MCU only really having Tony Stark and Bruce Banner knocking around as resident super-geniuses, could well push T’Challa front and center should anything happen to one or both of the Science Bros.
Like, say, leaving Earth entirely (See: Bruce Banner in Thor: Ragnarok), or undermining your authority by causing two successive superhero-themed disasters (See: Tony Stark in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War). In other words? There’s a pretty solid chance that T’Challa is, over the course of Marvel’s Phase 3, going to become the MCU’s new resident super-genius. After all, there’s long been talk of Robert Downey Jr. taking a step back from the Iron Man armor (and the MCU) after Avengers: Infinity War, so there might just be a slot open for a shiny new “smart one.”
What’s more, with rumors flying around that Michael B. Jordan — — could be playing T’Challa’s equally intelligent (if a teensy bit malevolent) adopted brother, the White Wolf, there’s a distinct possibility that we could see the pair take over both Iron Man’s place as the MCU’s biggest brain, and Loki’s as its most gifted manipulator of men.
We just might have to wait until to find out and to see how fit into T’Challa’s role within the MCU.