This post contains potential spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
While the MCU tends to be far more faithful to the comics than many other live-action adaptations of superhero properties, they are still adaptations. Some deviation from the comics should be expected. For example, the James “Bucky” Barnes of Captain America comics was a plucky teen who donned a domino mask and a machine gun to fight Nazis in World War II, not the handsome contemporary to Steve Rogers seen in the films. Yondu is a mystical hunter who lives in harmony with other life forms in Guardians of the Galaxy comics, not the space redneck played by Michael Rooker. These types of changes continue with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which reimagines Namor the Sub-Mariner as a MesoAmerican, not from Atlantis but from Talocan.
But in an interview with Empire, Namor actor Tenoch Huerta revealed that one important part of the character’s comic mythos will remain intact. “According to Huerta, his Namor is indeed a mutant,” wrote author Ben Travis. For Huerta, the other changes from the character’s comic book roots are a necessary part of making the MCU mirror our own world. “You can take Atlantis from Greek myth, or you can adapt from a real culture,” he contended. Thus, instead of following the mythological elements of the character’s story that stem from European history, Huerta and director Ryan Coogler chose to reflect the diversity of the actual world. In doing so, they relocated Namor to Talocan, a paradise described in ancient Aztek writing.
Like everyone else involved with Wakanda Forever, Huerta does not provide much in the way of details about the film. However, he does let slip a little bit of information about the emergence of Namor. When T’Challa reveals Wakanda to the world at the end of Black Panther, that “decision puts Talocan in jeopardy,” revealed Huerta. “And Talocan has to take action to protect themselves.” When Namor arrives in Wakanda, he finds a nation that has lost its leader, which adds tension to the relationship between the two nations. For Huerta, that tension makes Namor “a dream antagonist.”
In that same Empire interview, MCU chief Kevin Feige revealed that Coogler had wanted a teaser for Namor at the end of the first film, showing “wet footprints leading up to the throne [of Wakanda]”. However, the decision to wait seems timely, precisely because of Namor’s mutant status. Introduced in 1939’s Marvel Comics #1 and created by Bill Everett, Namor is one of the oldest superheroes in the Marvel Universe and the first mutant, thanks to his Atlantean and human physiology. As a mutant, Namor has often interacted with the X-Men, although he prefers his throne to the current mutant nation of Krakoa.
By confirming Namor’s mutant status, Wakanda Forever continues the rise of mutants hinted at in Ms. Marvel and in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Instead of introducing mutants for the first time in an X-Men movie, these properties show that mutants have always been part of the MCU — just like the comics.