Who Is the Real Villain of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?
Is Namor really the main antagonist of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? We examine the clues that point to some wild twists ahead.
The latest trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has very much pitched Namor as the leading antagonist of the movie. Every battle sequence previewed in the small selection of clips sees the Atlantean king as the aggressor in Wakanda. Comic book fans are well aware that in the source material, his motivations and actions stray far from the conventional villain though. In the most recent issue of Empire Magazine actor Huerta Tenoch confirmed as much, saying “Latin-Americans are always the bad guys in Hollywood movies. And now we are the heroes — or an anti-hero, in this instance.”
With the indication that the character on the screen will be just as gray in his moral compass as the classic figure from Marvel Comics, the question arises as to who could be the real villain of Black Panther 2. There are plenty of candidates that are already established, or are likely to appear in the near future. Each has a strong narrative link to the Wakandan sequel and would definitely be a compelling big bad (or even secondary antagonist) for the forces of this great nation to face off against.
Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger died in the climatic finale of Black Panther. The character is still considered to be one of the most well-defined antagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and fans have been keen to see more from the Wakandan outcast despite his definitive fate. Of course, Killmonger would return in a handful of appearances in Marvel’s What If…? on Disney+, but with the multiverse opening up, could it be plausible that a different iteration of Killmonger appears in Wakanda Forever?
While a twist that could see the son of N’Jobu reveal himself to be a villain once more might be intriguing, ultimately that does feel as if it both copies the original Black Panther and the surprise of What If…? Ultimately, while he’s a compelling candidate, Killmonger’s return would perhaps be the most shocking and yet predictable out of all the available options.
Everett K. Ross
Something odd is happening with Everett K. Ross. Martin Freeman’s CIA Agent has been confirmed to reappear in Wakanda Forever after becoming such a firm ally to the country in the original Black Panther, but there has always been something slightly untrustworthy about Ross, despite the heroic traits he displayed in service of King T’Challa. What’s even more mysterious is that the character is also slated to appear in Secret Invasion on Disney+, cameoing in the trailer for the espionage thriller.
While Ross might have once been an ally, it’s plausible that behind the scenes he is manipulating events that Wakanda isn’t aware of quite yet. Out of all the figures in the MCU, Everett K. Ross is one of the most likely to be a Skrull imposter. The question is, how much damage can he really do in his current capacity within the protected nation? If this is the oncoming twist, clearly the Skrulls feel he can do an adequate enough job destabilizing one of the most dangerous and powerful nations in the world.
Winston Duke’s M’Baku has boasted one of the most intriguing arcs in the franchise. The comic book villain known as Man-Ape might have posed a significant threat to the reign of King T’Challa in Black Panther, but by the finale of the film he had re-aligned himself with the throne. That alliance would be tested throughout the Infinity Saga, but the mighty ruler of the Jabari Tribe proved to be a tough leader in the face of Thanos’ invasion. That could all change with the tragic loss of the King.
M’Baku has already voiced his displeasure and distrust of Shuri and her role within the kingdom. He has shied away from further innovation and would not have been too keen to open up Wakanda to the world. Any change in leadership would, in his mind, further destablize the country that he is so surefast in conserving. He attempted to challenge for the throne once before, and there is nothing to say that M’Baku won’t try again.
Victor Von Doom
Marvel has done a fantastic job of keeping plenty of elements of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a secret. There have been rumors out there that characters like the Fantastic Four might make an appearance, but one unsubstantiated set of reports features the debut of Victor Von Doom in the movie. Doctor Doom’s presence has yet to be felt in the MCU, but with the collapse of Sokovia there have been hints that the territory is being redistributed, perhaps allowing for the rise of Latveria, Doom’s beloved home.
Wakanda Forever is all about kingdoms and their rulers. While Wakanda searches for a new leader, the Atlantean leader, Namor, is also marking his own dominance on the political landscape. Thematically speaking, it would make perfect sense for Doctor Doom to do the same, and perhaps even try to take advantage of the Vibranium resources on offer in Wakanda.
Attuma is another figure who has been confirmed for the film, portrayed by Alex Livinalli. Not much is known about the iteration of the figure that will be seen in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, but we did get a small preview of Attuma in the recent trailer. In the comics, Attuma is a significant rival to Namor and a major threat to Atlantis and the surface world. His potential impact on the movie should not be underestimated.
He’s a powerful opponent, who represents a different aspect of the culture of the Atlanteans; one that may be combative with what Namor is trying to achieve. He might not be the most high-profile villain Marvel could have chosen to spearhead this next instalment, but the studio has elevated plenty of lesser-known figures to main event status.
In the search for a secondary antagonist, it’s important to look at some of the other struggles that Wakanda could be facing. Most notably, now that they have opened themselves up to the wider world and are without a clear direction, there are those that might try to take advantage of the situation. Specifically, plenty of forces will be vying for the Vibranium, which is so rich in Wakanda. Sonny Burch is one such opportunist.
We last saw Burch, portrayed by Walton Goggins, in Ant-Man and the Wasp. He was operating for an unknown client and trying to steal the secrets of Hank Pym. That particular narrative thread was never given any resolution, but Black Panther: Wakanda Forever would be a natural spot for the crook to reappear, as a threat to the Vibranium in a similar manner to Ulysses Klaue. That’s an easy fit for Burch, especially after Klaw himself, played by Andy Serkis, has been permanently written out of the MCU.
Black Panther 2 is also leading to the exciting introduction of Riri Williams’ Ironheart, portrayed by Dominique Thorne. The character has made her way to Wakanda and the trailer for the sequel showcases the teenager working on her own suit of armor. While Wakanda feels like a technological haven for Ironheart to operate in, it’s also a protective location that may be shielding Williams from an outside threat.
Might it be that a corrupt businessman has caught wind of what Riri Williams is creating and is looking to benefit from her designs, by any means necessary? Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer is such a beloved member of the MCU, but it’s been a while since we last got to see him in action. While the short All Hail The King allowed for Hammer to have a quick cameo, Wakanda Forever could set him up as Williams’ primary antagonist and a future threat for both the Ironheart series and Armor Wars movie.
Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia is returning for the Marvel sequel, but her role has been largely kept under wraps. She was a vital agent for Wakanda with elite training and a violent set of skills, while also acting as T’Challa’s primary love interest. His loss is going to be a major blow, but with Wakanda’s direction changing, an ideological Nakia may be rethinking her role in the country. In the comics Nakia actually becomes a super villain known as Malice.
While it’s improbable that the specific loss of T’Challa will become a villainous turning point for Nakia, there is a way to create a much more developed antagonist that wants to push back against Wakanda’s political battles and redirect the position the country has on the global stage. Nakia might have to be more forceful with her ideologies if she is to shape the future of the country and that could lead her down a path that the royal family must stand against.
White Wolf was not the title for Bucky Barnes in the comics. While Winter Soldier might have been renamed by the Wakandans on screen, it’s plausible that he isn’t the first to hold the title. Could there have been a previous White Wolf, who has since been shunned by the nation? The source material sees a mysterious outsider known as Hunter claim the role of White Wolf. While he may have begun his time with the Black Panther as an ally, he has also been involved in plenty of villainous plots throughout Marvel history.
With so many different directions to take the sequel in, and no real confirmation as to who could surpass Namor as the main villain of the piece, right now fans are still in the dark with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. But regardless, any one of these foes could contribute something unique to proceedings, while differentiating themselves to the antagonists of the original movie.